The National Languages Equality Advancement Project (NLEAP), funded by Canada, will promote language rights for national integration and reconciliation and assist people to communicate in official languages.
The objectives of the project are to mobilise Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and forums to promote language rights. CSOs will work to resolve language issues in key institutions. The project is aimed at CSOs and state officials such as community police and administrators and communities served by institutions targeted for language equality.
It will also aim to improve inter ethnic engagement through language learning leading to better language skills, engagement and more understanding across ethnicities.
Members of Local Inter Religious Committees (LIRCs) set up by NPC in Akurana in the Kandy District, Beruwala in the Kalutara District and Trincomalee in the Trincomalee District to engage with the Coexistence and Community Police sub committees will also participate. LIRCs seek to strengthen social cohesion and to mitigate inter religious tensions.
The issue of language was a key dividing factor in the early years of Sri Lanka’s independence and one of the root causes of the ethnic conflict that escalated into a three decade-long internal war.
The Sri Lankan constitution gives equal place to the Sinhala and Tamil languages, and also ensures that in Tamil will be the language of administration in Tamil majority areas. However, Tamil speaking people continue to suffer from unequal treatment where it concerns language rights. There is a need to promote awareness and sensitivity to language rights.
The activities of the project will focus on mobilising local level society platforms and forums to work towards the implementation of language rights and policy within state sector organizations.
NPC will use available resources in terms of training and engage in refining content in consultation with activists and language trainers. It will engage the larger community on language rights through campaigns and provide language learning support for youth.
Another component of the project is the strengthening of the nation building process. In the past language has been used to divide the communities and to assert the dominance of one over the other. In the project, language will be used as a tool for unifying and reconciliation. It will cater to the need for community language learning and be combined with language camps and exchange visits.
The training and language classes will take place in the spaces of each religious community so that it will foster inter community relations. There will be training on capacity building, understanding the legal framework and language classes.
LIRCs together with the Coexistence and Community Police sub committees will identify three local institutions that serve the public and conduct a language audit of them. After doing the language audit, a workshop will be held with Ministry participation to identify what people want and what they find most helpful in terms of language.