Sri Lanka’s national television network opens a new channel dedicated to Tamil culture, identity and religion. For some it is "useless" because it cannot be understood in the south; for others it is "a positive effort” because today's Tamil youth have abandoned their culture in favour of “Western styles".
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lankan government has sponsored the opening of the first Tamil-language television channel by the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), Sri Lanka’s national television network.
For the authorities, the goal is to support national unity and reconciliation in a country marked by 30 years of civil war. But many people who spoke to AsiaNews expressed doubts about it.
"The station is in Tamil, so only Tamils can understand it,” some say. “The new channel does not meet its goal.”
Reconciliation Channel has been on the air since 20 February. It enjoys the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena and broadcasts programmes in Tamil about the national, religious and cultural identity of the Tamil population.
According to some viewers, it "should have been in both Sinhala and Tamil. Instead, those who do not speak the [Tamil] language cannot understand and value the [Tamil] culture."
For Sundaram Velayudhan, a 59-year-old businessman in the capital, it is "a senseless effort. Why should the reconciliation channel be only in one language?" A native of Jaffna Peninsula, in northern Sri Lanka, he has lived in Wattala since 1978, a large suburb in Colombo.
"I have three sons, all of them married,” he explained. “In 1983, during the violent clashes provoked by the Sinhalese Buddhists, they burnt all my properties. It was hard to start from scratch; we suffered a lot. My wife and I have done everything to protect our lives and that of our children. We still have bad memories of that period.”
Sundaram, who is Hindu, is still struggling to forget about the violence and abuse. For this reason, "if the government wants to create a peaceful and just society for the whole nation, we must know each other and value our national, religious and cultural identities."
For Anusha Sivalingam, a young Tamil activist who works as a translator, the channel "is a positive step" but not enough.
"For now, the word 'reconciliation' is not suitable. The right ones should be 'justice' or 'equality'. The government must teach humanity, because we cannot hope for reconciliation without knowing or respecting the humanity [of others]. There must be a way to present to the people in the south of the country the real problems of those living in the north. Otherwise. it is useless."
"I appreciate the new channel,’ said Mano Ganesan, Minister for National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages. However, “it must not be addressed only to the north. The residents of the south must know the problems of the north. Only this way will we see a path of reconciliation."
Whilst some might express doubts, many also express satisfaction. This is the case of Ms Anandi of Jaffna, now retired, who for years taught at the Muslim Maha Viddyala in Matugama, Kalutara District, about 60 km south of Colombo
"This channel is a positive effort,” she said, “because today's Tamils have forgotten our culture. They follow Western styles."