|Wednesday, 5 February 2003|
A celebration of national amity
by Ravi Ladduwahetty
Sri Lanka's 55th Independence Day celebrations at the Independence Square yesterday was a solemn yet colourful ceremony that themed national amity and reintegration. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga took the salute with the three Service Chiefs and the Inspector General in attendance. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithree Wickremesinghe were among the distinguished gathering of Ministers, Members of Parliament, Governors, Judges and diplomats.
It was an independence celebration held in an atmosphere of peace after decades, and ordinary people were able to come to Independence Square and watch the parades as well as the impressive dances and drill displays without going through security checks. Colombo's Mayor Prasanna Gunewardene garlanded the statue of the country's first Prime Minister D S Senanayake, while Ministers Alick Aluwihare, Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku and Karu Jayasuriya paid floral tributes to the Father of the Nation.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe arrived at 9 am, escorted by seven Police motorcycle outriders who flanked his motorcade. President Kumaratunga arrived thereafter at the venue with an escort of 14 smart Military Police motorcycle outriders and 25 Military Policemen mounted on horseback. The arrival of the President was heralded by the blowing of trumpets by the Sri Lanka Army Band.
The celebrations commenced with the President being conducted to the hoisting of the National Flag amidst the beating of Magul Bera and the blowing of the conch shells by the students of D.S. Senanayake Vidyalaya, Nalanda Vidyalaya and Isipatana Maha Vidyalaya.
The national anthem was sung by a bevy of 100 schoolgirls from Visakha Vidyalaya, Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya, Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Janadhipathi Vidyalaya, Kotte Ramanathan Hindu Ladies College, Muslim Ladies College and St. Bridget's Convent. A bevy of 24 schoolgirls from Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya and Devi Balika Vidyalaya sang Jayamangala Gatha and Devo Vassathu Kalena. The music was provided by the Sri Lanka Navy Hewisi Band. Two minutes' silence was also observed in memory of all the patriots who paid the supreme sacrifice. This was followed by the 21 gun salute to the President. The President addressed the Nation in both Sinhala and English.
The march past by 15 regiments of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, National Cadet Corps and schoolchildren of all the Provinces was a highlight. This year's parade was led by the Sri Lanka Light Infantry. Students from the North and East participated after many years.
A series of events took place at the adjacent Sports Ministry grounds with a North-South Cultural Dance, school gymnastics display and school band display. The Sri Lanka Navy had a 25 gun salute to the Nation. A cultural show was conducted last night at the Vihara Maha Devi Park and a fireworks display titled Artistry in the Sky was held at the Galle Face Green.
Produced by Lake House