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Hail the Republic day - May 22, 1972

William Gopallawa, Sri Lanka’s first President (C)

May 22, 1972 is a day of great historical importance. The monarchical form of governance established by Prince Vijaya came to an end and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka came in to being on this day.

Even though the Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to the British the convention of 1815 the monarchy continued as the Nayakkar dynasty was replaced by the British crown by virtue of the convention, which also preserved existing forms of civil and criminal administration.

On the epoch making day May 22, 1972 the British sovereign ceased to be the monarch of Sri Lanka and the sovereignty of the people of this country was established by the Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka. This was the culmination of a realization which occurred to the Kandyan chieftains in 1818, when they conceived that an alien monarch unbred in the Eastern and Buddhist tradition could not justify and effectively rule this country for the benefit of the indigenous people.

Dominion status

The great uprising that arose in 1818, due to unstable appointments and intolerable taxes and the like left in the wake a devastated country, by reason of the ruthless manner in which it was quelled by the British and the governor himself had to be replaced due to the grave excesses that were committed during that period.

After the next attempt in 1948, which again proved unsuccessful, our people had to wait for a 'hundred years' till dominion status was granted in 1948; yet the British Sovereign still continued to be the queen, the Privy Council the highest court of appeal and the British base at Trincomalee continued to fly the British flag.

The remnants of foreign rule were all jettisoned by the Republican Constitution. Due place was given to Buddhism which was the driving force behind the great achievements in the various spheres of human activity and endeavour.

It should be remembered, that a distinctive culture, a useful and appropriate system of education, amazing architectural creations, stupendous irrigation systems, enduring works of art and crafts blossomed forth after the arrival of Arahat Mahinda and the introduction of Buddhism, accordingly had to be given its due place while giving each person the right to practise his own religion without fear or favour.

National Day

Therefore this day where all vestiges of foreign rule which lasted for 154 years (1818-1972) ceased forever and the total independence that existed in 1815 once again dawned on this great country. Thus meriting its celebration in the grandest possible terms and being recognized as the National Day of Sri Lanka, which also aptly falls in the auspicious and luminous month of Vesak.

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