“I love my mother language. I respect other languages too.”

The Official Languages Commission hosts the Awarding Ceremony of the All Island Essay Competition held to commemorate Official Languages Week.

The Awarding Ceremony of the All Island Schools Essay Competition conducted by the Official Languages Commission (OLC) in collaboration with National Languages Equality Advancement Project (NLEAP) to mark the Official Languages Week which falls annually from 01st – 05th July was held on the 24th of August under the patronage of Hon Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government, Honourable Dinesh Gunawardana, with the participation of the Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives, His Excellency David McKinnon.

The Prime Minister, Honourable Dinesh Gunawardana, firmly stating ‘we are committed to the protection of Language Rights, Religious Rights and Cultural Rights of all our Citizens’ warmly congratulated the winners and the participants of the essay competition on their contribution to building awareness about Language Rights. Noting ‘a better understanding will enable our citizens to build a stronger nation’ he commended the OLC for conducting such programmes to engage youth in an area so vital for the development of the country. The Prime Minister was also deeply appreciative of the Bi-Lateral partnership with the Government of Canada to promote Language Rights through the effective implementation of the Official Languages Policy.

His Excellency David McKinnon, also recognizing the invaluable contribution of the young participants across the island to promote awareness of Language Rights and Diversity noted ‘Language has the power to build societies and destroy it’ affirming ‘Our differences strengthen us and make us better’. Mr. McKinnon referenced Canada’s own bilingual policy which is now celebrating its 53rd year noting ‘even though it is a long time it is very much a work in progress’  and was deeply appreciative of the opportunity to work alongside the Government of Sri Lanka to further the implementation of its Official Languages Policy.

As Mr D Kalansooriya, (Chairman -OLC, Attorney at Law) mentioned in his welcome address, the OLC and NLEAP teams were inspired by the overwhelming response of 1210 essays in Sinhala, Tamil, and the English language received from school children from all over the island and commended the participants on fostering interest in the Official Languages Policy. The response was particularly significant as the competition was held during the height of the pandemic. He voiced his deep appreciation of the support extended to the students by their parents and teachers.

The submissions were judged by a panel of Language Experts from the local Universities.  The essays submitted in Sinhala, Tamil and English languages were examined by Prof. Sandabomi Coperahewa (Sectional Head of the Faculty of Sinhala at the University of Colombo), Dr. Kavitha Rajaratnam (Senior Lecturer in the Linguistic Division of the University of Kelaniya) and Prof. S.G.S. Samaraweera – Sectional Head of the Faculty of English in the University of Ruhuna) respectively.

The young winners were thrilled to receive a book published by NLEAP in collaboration with OLC that is a compilation of all the winning entries.  As Mr. Don E. Brownell (Project Director – NLEAP) observes, ‘The winning essays included in this book are more than a collection of essays written by children, they are splendid testimonials that reflected the youthful sensitivity and sincerity of the children who are aware of the power and strength of language.  The essays are these young children’s gifts to the nation which is why NLEAP decided to publish the winning essays as a booklet’.

The Official Languages Commission is committed to initiating such activity that continues to engage the youth of Sri Lanka in the all-important dialogue of Language Rights and respect for diversity. NLEAP will continue to support the Official Languages Commission with technical assistance as it seeks to fulfill its mandate as the guardian of the Language Rights of all Sri Lankan citizens.

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