04th February 2016 19:59:35 Hours
Sri Lanka on Thursday (Feb 4) commemorated her 68th National Independence Day in a simple, yet dignified ceremony at the Galle Face Green, heralding a new era of peace, harmony, reconciliation and economic prospects as the country moves forward with a host of new glimmers of hope and prosperity.
Under the exalted theme ‘Ekama Deyak – Maha Balyak’ (One Nation - Great Strength), the apex of the day’s morning ceremonies, headed by President Maithripala Sirisena, mirrored the determined commitment of all Sri Lankans, Members of the Tri-services, Police and the Civil Security Department for revitalization of Sri Lanka’s national growth and restoration of the past glory and grandeur.
Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, former President Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Leader of the Opposition, Speaker, Chief Justice, Field Marshal, Minister of Home Affairs, Governor for Western Province, Chief Minister for Western Province, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, , Secretaries of Ministries, Chief of Defence Staff, Army, Navy and Air Force Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Director General Civil Security Department, Diplomats and a host of other distinguished invitees were in place to take part in the ceremony.
President’s arrival at the venue, accompanied by Military Police outriders of the Army and mounted Policemen in a colourful pageant, was heralded by blowing of trumpets. He was warmly received by the Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs.
Soon after the arrival of President Maithripala Sirisena, dressed in his charming white attire, together with Mrs Sirisena, signalled the onset of the day’s programme as the gentle breeze of the Indian ocean sweeps across the esplanade along with its rolling waves.
Seconds after that, the Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army, Commander of the Navy, Commander of the Air Force and the Inspector General of Police ushered 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 in the province, joined singing the National Anthem. Next, the President took position on the special dais, flanked by Chief of Defence Staff, Three Service Commanders and the Inspector General of Police as 25 school children began reciting the auspicious Jayamangala and the ‘Devo Vasstu Kalena’ stanzas to symbolize invocation of blessings and the dignity of the occasion.
It was followed by observance of a two-minute silence in memory of all the patriots and War Heroes who had laid their lives for the noble cause of defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Nation. It was indeed a moment of solemnity and a recollection of unmatched sacrifices for the sake of the country.
The next phase of the day’s agenda assumed more significance as the colourful tri-service Guard of Honour were lining up to salute the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in accordance with military formalities. As invitees remained standing, the customary 21-Gun Salute in honour of the President then boomed out as another symbolic feature of the day’s programme.
The agenda afterwards invited President Sirisena to address the Nation. (See President's speech in News Highlights)
Soon after his address, the smart parade, comprised of Tri-service Officers and Other Ranks, Police and the Civil Security Department personnel in their respective ceremonials, commanded by Major General Mahesh Senanayake, Parade Commander was reported to the Chief Guest who afterwards took the Salute in accordance with military traditions. Brigadier Laksiri Waduge served as the Second-in-Command of the Parade.
A total of 9450 troops, including Police and Civil Security Department personnel, attired in their colourful dresses afterwards began the march-past, presenting their salute to the President, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In addition, National Youth Council members and members of the National Cadet Corps also contributed to the parade.
Religious dignitaries of all denominations, Governors, Diplomats, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Chief Ministers, Project Ministers, Parliamentarians, State Secretaries, State Officials and a crowd of spectators, witnessed the National Independence Day proceedings at Galle Face.
To coincide with the main event, prior to the Galle Face ceremony, several ministers placed floral wreaths and paid tribute to Rt Hon. D.S Senanayake statue at the Independence Square who has been recognized as the ‘Father of the Nation’.
The series of National Independence Day ceremonies commenced on Monday (2) with an overnight Pirith chanting ceremony held at the Independence Square, Colombo 7, followed by Heel Dana at Gangarama Viharasthana at Hunupitiya the following morning.
On Independence Day (4) Buddhist religious observances, Hindu religious observances, Islamic prayers, Catholic and Christian services took place respectively at Polwatta Dharmakeerthyarama Viharasthana Colombo, Sri Ponnambalawaneswaran Kovil Colombo 13, Maradana Jumma Mosque, Borella All Saints Church and Christian Reform Church, Wolfandhal.
At 12.00 noon, Sri Lanka Navy saluted the Nation with 25 rounds of gun salute near the Light House at Chaitya road at Colombo. Meanwhile, several parallel Independence Day ceremonies have been organized outside the capital.