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DateLine Wednesday, 4 February 2009

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61st Independence Day

What they say ...

Views on 61st Independence anniversary:

For more than six decades now our country had been celebrating Independence Day year after year. Though the national flag is hoisted on February 4 each year and there are celebrations all round never has there been a year with a promise of a glimpse of true freedom.

As the Forces march boldly on a victorious ramp with many cheering and blessing them in their progress some prolific figures in their chosen fields spoke to the Daily News regarding the 61st Independence Day.

Dr. Lester James Peries

“The situation may not be stabilized at the moment but one cannot help but pray that peace and prosperity might dawn soon. Plenty of effort should be put into bringing about stability and peace into the country as these qualities are fleeing from the society.

“I was in London when Sri Lanka celebrated its first Independence Day but we felt the impact of the situation even while abroad. We wrote special articles for English newspapers like the Times of Ceylon. I can still recall that event vividly with a great sense of nostalgia.”

Dr. Tissa Abeysekara

“The post colonial period of both Asia and Latin America has been traumatic but the traumatic situation of Sri Lanka is altogether a different story. We were quite elated with ourselves in the first few years because we had won independence without bloodshed but soon problems occurred. We had to reengineer the whole structure of our nation as there was conflict between Sinhala and Tamil nationalities because they tough differently about the nation state.

Sinhala Buddhists tried to resurrect the times of the ancient Anuradhapura kingdom but the multi-religious and multi-ethnic backdrop of the country did not permit this method to be put into practice socially, ethnically or politically.

“We need to search for another principal to hold the Sri Lankan state. We have not been successful in conquering the situation and successful steps had come in rather late however we have learnt many bitter lessons on the way.

One thing is clear. We cannot reestablish the old Buddhist kingdom. I hope and pray that we will find the principal that we are searching for when the war ends.”

Malini Fonseka

“I have a strong belief that the 61st Independence Day of our country will go down in history as a year of triumph.

We have suffered a lot for more than three decades. Hardly a day passed by when we didn’t expect some form disaster to be inflicted by terrorists and did not have the courage to walk in the streets without fear.

“We were overjoyed when the country was liberated from the British rulers and it is a great relief to look forward to enjoying freedom once again as there are signs that the war is coming to an end.”

Rita Hemapala

“We need to inculcate ourselves as we are entering a new era. For years everyone sans ethnicity and religion suffered from an undeclared war. Three decades before the war was inflicted and we were of prime age we had the benefit of enjoying the best of what the country has to offer. Unfortunately the generation after us was unable to enjoy these treasures with a peaceful mindset.

“Sri Lanka embodies the best of everything. There is no country that is blessed with such magnificence.

We need to admire and respect what the country has to offer. We need to start a new day by thinking of the country and practice good values.”

Ravindra Randeniya

“February 4, 2009, will be the most significant Independent Day in Sri Lankan history ever since we celebrated our independence from the British in 1948. After almost 30 years suffering from the clutches of terrorism we will be able to celebrate the day as a true undivided nation in the near future.

“The damage caused by the war to the psychology of the people and the country is immeasurable, however we see signs of a new era vista of a bright future.

Terrorism hampered the progress of the country and it kept the intelligential at bay. We are proud that we had the resilience to survive the ordeals of the past.

“I would like to salute President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the yeoman service he is doing to free the country from terrorism.

His vision, courage and determination brought the country so far towards liberation and I see that he is the only individual, after the great Sri Lankan kings in our history, who had taken pains to make the country a free nation.”

Dr. D.B. Nihalsinghe

“The free education system, the unparalleled literacy rate, the lowest infant mortality, the highest life expectancy and the very high human welfare index are some of Sri Lanka’s distinctive achievements over the past 60 years.

Unfortunately these are under threat because of the 30 year civil war born out of unthinking policies. Despite enormous cost the civil war is almost over by the undermine efforts taken by the Government.

They should be credited for their determination. Progress should now lead to the development of political and economic strategies to develop the country to take on the future. With the civil war behind us, that opportunity seems very much a reality.”

Gehan de Silva Wijeratne

“When we compare ourselves with other countries in Asia, it is clear that Sri Lanka has failed to reach its full potential since independence. One hopes that the ethnic conflict will soon be resolved so that time, money and energy can be deployed for progress. However a huge task lies ahead. The hardest challenge will be to change the mindset of people. We need to see that any change for the good requires a broadminded and mature approach across a range of disciplines. No one state or private sector agency can develop Sri Lanka on its own. Everything and everyone is interlinked.

“In tourism I often see how different agencies with different agendas are in conflict. For example, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau will use public money to bring down foreign media personnel to promote Sri Lanka. However other departments will with unnecessarily red tape restrict the ability of the very same ‘friendly’ foreign media to access and film and photograph our cultural and wildlife sites. Eventually, it wears down even the Sri Lankans who want to promote their country. Post independence economic progress will only happen when we start to see the big picture and drive an economic agenda under-pinned by the principles of common sense.”

Visharada Edward Jayakody

“Sri Lankan had become renowned worldwide for many things like sports, art and politics but sadly terrorism is also included in the list. “Many leaders have tried to conquer terrorism through various methods but terrorism still prevails so much so that scholars have come to a point saying that terrorism cannot be eliminated form the society.

Though it may seem as if the topic had been cleared through certain methods, it will remain hidden beneath the ashes waiting for an opportunity to rise again.” When such ideologies are circulating around the globe, the President and Government has shown a fine example that it is indeed possible to eliminate terrorism.

Hopefully the freedom that they are foreseeing will dawn this year and make this year’s Independence Day an unforgettable event in history.

The cultural events of the Independence Day ceremony had been under me for nearly 20 years and this year too I would be handling some of the musical features of the event. I consider it a part of my duty to the country as I am the assistant director of education (music) of the Ministry of Education.”

Pushpa Ramyani Zoysa

“Basic needs and freedom are essential in every individual’s life. These priorities should not be limited to a certain group but everyone form the lowest rank to the elite groups should have a tolerable social backdrop to live in.

“When the basic needs are not met and problems creep into our household they make way for other problems. We tend to think on a selfish scale as ourselves and our family but remember that it may take only one person to cause disruption. Learn to respect and think of others without turning a blind and eye and deaf ear on others needs.”

Anoja Weerasinghe

“I am now 54 years and that means I have only enjoyed a life in a free state for around 24 years. However I feel privileged to have spent those joyful years without fear as today’s younger generation had been living in the shadows of terrorism throughout their life.

“Fortunately we see signs that the war is coming to an end but the mere end of war does not signal freedom. There are issues to deal with.

Though the whole country suffered it was those who were residing in the North who go the whole impact of the ordeal. As we are all citizens of the country we can only celebrate wholeheartedly if all of them are liberated and can join hands with us. Everyone has a right to live a life of freedom.

They too have a right to this country. We will know true happiness only if we are able to live harmoniously together.”

Channa Daswatte

“The 61st Independence Day is quite an important day for the country and one that should make us put our mind to thinking about the future.

We all look forward to a peaceful and vibrant society and learn to live harmoniously, understanding each other despite our differences.”

Nayana Karunaratne

“Though we celebrate independence I still feel that we have not used it in the true sense to link it with the progress. There are so many things to do before we begin celebrating as a liberal nation. Development and togetherness go hand in hand but can we boast that we have developed in many aspects?

“Hong Kong was liberated from the colonial ruler-ship many years after us but they can boast of a significant development in their economy while we who will be celebrating 61 years of freedom which is nearly a lifetime of an individual, have nothing much to take pride in.

“Free your mind from racism and put it into a progressive path. Unity is essential for success.”

Rohana Weerasinghe

“Each year the question of whether we are celebrating true independence arises. However this year the country had tackled the LTTE effectively.

“I hope the situation progresses and we will soon be able to bring them down to their knees soon and put an end to a dreary period in which the country and its people suffered immensely. “I hope for a future when all the ethnic groups of the country will be able to live together in harmony throughout the year and for many years to come.”

Shantha Mayadunne

“Independence Day had been only a title in our calendar and though we go through the whole process mechanically each year, looking back we question what sort of freedom we enjoyed during the past few years.

“This year brought on a different feeling, a feeling of hope and victory. We hear and see signs of the war coming to an end through the media. Sri Lankan can truly celebrate independence this time as there is a blessed feeling of peace lingering in the air.”

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