A Glimpse from the past | Page 3 | Daily News

A Glimpse from the past

As the Daily News traces its history over the years, we would like to present you with some of the most significant events in our country’s history, reproduced here from our archives.

Queen Elizabeth II visits Sri Lanka

Queen Elizabeth II was only 25 years old when she was appointed to the throne. The Queen has ruled for longer than any other Monarch in British history, becoming a much loved and respected figure across the globe. She came to the throne 65 years ago on February 6, 1952.

The Queen arrived in Sri Lanka on April 10 and left the country after a 11 day stay on April 21, 1954. It was a remarkable visit as April 21 marked her 28th birthday and it was her 3rd birthday since her accession.

The queen opened the third session of the second parliament of Sri Lanka on 12 April and the Daily News on April 13 reported that she was wearing her coronation robes that day and further said, “Those who had seen the opening of the first parliament of Ceylon in 1948, by the Duke of Gloucester agreed that the grandeur of yesterday’s ceremony surpassed it”.

It was also reported that the queen’s speech was brief and she delivered it with confidence that associates with royalty, she said, “We deeply appreciate the warmth of the welcome which has been accorded to us on this visit”. The Daily News presented its readers with a free twenty four page supplement to commemorate the visit of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to Sri Lanka.

As well as visiting Colombo during the ten days she spent here, she also visited Kandy where she experienced a Perahera with 140 elephants. She toured the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, and spent Easter in Nuwara Eliya. As part of official engagements during the visit, she also addressed the nation from the historic studios of Radio Ceylon, now known as the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. She came back to Sri Lanka in 1981 as the Head of the Commonwealth.

The Daily News reported on October 22, 1981, her second visit as, “After 27 years, the queen receives a welcome from the heart”.

In the front page of the Daily News published on October 26, 1981, it had a beautiful coloured photo printed on top which was titled, “Good bye, Queen Elizabeth”. It was reported that, “Queen Elizabeth took with her a Sri Lanka stone- studded ivory elephant - and the happiest memories. The gift - a piece of superb craftsmanship was a gift from the President and Mrs. Jayawardene to the royal couple to commemorate their visit”.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visits Sri Lanka

The visit of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Sri Lanka on April 13, 1985 was a truly historic and memorable one.

The Daily News on April 15, 1985 reported that Thatcher was the first head of government to address the house, “Describing the British Premier as the ‘ruling mother of the mother of Parliaments’, Senanayake invited her to address.

It was also reported that Thatcher addressing the gathering after the inauguration of the largest dam and hydroelectric power plant said, “I am certain that together we have created this mighty work which will stand for decades as a sure sign of what our friendship and co-operation can achieve”. More than 10,000 people attended the ceremony, opening the Victoria dam project.

The Daily News also published all significant photos taken of Thatcher during her stay in Sri Lanka under the title ‘visit that made History’.

Meanwhile,, the Daily News presented its readers with a free supplement to commemorate the visit of the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher to Sri Lanka.

Ranjan Wijeratne killing

Minister of Plantation Industries and State Minister of Defence Ranjan Wijeratne was killed in a car bomb blast in Havelock road on March 2, 1991. Along with him 12 civilians and 6 STF men who were in his escort were killed. He was known as the successful planter in politics and also known to have taken a hard stance towards the LTTE.

Being a reputed planter he was appointed as the Chairman of the Planters Society from 1967 to 1968 and the Chairman of the Planters Association of Ceylon from 1970 to 1971. He also held offices of the Secretary to the Minister of Agricultural Development and Research, Secretary to the Ministry of State Plantation and the Chairman of Agricultural Development Authority.

The Daily News on March 04, 1991 reported that, “Police believed that the assassination was masterminded by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who had the expertise and capability, as well as a vengeful motive, for eliminating the man, who just two weeks ago went on record to say that he would wipe them out in six months’ time”. It was also reported that March 06 was declared by the government as a day of national mourning and a public holiday.

It further reported that, “President George Bush has sent a personal message of condolence over the killing of Minister Ranjan Wijeratne to President Ranasinghe Premadasa”.

Death of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar

In spite of the aura of peace and unity that the country struggled to maintain as the ceasefire with the LTTE seemed to be crumbling, nothing could conceal the waves of distress that surface following the death of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on August 12, 2005. Described as a man who stood for peace, unity and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka by the Daily News, the death of Kadirgamar at his personal residence down Buller’s Lane, Colombo 7, as he was climbing out of his swimming pool in the late hours of the night, was a catastrophic incident.

The headlines of the following day’s issue of the Daily News read, “Kadirgamar assassinated” and the ensuing article reported on the events that had transpired. Kadirgamar had been rushed to the Intensive Care Unit of the National Hospital Colombo and despite the emergency surgeries carried out to save him, had succumbed to his head, neck and chest injuries. Upon hearing of the tragedy, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had declared a State of Emergency and high security alert.

Police had told the Daily News that the shots had come from a higher elevation and as such, promptly arrested two persons in the neighbouring area whom they suspected of having either participated in the shooting or aided the shooter.

It was no secret that Lakshman Kadirgamar was a high profile target of the LTTE owing to his position as a key figure in the peace process of the People’s Alliance Government. Highly respected by foreign leaders and governments, he had travelled extensively around the world exposing the terror tactics of the LTTE. The early stages of the investigation into his death indicated that the LTTE was responsible for his murder. However, in in spite of the years of investigation, the true culprits were never identified and the initial allegations could neither be proved nor disproved.

“We shall never bow down to terror” declared President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as reported by the Daily News, when she addressed the nation following Kadirgamar’s death, urging that his sacrifice not be in vain.

Death of JVP Leader Rohana Wijeweera

The early hours of November 13, 1989 saw the death of the founder of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Rohana Wijeweera. A Sri Lankan Marxist politician and rebel, Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera known as Rohana Wijeweera, was killed at an undisclosed location and his body was cremated as reported by the Daily News the following day.

Wijeweera who had run for Presidency in 1982 had been underground since 1983 when the JVP was proscribed. He had been identified by the army in Ulapane, was taken into custody and was brought down to Colombo for further investigation. Wijeweera volunteered to make an appeal to the youth of the country for the cessation of violence and this speech, made voluntarily was video-recorded.

The Daily News documented how Wijeweera had agreed to lead an army/police team to one of the main military operational headquarters of the JVP which was located in the suburbs of Colombo. Wijeweera had asked H. B. Herath, a high ranking official of the JVP politburo, to hand over whatever documents and articles which were available in the headquarters to the investigators. Herath, while pretending to seek such items, suddenly pulled out a weapon and fired in the direction of Rohana Wijeweera eliciting a reaction from the security forces who immediately opened fire. Both Wijeweera and Herath were killed in the process.

This was allegedly what had happened, however suspicions surrounding the actual circumstances surrounding Wijeweera’s death were somewhat murky. When questioned on the immediacy of the cremation, State Minister for Defence, Ranjan Wijeratne, insisted that it had been done for security reasons asking, “What is there to see in a dead body?”

Death of Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa

A shocked nation went into mourning on August 8, 1992 as news of the death of one of the most senior officers in the country, Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa became known. Northern area commanders Kobbekaduwa, Wimalaratne and Jayamaha along with seven others were occupants of a long-wheel based Land Rover as it ran over an old pressure mine at Araly junction on the island of Kayts. Nine of the ten occupants of the vehicle were killed almost immediately. It is believed that the explosion was due to the excessive weight of the vehicle as in spite of the regular traffic flow down that junction, the pressure mine had not been triggered as reported by the Daily News.

Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa was rushed to the Ratmalana Airbase and transferred by helicopter to the General Hospital, Colombo. Despite the extensive efforts of the doctors, the severe punctures to his liver and brain proved to be fatal.

Commissioned into the army in 1962, Kobbekaduwa became the army’s fourth most senior officer and the most senior officer to have been killed in action in the war with the LTTE.

The funeral, held on August 10, 1992 was marred by an organized mob who threw stones and jeered at the funeral procession and those gathered at the funeral, as documented in the Daily News the following day. The unruly mob forced their way into the cemetery toppling one of the iron boundary railings forcing the authorities to open the gates. The jeering crowd proceeded to single out government personalities and monks and fired abuses at them. The police were forced to fire several round of tear gas and shot into the air. This coupled with the shower of rain is what ultimately succeeded in dispersing the crowd.

To be continued........



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