Colombo, March 21: A decision by President Maithripala Sirisena to allow the singing of the Sri Lankan national anthem in Tamil has sparked a row, with the move coming under attack from his own Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP).
"This is nothing but a betrayal. A decision to please just a 2 million (Tamil) population," Sarath Weerasekera, who was a senior commander of Sri Lankan Navy before entering politics, told parliament.
He said that in India, with over 65 million Tamil population, the national anthem is sung only in Hindi. "It is clear in our Constitution that the national anthem must be sung only in the state language," he said.
Dilan Perera, a former senior minister and the current SLFP spokesman, said: "That is his private view and not that of the SLFP. We believe in the constitutional provision that Tamil version of the anthem is allowed."
"It was because of this kind of racist attitude that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated," Perera stressed.
However, former languages minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said there was no harm to allow a Tamil version of the national anthem. In what was being seen as a major reconciliatory move, President Sirisena announced last week that he intends sending a circular to all institutions saying that there is no bar on singing the Lankan national anthem in Tamil.
'This is a decision to please just a 2 million (Tamil) population'
His predecessor Rajapaksa had placed an unofficial ban on the anthem in Tamil since 2010.
In 1951, Sri Lanka adopted Shantiniketan-trained Ananda Samarakoon's Sinhalese-language song 'Sri Lanka Matha, Apa Sri Lanka' as the national anthem.
Simultaneously, a Tamil version 'Sri Lanka Thaaye Nam Sri Lanka' composed by Lankan Tamil poet M Nallathambi was also adopted.
For decades, both versions were sung, although only the Sinhalese version had constitutional sanction.