Development and Promotion
Sri Lanka – Governance for Peace through Language Rights
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Overview of the Project
The Official Languages Support Project is funded by CIDA and implemented by Agriteam Canada in association with OLBI. The Project's goal is to support the Sri Lankan government and civil society organizations to strengthen and implement policies and programs that protect and promote language rights as a means to fostering social harmony and contributing to sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.
The project, now in its design phase, is expected to contribute to greater public access to government services in both national languages, Sinhala and Tamil, as well as English. The project will work with selected governmental organizations to increase their capacities to implement Sri Lanka’s Official Languages Policy and to promote bilingualism, trilingualism and language rights. The lead Sri Lankan institution will be the newly created Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration.
The project will provide opportunities for Sri Lankans to interact with and learn from Canadian government and non-governmental organizations involved with bilingualism, language policy implementation and language rights in Canada, and leading to sustainable partnerships and networking.
During the design phase of the project, key Sri Lankan and Canadian officials will explore ways in which the project may assist the Sri Lankan government and non-governmental organizations to achieve the project’s purpose and goal and how Canadian organizations, institutions and experience may help. To this end, a study tour in Canada for Sri Lankan officials has been organized.
The study tour took place from May 29 to June 12, 2010. The tour has been designed to allow delegates to learn about Canada’s experience implementing the national Official Languages Act as well as provincial, territorial and municipal experiences. Delegates will identify Canadian experiences and resources that may be relevant to the Sri Lankan context and will engage in a workshop to finalize the design of the project.
The delegation includes eight senior Sri Lankan officials led by the Secretary of the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration. Other officials represent the Ministry of Education, provincial governments, universities and government agencies.
The study tour included visits within the National Capital Region as well as in Montreal and Fredericton. Presentations from the Governments of Ontario and Nunavut were also planned. Delegates interacted with federal government departments and agencies with a key role in implementing Canada’s official languages policies; government, academic institutions and private sector second language and translator/interpreter training programs; relevant civil society organizations; language departments at various levels and institutions and city governments.
- Mrs. Malkanthi Wickramasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration
- Mr. Anura Dissanayake, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Education
- Mr. Prasath Herath, Director General, National Institute of Language Education and Training
- Mr. S. Rangarajah, Secretary to the Governor, Northern Province
- Mrs. N.R. Ranjani, Secretary to the Chief Minister, Eastern Province
- Mr. Upali Alahakoon, Commissioner of Local Government, Central Province
- Mr. Naganathan Selvakkumaran, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo
- Mr. R. M. W. Rajapaksha, Professor of Linguistics, Kelaniya University
Ontario French Language Services Commissionner's Blog on his June 10, 2010 visit with the Delegation.
François Boileau (French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario), Naganathan Selvakkumaran, Graham Fraser (Official Languages Commissionner) and Malkanthi Wickramasinghe (Head of Delegation)
National Languages Project: Languages for Social Cohesion
Summary of Project
The National Languages Project has been designed to respond to Sri Lanka’s need to enhance relations between Sinhala and Tamil speaking citizens and increase respect for language rights and linguistic diversity thereby fostering social cohesion. The project represents the Government of Canada’s commitment to support Sri Lankan aspirations to maintain peace by finding a fair, just and sustainable solution to their long-standing conflict. The project is expected to be a catalyst for the successful evolution of language planning and language rights in Sri Lanka to ensure that citizens have access to public information and services in the national language of their choice and that both Sinhala and Tamil are equally respected and appreciated as the national and official languages of the country.
This project is based upon a bilateral agreement between the Government of Canada, represented by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Government of Sri Lanka, represented by the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration (MNLSI).
Description of the Project
The project’s ultimate outcome is:
- Increased respect for language diversity & language rights within the public service and among the citizenry.
The intermediate outcomes, with their related immediate outcomes are:
- Enhanced public sector leadership of national languages policies and programs;
- Increased capacity, including capacity for gender mainstreaming, of the MNLSI to plan, manage and monitor implementation of the Official Languages Policy and other policies and programs related to their mandate;
- Increased awareness about, and support for, language rights, bilingualism and linguistic diversity among the public that influences policy makers.
- Increased citizens’ access to public communications and services in national language of choice;
- enhanced delivery of translation and interpretation services, and translator and interpreter training programs;
- increased number of innovative models of bilingual/trilingual local service delivery in critical geographic areas that promote gender equality, good governance and social cohesion.
The design phase of the project started in February 2010. The implementation of project activities began in June 2011. Project activities are expected to end by December 2014.
The timing of the project is fortuitous given the current positive political climate and public support for language rights in Sri Lanka. Across the country there is widespread support for bilingualism and the implementation of the Official Languages Policy as a means to reconciliation and securing a sustainable peace. The creation of a new Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration in May 2010 highlights the importance that the President and the current administration are giving to national languages and social integration.
A Project Steering Committee oversees the project and provides strategic direction and policy guidance. It is made up of representatives of the Canadian International Development Agency and the Government of Sri Lanka. A Project Working Group made up of representatives from key project partner organizations has been formed to help coordinate and facilitate project planning, implementation, monitoring and assessment. The project is managed on a day to day basis by a Canadian Executing Agency, Agriteam Canada, with two primary implementing partners, the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute of the University of Ottawa in Canada and The Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka.
Goals and Expected Outcomes
The goal of the project is to strengthen the new Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration and its component institutions: the Official Languages Commission, the Official Languages Department and the National Institute for Language Education and Training. It is also to support the Ministry to bring together government and non-government stakeholders to enhance the national framework to promote national languages, protect language rights and ensure implementation of official languages policies, and to support public engagement activities in order to enhance public awareness and strengthen government-civil society collaboration. The project integrates gender equality as a cross-cutting theme.
At the same time, the project intends to support a number of initiatives to improve the delivery of services and provision of government communications in both official languages. This includes enhancing the provision of translation and interpretation services and developing models of good practice at the local level that demonstrate the effective implementation of the Official Languages Policy and multi-stakeholder collaboration to build social cohesion and respect for language rights.
It is expected that initiatives at the centre and at the community level will benefit citizens from minority communities who historically have had limited access to services in their mother tongue, especially Tamil speaking citizens in Northern and Eastern Provinces and in the estate sector. Citizens in predominantly Tamil speaking areas such as the north and east will benefit from improved provision of communications and services in the Tamil language from central government departments and agencies as well as increased respect for linguistic diversity and enhanced social cohesion that will result from the project.
[Abstract of Project Implementation Plan (PIP), Agriteam Canada, April 2011]
National Languages Project – Sri Lanka
Technical Exchange Mission to Canada
May 28 - June 8, 2012
Purpose of the Technical Exchange Mission
This visit to Canada is designed as a technical exchange mission (TEM) that will provide an opportunity for officials from the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration (MNLSI), National Languages Division (NLD), Social Integration Division (SID) and Minister’s Office, the Department of Official Languages (DOL) and the Official Languages Commission (OLC) to meet and work with their counterparts in relevant Canadian institutions. The exchange is intended to support the MNLSI, DOL and OLC to expand their knowledge, develop their capacity and enhance specific strategies and priority action plans that they are currently working on through the exchange of ideas and resources with Canadian officials and experts.
The TEM will include opportunities for the delegates to:
- Visit and study the policies and programs of Canadian agencies with mandates similar to their own;
- Meet and exchange ideas with counterpart Canadian officials and technical experts;
- Discuss issues related to the Sri Lankan Official Languages Policy (OLP) and current challenges to OLP implementation;
- Discuss Canadian structures, institutional frameworks and mechanisms that support official languages promotion and policy implementation and assess how these could be applicable to the Sri Lankan context;
- Solicit input and gather information and resources from Canadian counterparts related specifically to their current priority programs and plans.
Nominated Delegates for the Technical Exchange
Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration (MNLSI)
National Language Unit
M. N. Nichalos Pillai, Senior Assistant Secretary
Social Integration Unit
M. S. L. M. Hazeem, Senior Assistant Secretary
Hon. Minister’s Staff
M. Sarath Ranasinghe, Private Secretary
Department of Official Languages
M. J. C. Ranepura, Commissioner
Official Languages Commission
M. N. R. Ranawaka, Chairman
National Languages Project Office
Mr. Marimuthu Thirunavukarasu, Program Manager
M. Mohamed Raskeen Mohamed Niyas, Program Manager
Coordination of the Technical Exchange Mission program
The TEM program is coordinated by the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI) of the University of Ottawa under the guidance of the NLP Language Policy Advisor, Mr. Hilaire Lemoine and in collaboration with the NLP Project Director, Ms. Alix Yule. Administrative support is provided by the NLP Administrative Officer, Ms. Vesna Duricic. Support is also provided to the delegates by the NLP office in Colombo to make necessary preparations in Sri Lank prior to the trip.