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Championing Sri Lanka’s Bilingual National Anthem

The Reconciliation Forum has advocated the recognition of the Tamil language in the National Anthem, by singing alternate verses in Sinhala and Tamil. Click here for text

In regard to the constitutionality, it is true that the National Anthem titled Sri Lanka Matha has been included in the 1978 constitution of Sri Lanka, with a specified musical score and lyrics.

It may however be interpreted that what is stated in the Constitution also refers to the Anthem that should be played and sung on State occasions when either or both the President and/or the Prime Minister of the country are present considering that specific mention has been made as to which of the verses are to be sung in their presence.

Its prescription therefore appears limited to such occasions so that singing a version with mixed verses during non-State occasions, when neither the President or the Prime Minister are present could be considered constitutional.

The former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the first Head of State of Sri Lanka to learn Tamil while in office and speak at least a few sentences in Tamil on State occasions, and who spoke in Tamil at the United Nations General Assembly, when the Tamil language was heard in that august assembly for the first time. It has been reported that in 2010, President Rajapaksa had attempted to clarify the protocols in regard to the National Anthem and the hoisting of the National flag during State functions. He probably thought that a clearer procedure was needed as the document referred to as the third schedule in the 1978 Constitution and which provides the words and the music of the National Anthem is a scanned copy of a handwritten document which is hardly legible. Incidentally, this document contains the Sinhala words of the Anthem written in English.

The Cabinet discussion however had reportedly been hijacked by some ministers and for some unknown reason; the discussion had turned from protocol to language as they had argued that the Anthem should be sung only in Sinhala during State functions, whereas this seemed to be an unnecessary diversion seeing the 1978 Constitution in fact explicitly embodies Sinhala as the language to be used.

Prior to 1978, the National Anthem was in fact sung both in Sinhala and Tamil, especially in the North and the East during official functions in the presence of past Prime Ministers of the country, including in the presence of two Prime Ministers accused of being Sinhala extremists, S W R D Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

Some have expressed an opinion that Sri Lanka would be setting a unique tradition that is not found in other countries. This is not so, as there are several countries such as Canada, the Philippines , Belgium, Switzerland, South Africa, and New Zealand where the National Anthem is sung in two or more languages in full or in parts.
In recalling the history of the Sri Lankan National Anthem, the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore’s association with it is reported in The Hindu (see link below) “the Sri Lanka’s national anthem was also penned by Tagore: Apa Sri Lanka, Nama Nama Nama Nama Mata, Sundar Sri Boroni was originally Nama Nama Sri Lanka Mata in Bangla, written and set to its tune by Tagore. He did it at the request of his favourite Sri Lankan student at Santiniketan, Ananda Samarkun, in 1938. In 1940, Ananda returned to his native land and translated the song into Sinhalese and recorded it in Tagore’s tune”

It was written when Sri Lanka was still a British colony and was initially written as a tribute to Sri Lanka, expressing sentiments of freedom, unity and independence, and not for the purpose of serving as a National Anthem. Read more at

ICC World Cup: Sri Lankan Cricketers can unify the Nation by singing the National Anthem in Sinhala and Tamil

Sri Lanka 2015 Elections: SLRF Calls for a free and nonviolent parliamentary election and continuation of democratic process. Read in full


Sri Lanka 2015 Election Manifestos :

A Snapshot Comparison

Click >>   Political Party Proposals          Proposals Categorised             Party Key Terms comparison



The Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum (SLRF), Sydney wishes to present a snapshot comparison of election manifestos issued to the general public in Sri Lanka by some of the major political parties. This document has been compiled by sourcing publicly available material put out by the political parties of Sri Lanka, and it does not represent the views of the SLRF.

The Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum Sydney is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that aims to facilitate free and meaningful dialogue between different ethnic groups within the Sri Lankan Diaspora in New South Wales, Australia.

We believe that genuine reconciliation can only take place within a framework of truth and justice and dialogue. It is this core belief that underpins our strength in unity through diversity.

Besides the intention of making available some of the key elements of the manifestos available in English in a more reader friendly and comparative manner, (in context where we have no access to majority of the election manifestos in all three languages) the SLRF hopes that this comparison will lead to further analysis and precipitate discussions within and outside Sri Lanka, amongst the Diaspora, about the manifestos, and it ultimately results in a process that would hold the political parties accountable to their promises.

Considering there is much skepticism about election promises made and promises not upheld once in power, the SLRF hopes that individuals as well as civil society organisations and the media will take a lead in doing in depth evaluations of what is contained in manifestos, including a process to independently cost the promises made, and pose questions to the different political parties how the intend meeting such costs.

Using these comparative documents to undertake a fuller analysis even at this late stage, we hope the media of Sri Lanka will be able to share the analysis and ask the fundamental questions from political parties in ensuring accountability of our leadership to deliver on the promises that they make.  

According to a recent poll, 58% of Sri Lankan respondents said that they are influenced in political choices by mass media. This highlights the immense responsibility of Sri Lankan media in empowering all Sri Lankans to make informed choices.

The SLRF feels that the lack of dialogue amongst the various communities in Sri Lanka contributed to the lack of understanding of the issues and the escalation of the ethnic conflict ultimately to an armed conflict.

While election promises can be enticing, talk is cheap, and even political parties with the best intentions can have difficulty making them happen. In Sri Lanka, we must recognise the lack of sound policy debate and costing framework on delivering on these promises. The lack of attention to these fundamental questions can really mean business as usual for the elected party in the next election. The question we need to ask ourselves- is it acceptable for us to have more of the same of the last 60 years of politics or should be enable the people of Sri Lanka to make more informed choices about who they elect?

It is hoped that others will follow the SLRF initiative and press political parties to demonstrate greater accountability in regard to the election promises made by them.

To get in contact with the Sri Lankan Reconciliation Forum Sydney please email us at or









Beyond Conflict’  Papers from workshop 17August 2013

Lionel Bopage (2013). Political Violence in Sri Lanka

Laksiri Fernando (2013). Experiences of Reconciliation

James Jupp (2013). Sri Lanka reconciliation: notes

Suvendrini K. Perera (2013). Out of the scar

Daya Somasunderam (2013). Effects of political violence in the Sri Lankan context


SLRF Focus Group Research Report – Stephen H. Moore

 Download copies of past newsletters as PDF files here.


20120527 Problems & Prospects Dr Laksiri Fernando


March 2011


February 2010