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61st Independence Day

Going back in time...

In 1945 a select committee of State Council on Sinhala and Tamil as official languages appointed. An Independence bill was passed in parliament which was the inaugural meeting of the first parliament in 1947.

After all the invasion we had been through, we finally gained our own independent country on the February 4, 1948. A day that everyone celebrates with a lot of happiness in their hearts. The Portuguese, Dutch and the British all come one after the other try to claim an island that was living a life of its own as their own property and treating the inhabitants like slaves. Well, you all know the history of Independence, so here are a few years from the day of our Independence to now as we celebrate our 61st Independence Day of Sri Lanka.

The agreement to grant Sri Lanka fully independence was signed between Colombo and London was signed as well as the first Parliamentary elections were also held in that year.

Sri Lanka gained independence ending 152 years of British rule on 4 February 1948. The D S Senanayake government enacts two bills, one, Ceylon Citizenship Act No. 18, 1948 to deprive the Indian plantation workers of their citizenship rights making 705,000 Indian plantation workers stateless. On November 15,1948, G G Ponnambalam who was the leader of the Tamil Congress asked for a 50-50 representation before the Soulbury Commission. He voted against the first citizenship bill but votes for the second after getting a portfolio which lead to the split of the Tamil Congress. S J V Chelvanayakam then formed the Federal Party Ilankai Tamil Arisu Kachchi in the same year.

National Flag

An Act of parliament to establish the Sri Lanka Army was passed in October 1949. The National Flag was formally adopted on 13 February 1950 and the National Anthem was adopted in 1951. The then Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake appointed a committee to advice the government on the design of a new national flag. The design approved by the committee in February 1950 had the symbol of the lion with the sword and the bo-leaves from the civil standard of the last king of Kandy with the inclusion of two vertical stripes green and orange in colour.

D S Senanayake who was a pioneer of Independence movement

The significance of each symbol of the national flag is said to be as follows.

The lion in the flag represents the Sinhala race, the sword of the lion represents the sovereignty of the country, the noble eight-fold path of Buddhism is signified by the lion's tail, the curly hair on the lion's head indicates religious observance, wisdom and meditation.

The beard denotes purity of words, the handle of the sword highlights the elements of water, fire, air and earth, the nose indicates intelligence, the two front paws purport to purity in handling wealth. The vertical stripe of orange represent the minority Tamil race and the green vertical stripe the Muslim race, the four virtues kindness, friendliness, happiness and equanimity are also represented in the flag. The border round the flag, which is yellow in colour, represents other minor races, the bo-leaves at the four corners of the flag represent Buddhism and its influence on the nation.

They also stand for the four virtues - Kindness, Friendliness, Happiness and Equanimity. The maroon coloured portion of the flag manifests the other minor religions.

National Anthem

The National Anthem was formally adopted on 22 November 1951 and S W R D Bandaranaike leader of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, leaves the UNP government and joins the opposition and then the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was founded.

Prime Minister D S Senanayake dies in a horse riding accident March 22 1952 and Lord Soulbury invites the late Prime Minister's son Dudley Senanayake to become the next Prime Minister and he was officially appointed as PM on March 26 1952. The first Parliament was dissolved in the same year as well.

Settlement of colonists in Gal Oya Scheme started on February 3 1953. Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake resigned and Sir John Kotelawala succeeded him in October 1953.

The Kotelawala-Nehru agreement on Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka was signed on January 18 1954. Mahajana Eksath Peramuna led by the SLFP was formed on February 22 1956. The General election returns MEP coalition and S W R D Bandaranaike becomes the Prime Minister on April 1956. The "Sinhala only" bill was passed in June 1956 and the Federal Party conducted a Gandhian style protest, also known as "Sathyagraha" in the open air space by the beach known as the Galle Face Green, opposite the former Parliament building.

The Department of Official Languages was established and the decision to teach in Sinhala, Tamil and English media in the University of Ceylon from 1960 was announced. PM SWRD Bandaranaike was assassinated. Ven.Buddharakkhita who was the founder of the "Eksath Bhikku Peramuna" is accused of leading the conspiracy and a woman parliamentarian, Minister of Health, Wimala Wijewardene was also accused of involvementin the conspiracy on September 1959.

The Federal Party 'Sathyagraha' in North and the East and FP inaugurated Tamil Arasu (Government) Postal Service in Jaffna on 14 April 1961. Military occupation of Tamil areas for two years and Federal Party MPs were arrested and detained for six months. Sinhala made the official language of Sri Lanka on January 1 1963. SLFP, LSSP coalition defeated by 74 votes to 73 in parliament fifth parliament dissolved in December 1964.

Sixth general elections were held where the United National Party (UNP) gained 66 seats, led by Dudley Senanayake for a coalition government comprising UNP, Federal Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party, Tamil Congress, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Lanka Prajathanthravadhi Pakshaya.

JVP inaugurated

Seventh parliamentary elections returns SLFP-LSSP-CP United Front coalition to power with Mrs. Bandaranaike as Prime Minister on 27 May 1970. An insurrection by a radical leftist youth group calling themselves "Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna" (JVP), led by Rohana Wijeweera began in April 1971. Rohana Wijeweera, the JVP leader was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December 1971.

At the International Tamil Research Conference seven people were dead by electrocution. Assassination of Jaffna mayor Duriappah by Velupillai Prabhakaran who is the leader of LTTE on 27 July 1975. The Second Republican Constitution promulgated. Adopting the new Constitution for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Presidential System of Government with J R Jayewardene as the first Executive President on 4 February 1978. A law enacted proscribing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other similar organisations.

Former Prime Minister Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike was deprived of her civic rights and was expelled from Parliament in October 1980. Mrs Ranaganayaky Pathmanathan takes oaths as the first Tamil woman MP since independence on November 1980. The District Development Council election was disrupted in Jaffna and the Jaffna Public Library was burnt down on June 1981. Emergency declared and a curfew imposed in Galle; Sinhala-Muslim communal clashes in Galle. The UNP wins 14 of the 17 parliamentary by-elections.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Nava Sama Samaja Party, and the Communist Party proscribed on 30 July 1983. The sixth amendment to the constitution making espousal , promotion, financing, encouraging or advocacy of the establishment of a separate state in Sri Lanka illegal, passed in parliament and talks begin in Colombo to end the ethnic conflict on Dec 1983.

The Ministry of National Security established in March 1984 and terrorist bombs explode in Colombo. The Government abandons the proposals of the All-Party Conference on ethnic peace in December 1984. LTTE, EROS, EPRLF and TELO together form the Elam National Liberation Front (ENLF) in April 1985.

The Anuradhapura massacre, the first attack on Sinhalese civilians by Tamil militants where about 250 men, women and children were gunned down at the central bus stand at the Anuradhapura town on May 1985.

Air Lanka explosion

The Jayewardene government rejects proposals by TULF on the basis that they are Federalist. President J R Jayewardene restores the civic rights of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, former prime minister and Mr Felix Dias Bandaranaike, former Cabinet minister in January 1986. A bomb explosion in an Air Lanka plane bound for Male at the Katunayake International Airport kills 17 passengers and injures about 24 on 3 May 1986. The Eastern University of Sri Lanka (EUSL), the country's eighth university was inaugurated on 15 November 1986.

A summit in Bangalore between Rajiv Gandhi and Jayewardene was held on the 17 & 18 November 1986. Terrorists massacre 128 civilians and injure more than 60 near Kitulottuwa along the Habarana-Trincomalee road in April 1987. A bomb explosion kills 113 persons and injures more than 300 in Pettah, Colombo again a few days after the first one.

Launching of a military operation at Vadamarachchi to put an end to the dominance established by Prabhakaran in Jaffna after the black say on 26 May 1987. India shows its protest against the Vadamarachchi operation by sending a flotilla of "humanitarian aid" to Jaffna. When these boats (Indian fishing vessels) were turned back by the Sri Lankan navy, the Indian Air Force dropped food and medical supplies in Jaffna the following day violating the Sri Lankan air space in June 1987.

A 72 hour island-wide curfew imposed in July 1987. The signing of Indo-Lanka peace accord was on 27 July 1987. The 13th amendment to the constitution was debated in Parliament. This amendment among other things made provisions for the establishment of a system of Provincial Councils. Amendment was certified on 14th November 1987.

The first ever Provincial Council election takes place for the North Central, Sabaragamuwa, North Western and Uva Provincial Councils on April 1988. President Jayewardene officially authorises the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces within a single North Eastern Province.

Elections were held for seats in the above Provincial Council on November 1988 and the 16th Amendment to the Constitution certified. The provisions of the 13th amendment dealing with language, were clarified and consolidated by the 16th amendment.

R Premadasa of the UNP wins the presidential election. Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader A Amirthalingam and former TULF MP Yogeswaran assassinated by LTTE gunmen on July 1989.Sri Lanka and India signed an agreement in Colombo providing for the withdrawal of the IPKF from the North and East by December 31 and the suspension of offensive military operations against the LTTE from the 20th onwards.

The International Committee Red Cross arrives in Sri Lanka. Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) begins its withdrawal from Ampara and the Tamil National Army and the Sri Lankan Army move into the areas vacated by the IPKF. The LTTE takes over areas vacated by the IPKF in the North and East on January 1990 and President R Premadasa holds talks with the LTTE on February 1990. EPRLF declares an "Independent

Eelam" and renamed the provincial council as a Tamil National Assembly on the March 1, 1990.

Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratna was assassinated on 2 March 1991. Fighting breaks out between government troops and the LTTE in what is

dubbed as Eelam War II on June 1991. Former Defense Minister Lalith Athulathmudali was assassinated on 23 April 1993. A bomb explosion in a street in Colombo kills President R Premadasa who was taking part in his party's May day rally on May 1, 1993. Gamini Dissanayake, a former minister in the UNP government, and a presidential election candidatewas killed along with several other senior members of the party by a suspected LTTE suicide bomber in a manner identical to the killing of Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu in 1991on 24 October 1994.

Chandrika Kumaranatunga Bandaranaike becomes the fourth Executive President of Sri Lanka on 10 November 1994 and second round of talks between the Government and LTTE begin on January 1995. Cessation of hostilities between the Government and the LTTE on 7 January 1995. The Government Security forces commence operation "Leap Forward" and the LTTE attack Colombo oil installation facilities on October 1995.

A suicide bomb explosion by the LTTE at the Central Bank in Colombo kills more than 100 civilians and wounds 1,300 others on January 1996 and two bombs explode in a Colombo commuter train killing more than 60 people.

Nearly 1,400 soldiers killed in an LTTE attack on the Mulaitivu military camp on July 1996. India bans the LTTE. A lorry packed with explosives is exploded at the outer gates of the Dalada Maligawa, a 400 years old Buddhist shrine in the city of Kandy, as it was preparing for the 50th independence celebrations on January 1998.

Twenty first century

Sarojini Yogeshwaran, the first woman mayor of Jaffna was gunned down by LTTE gunmen A bomb blast at the Municipal council kills P Sivapalan, who took over after the death of Mrs Yogeshwaran. Some of Jaffna top military brass were killed along with him in the same year.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga narrowly escapes with injuries an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber at an election rally on Colombo on 18 December 1999. Year 2000, the millennium year where we entered the 21st century the Independence Day celebrations held in Colombo on February 4 to mark the 52nd anniversary of the end of British colonial rule was well quite an independence as no one appeared to be there at the ceremony.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga did not attend as doctors had advised her to go and her mother, the late Prime Minister Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike who was also unable to come because of her old age.

The ceremony lasted for just half an hour. On July 24, 2001, Tamil Tigers attacked the Bandaranaika International Airport causing an estimated $500 million of damages.

Destruction of Tsunami

In the year end of 2004 the most unthinkable disasters hit the shores of Sri Lanka, something no one dreamt about and that took thousands of lives and separating people from their home, family and lives they couldn't ever have again. The Tsunami came without a single warning and took away the lives of many here and around the Indian Ocean. the year that followed was never the same as every household in every part of the country mourned the loss of a loved one.

On the 56th Independence Day the LTTE had openly called to hoist black flags and to adhere forthcoming 04 February as a Black Day and as the

Day of Mourning in Sri Lanka. The Tamil rebel organization in its official Peace Secretariat web site had published an appeal from hitherto unheard and by unnamed organizations, classifying them simply as "People's Organizations, in the Jaffna District" and publishing a call said to be emanating from those anonymous organizations - Calling for the observance of 4 February - Sri Lanka's independence day, as the saddest day for the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

On the 60th Independence day of Sri Lanka, the celebrations were held under very tight security as a series of bombings over the weekend, which were reportedly masterminded by the rebel LTTE, has claimed 37 lives. Twelve of the 37 were killed in a suicide bomb attack at the main railway station on Sunday, while 18 died in a bus blast in Dambulla on Saturday. Seven were killed by a blast inside a suburban zoo.

Well last year has been a year of surprises, and a lot losses as well. We had lost some fine people who did a lot for the country for the love of the country.

This year we already tasted a bit of sourness, but everything lies in our hands to make it sweet. So lets celebrate this Independence Day as a day where we tell ourselves o fight all obstacles and come on top and be the best you can be and help your motherland to be a "one" country with no separation form any cast or creed.

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