The Centre for Policy Alternatives has been of the strong belief that if Sri Lanka is to move from a post-war to postconflict situation – that is one in which the sources of conflict are not sustained or reproduced and reconciliation achieved– addressing the language issue is of paramount importance. Language is at the heart of the ethnic conflict and therefore addressing the language issue will have great symbolic and more importantly practical significance for the peoples of Sri Lanka. It is fundamental and the resources involved far outweigh the benefits that would accrue short, medium and long –term in restoring trust and confidence in full citizenship for all and genuine respect, trust and confidence amongst them. CPA’s Language Programme seeks to make a difference in this respect. It involves citizens in the fulfillment of their constitutional rights and thereby speaks to their duties as well, as citizens and their responsibility for securing those rights. CPA records its appreciation of the cooperation provided to it in the implementation of this programme from the state sector and urges that the issue receives the policy prioritization and requisite resources it deserves. The ultimate objective after all is to embed language rights in the institutions and processes of governance and government, as well as in the popular culture to the point at which it no longer requires special mention and attention as a source of conflict, diminished citizenship and/or feelings of marginalization. We believe we have made some inroads as a programme; we believe that there is still a longer journey that must be made as a country determined to achieve its full potential.
This report, “Language Rights and the Citizens Approach” is a programme review of the Project Promoting Language Rights of Minorities (PLRM) which was carried out in five phases from 2011- 2016 .
Ongoing CPA advocacy includes FR case filed 21st March 2016 (SPFR 102/2016) seeking an order directing health authorities to ensure all labels and packaging containing information pertaining to medicines, medical devices and products are in Sinhala and Tamil, as the official languages of Sri Lanka. CPA has secured important victories in this area, including ensuring trilingual printings of legislation; bilingual NICs, trilingual transport notices and announcements; trilingual documentation by finance companies; and official undertakings to provide trilingual labeling of consumer and medical products. In 2019 following rounds of discussions and deliberations the NMRA directed all marketing authorisation holders of medicine to implement official language policy in labeling of medicines. With effect from 1st January 2020, therefore, it is directed that generic names should be included in Sinhala and Tamil by use of a sticker. Furthermore for 5 selected very commonly used medications a patient information leaflet has to be included, as a start, with instructions in both languages according to a prescribed format.
Other resource outputs from CPAs Language Rights advocacy include
Tamil Language Rights in Sri Lanka
Some press articles relevant to the programme are available here