Seventy years of freedom | Daily News

Seventy years of freedom

Seventy years is a life time, a long time in the life of a person and the history of a nation. Tomorrow, Sri Lanka crosses the Rubicon of 70 years since independence. This is a historic milestone at a time when national unity is needed more than ever.

Year 1948 will forever be etched in annals as the year in which Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, was finally liberated from 400 years of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialism. While no blood was indeed shed in the final act of gaining independence, it was a long, hard struggle that saw many heroes sacrifice their lives. From Weera Puran Appu to Keppetipola, these valiant heroes made independence a reality at the cost of their lives. The British labelled most of them as traitors, which was removed only in 2016 on the instructions of President Maithripala Sirisena. We should forever be grateful to these heroes who made the supreme sacrifice.

Nor should we forget the efforts of modern-day crusaders for independence, including D.S. Senanayake, F.R. Senanayake, D.R. Wijewardene (the founder of this newspaper, which turned 100 on January 3), Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Anagarika Dharmapala, C.W.W. Kannangara, T.B. Jayah, Edward Henry Pedris, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and “Lion of Kotte” Edward Walter Perera. Most strikingly, these heroes represented all communities and religious groups in Sri Lanka. The independence movement brought everyone together to achieve a common goal. It is therefore unfathomable why we could not keep this momentum after gaining independence. Sri Lanka was second only to war-battered Japan in terms of economic prowess and social progress when it gained independence 70 years ago. Today, many of our Asian neighbours who were experiencing abject poverty then have overtaken us by leaps and bounds.

The crux of the matter is that in the years that followed independence, many of our leaders succumbed to insular politics and divisive racism in order to appease their political bases. This led the country down a ruinous path that ultimately exploded in the conflict in the North and the East, hampering development and social progress and consuming countless young lives from all communities for nearly 30 years. Moreover, successive Governments had neglected the aspirations of the youth, which resulted in two insurrections in the Southern parts of the country. We can probably recover from these calamitous events in terms of the economic cost, but there is no index or mechanism to measure the sheer social impact of these conflicts. Other Asian leaders who saw Sri Lanka’s slide into ethnic division were quick to ensure unity and reconciliation in their own lands. Hence multi-ethnic countries such as Singapore and Malaysia prospered while we fought among ourselves, brother against brother.

Today, almost ten years after the resolution of the conflict, our collective task as a nation is to ensure that we do not ever again relive those dark days. In President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, we have two leaders who are committed to foster national unity and ethnic reconciliation not just by word but also by deed. Under their guidance, the Government has made ethnic reconciliation a priority issue. We should remember the past, but now it is time to move on for the sake of our future generations.

Investing in the future is essential for an emerging nation such as ours, where the majority of the population is young. Just one week from now, citizens will get an opportunity to give the youth of this country an opportunity to serve and develop their respective towns and villages. Indeed, democracy is the common thread that has bound our Governments together – even at the height of Northern and Southern insurgencies, our democratic institutions and structures stood resilient.

At 70, Sri Lankans can be proud that theirs is one of the few developing countries offering free education for children and youth and free healthcare for all. Sri Lanka has some of the most impressive health, education and social indices in the developing world, which sometimes match or even exceed the statistics pertaining to the developed world. There is also no discrimination against girl children in Sri Lanka. The rest of the world watched with envy as Sri Lanka produced the world’s first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960.

There was a dark period when Sri Lanka was isolated by the rest of the world, but now it engages with the international community on equal terms. Diplomacy, trade and tourism have further integrated Sri Lanka into the global village. However, the next 70 years will prove to be even more challenging. The Vision 2025 programme now being implemented will address many of these including economic progress, infrastructure, environment, renewable energy, education, health, industry, transport and agriculture. Our Armed Forces which vanquished terrorism locally must be further strengthened to face the emerging challenge of global terrorism.

Sri Lanka’s biggest asset is her people, but it faces the daunting task of forging a truly Sri Lankan identity that still recognizes unity in diversity. The proposed new Constitution should be the starting point for this journey that will reinforce our freedom. 


 

There is 1 Comment

Not to be forgotten more than 50 percent of it end up destruction killing abduction corruption fakery etc. Nation with strong Buddhist background generous free education cultural advantage must bend the whole body in shame with so many intellectual educated roaming around the country this era has a great blight to society in every nook and corner of the country

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