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Colombo police reaches out to Tamil community

[BBC, Friday, 19 March 2010 13:08 No Comment]

Police stations in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, have opened special units to take down statements in the country’s main minority language, Tamil.

So far, Sinhala has been the language overwhelmingly predominant in the police force.

Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans had to rely on a friend to translate their complaints into Sinhala.

The move has been hailed as a small but vital step in a country which has a lingering ethnic divide.

Analysts say Sri Lanka’s decades-long insurrection and war arose from this divide.

‘Small step’

Four police stations in Colombo’s suburbs will now have units to cater to the needs of Tamil-speakers, and there are plans for more, the BBC’s Charles Haviland reports from Colombo.

Some are staffed by an expanding number of Tamil policemen and women, others by Sinhalese who have been trained in the language, our correspondent adds.

The state-owned Daily News calls it a small step to build and consolidate interracial harmony.

It says the fact that this change took more than 60 years to achieve after Sri Lanka’s independence shows what it calls the "indifference and lethargy" of bureaucrats and politicians.

Although Sri Lanka’s population is three-quarters Sinhalese, Tamil is the mother tongue for not only Tamils but also the Muslims, seen as the third ethnic group.

According to the 2001 census, Tamil-speakers within Colombo’s metropolitan area actually constituted a majority at 55% of the population.

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