Chennai: An interesting controversy over the use, or rather the boycott, of Tamil has erupted in Sri Lanka as prominent Tamil leader Mano Ganesan, who is the country's Minister for National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress and Hindu Religious Affairs, has flagged a notice put up by a popular restaurant in capital Colombo warning its staff against speaking in Tamil.
“#Peppermint#Cafe, a pvtly owned café at #76 Wijerama Mw, I'm told, displays this notice violating Chapter III-Fundamental Rights Clause 12-Right to Equality of the Constitution. I hv instructed Official Languages Commn to step in. Violators may hv to face legal consequences”, said Minister Ganesan on his twitter handle, while displaying the picture of the restaurant’s notice on the wall, which read: ‘All staff must speak only in English and Sinhala. Strictly no Tamil to be spoken’.
The issue blew up on the social media with several Tamils pouring anger against what they termed as ‘racist’ conduct by Peppermint Café. “Don’t worry…soon, in Sri Lanka, Chinese is the only language will be allowed to be spoken. It’s coming…Anyways, why do they put peppermint in the coffee?” tweeted one humorist in the midst of all the heated exchanges between the Tamils slamming the café and the Sinhalese defending it.
The eatery might have, perhaps, ignored all that criticism from the minorities but then there was the Minister’s threat to have the Languages Commission, which comes under him, to launch action against it.
More importantly, business got hit real badly when the foreigners began skipping the hitherto popular joint as they are mostly opposed to business with anyone burdened by the ‘racist’ tag.
And that made Peppermint to remove the offensive anti-Tamil poster and even post an apology with an explanation that they had to ban the use of Tamil by the employees as there were complaints from many customers that the staff were behaving rude and discourteous in using a language (Tamil) they did not understand.
The eatery also posted an appeal of sorts to its boycotting foreign clientele telling them they could continue staying away but that sure would lead to the management sacking even the few English-knowing staff!
Last heard: Peppermint has no ‘apartheid’ poster against Tamil and the foreigners have started trickling in. But then, it’s high time the politicians and the government in the island nation seriously take on efforts aimed at bridging the age-old differences between the two races.
While most Tamil politicians and businesspeople know Sinhalese fairly well, the same is not the case with the majority race - except for the podium tokenism of greeting the Tamil audience with ‘vanakkam’ and switching to Sinhalese, even in an area entirely populated by the Tamil people.