Language of Governmentality: An Incisive Comparison

Chandre Dharmawardana, in a COMMENT directed at the moderate voice of Daya Wickramatunga in Thuppahi Commentary, 5 August 2020  …. here raised in status because of its salience and wisdom

Daya Wickrematunga is said quoted to say:  “Our Constitution should include that amendment. The 13th amendment that prescribed equal powers to the provinces, with equal status to the Sinhalese and Tamil languages, was aimed at that. It went to show that the ‘Sinhala Only’ policy of SWRD was wrong.”

In the USA, the Hispanic population is close to 20% and enjoys majority status in some states like New Mexico or California (while in SL, the Tamil population is close to 12-15%), but Spanish is not a national language in the US, and the Star–Spangled Banner is not sung in Spanish.

In France, the population of Arab-speaking people is similarly high, but Arabic is not an official language of France and the Marseillaise is not sung in Arabic.

I would say that Spanish in the US, and Arabic in France should be given recognition as official languages – but no one even dares to talk about it.

How to restore the “rights” of minorities? the solution is NOT via the constitution, or via carving out ethnic enclaves. Once we recognize Spanish in the US, what about Yiddish in New York, or Chinese in the West coast? What about aboriginal languages? An injustice will be done to some minority.

The answer is in technology. Let the constitution say that the majority language, e.g., French in France, is the official language. But we can make all languages equal in practice via technology since everyone’s cell phones can translate from any language to the cell-phone owner’s language (be it Mongolian) and render it in voice or in text. Then, even the tiniest language can exist and every one’s practical needs and enshrined rights can be met, without everyone having to learn a multitude of languages. For details, see:

The 13th amendment has not helped. It has created more problems & more distrust than ever before; and the language divide exists as it did. Also, by giving a special status to Tamil, not enjoyed by Sinhala in the North and East, some (see Island, July 28, Tiranagama’s articles) have claimed that a serious inequality has been created. Tiranagama claims that Tamil has more rights than the majority language has, right through out the country. I have not studied the problem, but legal experts should.

 COMPARISONS …ISSUES

ISSUE A

France to stop Muslims praying in the street, interior minister says”  ………………….. ……….. …………. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-stop-muslims-praying-street-ban-islam-interior-minister-a8064591.html

ISSUE B

I am not French. But I love the French national anthem viz “La Marseillaise.” I find it stirring. I sing it in  [one second after the French] and punch the air. Allez! Allez!

1 Comment

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One response to “Language of Governmentality: An Incisive Comparison

  1. Sinhala Only was a contemptible ploy to disenfranchise Burghers, Tamils and others who did not read or write Sinhala. It was also intended to eliminate the advantage that literate English speakers had, and will always have, over Sinhala monolinguals.
    The statements about national anthems is pointless and irrelevant. National anthems come in their own native languages.
    Everything in Canada from food labels to political notifications come in English and French, and in the US does the same obtains in Spanish, but
    English will always be a global language, and the preeminent language of commerce and science.
    Americans are notoriously monolingual, however good private schools teach Spanish, French, Latin and German. Though I consider myself to have only an average i.q, I speak, read and write English, Sinhala and Spanish, and can read, understand and translate Spanish, French and Italian. I can also, to varying degrees, read Russian, Greek, Malayalam, Hindi, Sanskrit and Sinhala.
    While devices with machine translations are moderately useful, they are flawed and inadequate, and folks who rely exclusively on them will be prone to making ridiculous errors. Devices are no substitute for learned language.
    Monolingual citizens of insignificant, obscure, third-world countries, meaning those who do not speak, read or write at least one international language, will always be at an economic disadvantage and have limited options in comparison to those who do. The majority of such monolinguals will tend to fall squarely into a recognizable underclass.
    Sinhala Only was and is a failed political policy. It makes second class citizens of Sinhala only speakers.

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