The Island of Singing Fish

Two government acts shaped Tina Faulk’s life: Ceylon’s 1956 Official Language Policy Act, known as the Sinhala Only Act, and Australia’s Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, better known as the White Australia policy. The first virtually disenfranchised not only Faulk’s Burgher community, but also Sinhalese and Tamil middle-class élites, whose primary language, outside the family circle, was English. Countless Burghers were civil servants and, even if multilingual, were now unable to compete with Sinhalese-educated people for post-Independence public service positions. Similar selection criteria applied to military and commercial jobs.

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