The Official Languages Commission (OLC) has proposed the introduction of a sufficient "language allowance" to be paid to public servants who achieve the required degree of competence in the Second Official Language and the Link Language.
"The payments made at present as incentives are wholly inadequate to induce interest in public servants to learn the second official language," OLC Chairman Raja Collure told a conference yesterday.
The conference was held to brief the media and the donor agencies on the OLC's recommendations on the implementation of the Official Languages Policy at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.
He explained that the Official Language Policy in Chapter IV of the Constitution as amended by the 13th and 16th amendments in their view, is comprehensive enough to cover the present needs relating to the use of the official languages in the administration field .
However, Collure noted that these appreciable provisions have not been adequately implemented although eighteen and seventeen years respectively elapsed since the adoption of 13th and 16th amendments which are most relevant in this respect.
"Successive Governments have failed to take necessary steps for the realisation of the objectives laid down in Chapter IV. This is the main reason that compelled the present commission to come out with a set of recommendations," he noted.
Other members of the commission Prof. Somaratne Balasooriya, Prof. S. Thillainathan, Senior Lecturer N.M. Saifdeen and Secretary to the Commission and Commissioner of Official Languages Senarath Gunasena were also present.
Collure explained that the recommendations are divided into four parts: "the first contains a statement of the law, an assessment of the present state of implementation of the policy is made in the second part while the third covers the problems encountered in the implementation. The final part deals with the recommendations proper."
He stressed that an examination of the provisions of Chapter IV reveals that the establishment of a bi-lingual administration throughout the country is necessary for the Official Language Policy to be properly and fully implemented.
"It is pertinent to note that very few citizens could benefit from the provisions enabling communications in the English language or translations being available in English.Therefore, much emphasis has to be on the use of the two official languages in the administration of the country."
Collure noted that speedy action needs to be taken to develop a bilingual administration in the country as a whole beginning with the Secretariat Divisions with a high percentage people speaking the second official language (the term "second language" is used to denote Sinhala for the Tamil speakers and Tamil for the Sinhala speakers).
Of the total number of public servants only 8.31 per cent are Tamil speaking."The commission recommends that in order to overcome the dearth of such public servants in different categories of the public service necessary personnel proficient in the Tamil language should be recruited without delay," added Collure.
The commission also recommends that training in the Link Language should be targeted firstly to personnel in the public service whose functions require proficiency in English.
The commission also proposes to create a separate institution for the development of national languages similar to ones that exist in France and several other countries.