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Sri Lankan minister’s visit to Jaffna fuels Sinhalisation of North-East

The Sri Lankan Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media visited Jaffna this weekend, as part of a government organised trip to the northern peninsula. Though Colombo claimed the project would build “professional solidarity” amongst journalists, the minister’s visit instead fueled fears that Sinhalisation of the North-East looks set to continue.

“The whole event was carried out under a Sinhala name,” said a Tamil journalist who was invited to the event. “There was no consideration given to the Tamil language at all.”

He was referring to the visit’s slogan “Enna Ekata Husma Ganna”, a Sinhala phrase which roughly translates to “let us breathe together”. It was printed on T-shirts using Tamil characters and distributed to journalists who were invited to accompany the minister across Jaffna.

T-shirts distributed to journalists in Jaffna

“It means nothing in Tamil,” said the journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The neglect of the Tamil language was also highlighted in the construction of a memorial pillar for murdered journalists in Jaffna. The memorial, a proposal put forward by members of the Jaffna Press Club, the Working Journalists Association and Operational Group for Press Freedom last week, has been built with an inscription written in Sinhala only.

The inscription on the memorial written in Sinhala only using Tamil characters.

Journalists signing the memorial in New Park, Jaffna.

Media Minister Karunathilaka shakes hands with Sri Lankan Commander Major General Mahesh Senanayaka

Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka meanwhile stopped off at the headquarters of the Sri Lankan security forces in Jaffna, where he discussed the current state of the media sector in the North-East with senior military officials.

The minister and his deputy Karunarathna Paranawithana at the security forces headquarters' in Jaffna. The painting above them depicts ancient Sinhalese warriors marching to battle.

The military has kept a watchful eye on the project, holding a meeting with government officials earlier this month where they “exchanged their views with regard to the main event”.

See our earlier posts:

Tamil journalists call for strengthening of media sector (28 Mar 2016)

Memorial pillar for journalists proposed in Jaffna (18 Mar 2016)

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