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.
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.
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.