Language rights in Sri Lanka: Display of bus route boards in all three languages

20 March 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: That signboards are in Tamil on most buses plying in the North and East, and in Sinhala on those outside of these two provinces, was the basis of four submissions to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka made by Lionel Guruge on behalf of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Secretary of the Ministry of Private Transport Services and the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Transport Board and the Ministry of Transport were sited as the respondents. These submissions were heard on 13th February 2012 by Ms. Thusitha Samarasekera – AAL –Director (Monitoring and Review) at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Transport Board did not appear for the hearings. The petitions HRC/ 282 / 2012 and HRC / 284 / 2012 were directed at the Secretary of the Ministry of Private transport Services who was represented by the Deputy Director of the National Transport Commission, Ms. S.N.G. Edirimanna‐ AAL. Though Inter Provincial buses displayed name board in all three languages, the Deputy Director accepted that private buses plying within a Province did not do this, after consultations with the Secretary and via the phone during the hearing. It was promised that at the monthly progress meeting, held under the aegis of the Minister, the matter would be taken up, a decision on policy taken and relevant transport officials notified. She further promised to send the relevant extracts of the progress review session to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission with copies to the petitioners.

It was noted that the relevant policy would be decided upon within a month, to which the Secretary of the Ministry of Private Transport Services also agreed over the phone. To review the progress made, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka will hear the case again in two months.

  • Please read media coverage of this issue published in the Sunday Times here.
  • Download this press release in Sinhala or Tamil.
  • Read letter from Ministry here.

Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) was formed in 1996 in the firm belief that there is an urgent need to strengthen institution- and capacity-building for good governance and conflict transformation in Sri Lanka and that non-partisan civil society groups have an important and constructive contribution to make to this process. Focusing primarily on issues of governance and conflict resolution, CPA is committed to programmes of research and advocacy through which public policy is critiqued, alternatives identified and disseminated.