The Sinhala Tamil National Identity card -Whose victory is this?

The Island Newspaper of 1st March 2014 published an article in the front page, with a photograph saying that a newly printed Sinhala and Tamil, Bilingual National Identity card including personal details was introduced by the Department for the Registration of Persons on the 28th February 2014.

Other than the Island newspaper many other newspapers had published this news with some prominence. Some newspapers had shown an interest in this previously too. For example during the 1stweek of February the Lakbima newspaper had published a report, with a photograph, that work was in progress those days in the experimental stage of producing a new National Identity Card.

All these newspaper reports publicized an idea that the introduction of the new National Identity Card was due to a requirement by the Department of Registration of Persons. This is how the Lakbima newspaper had reported this fact : “In order to prevent the problems that are incurred with the present National Identity Card work had commenced rapidly these days in the Department of Registrations of Persons to issue an new identity card  using modern technology according to the idea of the commissioner General Mr. R.M.S Sarath Kumara. “

The Divaina newspaper reported the following about this on 1st of March.

“The newly printed Sinhala and Tamil bilingual National Identity Card including personal details had been introduced yesterday (28thFebruary) by the Department of Registrations of Persons.”

These newspaper reports indicate that the issuing of the new identity card was initiated due to the requirement of the Commissioner General of the Department of Registrations of Persons Mr. R.M.S Sarath Kumara. None of the reports that were published in the media stated that there had been any other citizen’s actions behind this. Therefore it is natural that the ordinary citizens of this country come to this conclusion. This is because they get news from reports that are published by the media. Yet, is it the truth? What actually happened? It is the right of the citizens of this country to know the correct information. By knowing this, the citizen gets an opportunity to realize the strength of the citizens actions in this country.

The need for an Identity Card including bilingual personal details, has been prevalent for a long time in this country. This is because when the Sinhala language and the Tamil language are the Official Languages of a country, it is a violation of the language rights of that country, when the primary letter that a citizen possess, being the National Identity Card is issued in a single language.

Due to this reason, although the citizens of this country, who had been persevering about language rights had published various ideas, there had been no decisive citizen action taking place about it.

In the y ear 2013, an Advanced Level student took part in a decisive intervention. That student is Anuradha Prasad Dananajaya Guruge from Maharagama who is an advanced level student in Ananda Vidyala Colombo. This student submitted a petition to the Supreme Court asking for the National Identity Card to be issued in both the Sinhala and Tamil languages.

Anuradha Prasad Dhananajaya Guruge, submitting his petition, to a three member bench  including Chief Justice, Mr Mohan Pieris, stated that, because the National Identity Card is issued in Sinhala only, immense difficulties are faced by him, when he travels to the Northern and Eastern Provinces, on official business , where administrative work is done only in the Tamil language.

When this petition was heard again on the 21st October  last year, the Supreme Court issued an order to the Department of Registration of Persons to issue all National Identity Cards in both languages, from the 1st of January 2014.

Furthermore according to orders issued by the Supreme Court regarding this petition ( STFR 93 of 2013) the Department of Registration of Persons should take steps to issue National Identity Cards in all three languages within the next three years.

Yet the Commissioner General of the Department of Registration of Persons had been unable to fulfill the prescribed order. Although this order had stipulated that the bilingual National Identity Card should be issued from 01st January 2014, the Vibhasha Newsletter on investigation found out that those arrangements had not been completed by the month of February.

Clearly it meant that the order from the Supreme Court had been disobeyed.  In any case, the fact that the Commissioner General had made a great effort to publicize himself as victorious in issuing such National Identity Card even  two months later than the stipulated date was evident from the news reports that were published later.

The Commissioner General should honestly think about how ethical this (publicity) is. On the other hand, the manner in which the media acted in the matter is also clearly problematic. The issuing of Sinhala Tamil bilingual National Identity Card is a victory for the citizens of this country.

Yet, when reporting this victory by not reporting correctly the true story behind it, many media of this country had avoided their responsibilities. It is a clear that the English media, as well as the Sinhala media had reported about this, without researching facts properly.

This may not have been a wrong that was pre-planned. Yet when incomplete reporting has been done, knowingly or unknowingly it is the reader who has to suffer the bad consequences.

When observing this situation, the most important part of this story has been deleted from the reporting.  The fact that knowledgeable citizens intervened and their rights were obtained by the action of citizens,  are facts that were thus missing.

In particular, the fact that a national policy had been changed by the intervening of a school student shows a milestone in the history of this country.

It is natural for the reader to have a new enthusiasm for his/her rights after reading this news. Such reporting would encourage the ordinary citizen to stand up for his / her rights.  This is why it is a social duty of the media to report such news correctly.


Gaveshi- (Excerpt from Vibhasha Magazine )


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