Journal of
Public Administration and Policy Research

  • Abbreviation: J. Public Adm. Policy Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2480
  • DOI: 10.5897/JPAPR
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 147

Full Length Research Paper

Language pluralism through the administrative service: The use of the official languages policy in Sri Lanka

Menik Ranmal Wakkumbura
  • Menik Ranmal Wakkumbura
  • Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration, Sri Lanka.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 November 2015
  •  Accepted: 24 May 2016
  •  Published: 30 June 2016


This paper explains how Sri Lanka’s Administrative Service has contributed to the use of the Official Language Policy (OLP) in Sri Lanka. This policy supports ‘Sinhala’ and ‘Tamil’ as official languages (that is, mother tongue) and ‘English’ as the link language. However the implementation of this policy has become problematic due to critical ethno-political factors. Since 2009 language policy legitimization processes have been aimed at rigorous social reconciliation after the end of the thirty year civil war for which the Administrative service plays a vital role. The limitations in linguistic skills, resources available at the organizational levels and the lack of effective policy changes undermine the effective implementation of the OLP. Utilizing the Official Languages Commission audits in conjunction with a qualitative semi structured questionnaire (n = 80), content analysis was conducted to investigate the relationships between administrators’ linguistic skills and administrative functions. The findings reveal the importance of administrators having trilingual competencies; mother tongue, English and the second national language. Overall, findings are consistent with this argument that stable policy to maintain the ‘mother tongue’ languages while choosing English as the ‘link language’ in Administrative Service is a pragmatic approach for effective results for social reconciliation of post-conflict Sri Lanka. 


Key words:  Language pluralism, Official Language Policy, Administrative Service (SLAS), Sri Lanka