By Rebecca Pavey
The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka celebrated its 74th Independence from British rule on Friday (4) at the Independence Square in Colombo.
A total of 6,352 security personnel participated in the military parade – 3,377 from the Sri Lanka Army, 919 from the Navy, 804 from the Air Force, 336 from the Police, 220 from the Police Special Task Force, 437 from the Civil Security Force and 259 from the National Cadet Corps.
The celebration, themed ‘An Affluent Tomorrow and Prosperous Motherland, Overcoming Challenges’, commenced at 07:40 a.m. with the Guard of Honour marching towards the ceremony premises after the Commander of the Parade put the parade at ease. Inspector General of Police, C.D. Wickramaratne arrived at 07:56 a.m. accompanied by his wife.
Following the IGP’s arrival, Air Force Commander Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana arrived at the premises, followed by Navy Commander Vice Admiral D.N.S. Ulugetenna and Chief of Defence Staff Army Commander General Shavendra Silva.
Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence, the Prime Minister and the President, General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, D.M. Anura Dissanayaka and Gamini Senarath were also present.
Thereafter, Western Province Governor Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Goonetileke arrived, and later received Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, following the arrival of Admiral of the Fleet, Wasantha Karannagoda.
Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya was later received by Chamal Rajapaksa at 08:08 a.m., after which former President Maithripala Sirisena also arrived at the Independence Day celebrations followed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa.
Speaker of the Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was not present for Friday’s ceremony, after recently testing positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajth Premadasa boycotted the event, citing that at a time when a majority have lost economic freedom, lavish expenditure on such celebrations only worsens the country’s crisis.
Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Ajith Nivard Cabraal too, did not make an appearance, for reasons unknown.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and First Lady Ioma Rajapaksa later arrived at the scene at 08:13 a.m. and were received by the Prime Minister, Minister of Irrigation and Secretary to the State Ministry of Home Affairs, with the sounding of trumpets by the Sri Lanka Army, heralding President Rajapaksa’s arrival.
President Rajapaksa was later escorted to the main flag post by the Commanders of the Tri-Forces and the IGP, after which the National Flag was hoisted amidst the beat of Magul Bera and sound of conch shells.
A total of 45 students from several schools in Colombo, including Ananda College, Royal College, Zahira College and Hindu College, then sang the National Anthem, followed by the ‘Jaya Managala’ and the ‘Devo Vassathu’ Gathas sung by 15 school girls representing Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Visakha Vidyalaya and Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya.
Later, the President was given a 21- gun salute by the Tri-Forces, after a two-minute silence was observed in honour of all patriots who had laid down their lives for the nation’s freedom, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
This was followed by the military parade attended by soldiers representing all regiments of the Tri-Forces, followed by the Sri Lanka Police, Police Special Task Force, the Civil Security Force, and the National Cadet Corps. Mounted Police, War Veterans and disabled soldiers also participated in the parade, upon which they were received with a standing ovation from all the invitees.
The march past was followed by a mechanical military parade, during which armoured vehicles, ships and aircraft belonging to the Tri-Forces were displayed.
Several SLAF aircraft were also flown. Later, an extravagant cultural pageant was held with the participation of 431 dancers and musicians representing the Three Armed Forces, Police, the Civil Security Department, the Ministry of Education and Cultural Centres from several parts of the island.
The pageant involved a diverse variety of acts, each representing the different cultures and heritages within Sri Lanka, all of which were greatly appreciated by the foreign delegates and all those present at the event.
The ceremony ended at 10:23 a.m., after which the President and First Lady left, followed by the Prime Minister, his wife and all other invitees.
(Pix by Udesh Ranasinghe and President’s Medial Division )