The 63rd National Independence Day ceremony that re-affirmed the commitment for strengthening of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, development and peaceful co-existence, took place Friday (4th February) morning at Kandasurindugama, Kataragama with pomp and pageantry.
The annual national spectacle, held for the first time in the sacred city of God Skanda in the deep South was dignified by the presence of His Excellency, the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the First Lady Mrs Shiranthi Rajapaksa, accompanied by Chief Justice, Speaker, Governor for Uva Province, Chief Minister for Uva Province, Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of Ministries, Chief of Defence Staff, Army and Navy Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Diplomats and a host of other distinguished invitees.
This year’s anniversary celebration leaves a landmark in the country’s post-war phase of development, reconstruction and reconciliation as the country is on the path of speedy recovery after bitter experiences in the past 30 years.
Today’s ceremony commenced with the arrival of HE, the President, along with the First Lady Mrs. Shiranthi Rajapaksa. They were warmly received by Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs. His arrival at the venue, accompanied by mounted Policemen and Tri-service Military Police outriders in a colourful pageant, was heralded by blowing of trumpets.
Seconds after that, the Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army, Commander of the Navy and the Inspector General of Police conducted HE, the President to the main flag post where he hoisted the National Flag, amidst rhythmic beating of Magul Bera (auspicious drums) and blowing of conch shells as 100 school girls from nine girls’ schools in the province, sang the national anthem, filling all patriotic hearts with pride of being an independent nation, rich with age old unmatched cultural ethos.
Afterwards, HE the President from the special dais received the blessings of the recital of Jayamangala Gatha and Devo Vassatu Kalena stanzas, presented by a bevy of 100 girls, belonging to nine girls’ schools in the province. It was followed by observance of a two-minute silence in memory of all the patriots and War Heroes who laid their lives for the noble cause of defending the nation.
The next phase of the day’s agenda was the colourful tri-service Guard of Honour, accorded to the President, Commander-in-Chief, followed by the customary 21-Gun Salute.
It was time for the much-awaited President’s address to the nation, in which he called upon all Sri Lankans, irrespective of petty differences, to rise to the occasion and jointly help overcome all the challenges on our road to recovery. “Popular decisions may jeopardize future generations. So, we have to take unpopular decisions too” said the President, “Protecting independence is more difficult than gaining it. Together we can achieve this goal. We should not hesitate to achieve economic development amidst any challenges”. His Excellency also expressed his heartfelt gratitude towards everyone who sacrificed in achieving the freedom we enjoy today.
Soon after his address, the smart parade comprised of tri-service Officers and Other ranks, Police and the Civil Defence Service personnel in their respective ceremonials was reported by the Parade Commander, to the Chief Guest who took the Salute in accordance with military traditions.
Thousands of troops, attired in their ceremonial dresses afterwards began their march-past, according their salute to His Excellency, the President, the Chief Guest on the occasion.
Rhythmic cultural troupes, made up of well-known artistes, school students and others added special colourfulness to the parade as the day’s programme drew to a close. These cultural dances were from different provinces in the country.
Religious dignitaries of all denominations and a massive crowd of spectators witnessed the National Independence Day proceedings at Kataragama.