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Government Gazette

Independence - 1

Today Sri Lanka celebrates its sixty-second anniversary of political independence. It was the result of two factors. One was the struggle of our people for independence. The second was the weakening of the British Empire at the end of World War II. That was a period of anti-colonial revolutions the world over. The coming to power of the Labour Party in Britain also favoured the de-colonization process. Thus independence was a result of coming together of internal and external conditions favourable for it.

Nevertheless, the political independence gained was not complete. There were two principle factors that impeded independence. The first was a Defence Arrangement with the United Kingdom that provided for the stationing of an Air Base and a Naval Base in the island. This was an infringement on the sovereignty of the country.

The Second was that Sri Lanka opted to continue its allegiance to the British Queen. Thus the colonial master transferred power to its local collaborators, who continued to serve the master even after independence. Even in matters like dress and customs the local elite continued to imitate the West. Some of them in top hat and tail-coat looked even comical in the tropical heat.

The first impediment was removed after the People's Victory of 1956 in which the UNP suffered an ignominious defeat. This victory also removed the 'cadjan curtain' that kept our country in isolation from many progressive countries in the world. The voluntary seclusion at the behest of the colonial masters was so great that even a team of scientists from Soviet Russia were refused visas to visit the country to view a solar eclipse. The same fate befell a team of football players from the Russian Dynamo Club to play here. The UNP Government even disallowed any cultural or scientific contacts with socialist countries. It was the MEP Government that came to power in 1956 that established diplomatic relations with many socialist and Third World newly independent states.

This new non-aligned foreign policy paid dividends. Socialist countries helped Sri Lanka in its first post-independence industrialization drive. The Oruwela Steel factory, the Tyre factory at Kelaniya and the Flour Mill at Modera stood as monuments to this new friendship until they were later privatized by the UNP Government. A powerful state sector in the economy laid the solid foundation for that industrialization. Actually it also facilitated the growth of the nascent national bourgeoisie.

The second impediment, however, could be removed only with the first Republican Constitution of 1972 passed by the SLFP - LSSP - CP United Front Government that came to power in 1970.

The 1956 victory initiated a cultural renaissance. Sinhala and Tamil medium education expanded the education opportunities for rural and urban students of less affluent families. Thus a new avenue was opened for the middle classes and the poorer to climb up social ladder. Education, up to now remains the most potent medium for upward social mobility.

The introduction of Sinhala, however, had its negative effects on ethnic relations. It was not till many years later that parity of status was accorded to both languages. The disastrous consequences were experienced by the entire population for several decades.

After a 30-year old protracted fratricidal war Sri Lanka has been now unified under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The victory over terrorism last May has opened a new chapter for Sri Lanka.

While acknowledging the many achievements in various fields such as education, health and the economy in the past six decades of independence, the country has to build upon its achievements and rectify the shortcomings and setbacks in double quick time.

The independence anniversary is a good time for reflection and resolve. The challenges faced by the country at this juncture are manifold. On the economic front, the country is in the midst of a world recession, the ill effects of which we affect us, especially since the world today is more globalised and our immersion in the world market is greater.

On the political front, Sri Lanka is faced with new foes who are not pleased with its independent policies. Besides, anti-national forces are also colluding with the enemy for personal and political gain. An orchestrated campaign of disinformation is being conducted in the international media to discredit the country.

All these forces have to be defeated. This calls for maximum unity of the people. It calls for a fresh approach to the vexed question of inter-ethnic relations. In the face of international pressure only the unity of the people and their support to the Government could guarantee victory and progress.

Last century irrigation projects:

Techno-wise, eco-foolish

Irrigation projects are intended to harness land and water resources to create well-being and wealth for people. In approaches adapted during the last century in designing of those irrigation projects, water has been typically regarded as the limiting resource.


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The Morning Inspection

Independence is (still) another country

My younger daughter asks strange questions. She had recently wanted to know who it was that first came up with the word/idea called ‘good’. This was followed by another question: how can we tell if god exists?

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PARALLEL Perspectives:

Voter resolve faultless amidst piercing campaign

The 2010 election campaign provided a piercing exercise in marketing by those trying to win over the voters. The voters were tested for their mettle at times to a slash and burn campaign.

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