Celebrating a milestone | Daily News

Celebrating a milestone

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged officials responsible for overseeing the country’s 75th Independence Day celebrations to ensure that the event is organised with minimum cost but with all the customary grandeur. This is in response to the huge public outcry over the financial allocations for the occasion.  

President Wickremesinghe told a pre-discussion ahead of the Independence Day celebration at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday that the country’s 75th Independence Anniversary should be celebrated, lest the world say we cannot even celebrate our Independence. The event should be held in a grand and proud manner but with minimum cost, he told the officials. He cited specific instances where costs could be brought down.  

Special programmes also have been earmarked for the occasion including a special Dalada Pooja and multicultural and multi-religions events. The National Anthem will once again be sung both in Sinhala and Tamil at the main Independence Day event.  

Of course those taking a dispassionate view will agree with the President that the country’s Independence Day should be held with the customary pomp and pageantry whatever the circumstances. After all, we are marking 75 years of freedom from over 400 years of subjugation as a Western colony. Is it not an occasion for celebration? Not marking our Independence Day will be tantamount to non-patriotism. True, the country has not much to celebrate this time around, being hit by the worst ever economic recession since Independence. The spirit of Independence also may have deserted a majority of the public who will contend that we still are a dependent state in many ways. But as they say, the show must go on if for no other reason than nothing is going to change by halting or drastically scaling down the upcoming 75th Independence Day celebrations.  

 Some will pose the usual question. “What is there to celebrate when the country is in the doldrums?”. Others might say “Are we truly independent, when we are in eternal debt to foreign countries?”. However, a country’s Independence transcends all these sentiments. It can be said to be a state of mind ingrained in its people of being free from foreign domination and persecution, of now being our own masters to decide our own affairs. Those calling for the cancellation of the Independence Day event among the Opposition have failed to grasp this reality.  

It is unbecoming of those who call themselves patriots to devalue and denigrate the 75th Independence Anniversary, which is an important milestone in the country’s history. Not marking Independence Day in a fitting manner could also attract the attention of the world as the President noted. It could also be described as an affront to all our freedom fighters that made Independence possible, who belonged to all communities.  

True, we achieved our Independence without shedding even a drop of blood unlike our giant neighbour India. Nevertheless, this does not diminish our status one bit. Many sacrifices were made by those freedom fighters, some of whom were jailed and some even executed in their quest for achieving Independence. Abandoning the Independence Day events altogether, as suggested by some would make these valiant men and women squirm from wherever they are.  

The country could, no doubt, look back with pride on certain landmark achievements down the road, but things could certainly have been much better on both the social and economic fronts had not 30 years of these 75 years been occupied in fighting a debilitating war that sapped the vitals of the nation.  

Looking down the years, there are both positives and negatives in terms of progress and targets achieved. We were made to feel proud of our free health care system which was at one time the best in South Asia. The country’s free education system is also one of our proud boasts which opened the doors for the hitherto deprived segments to acquire an education and go places in society. Our post-Independence leaders also built giant tanks and reservoirs that brought in vast agricultural outputs. In the arena of sports too, the nation achieved dizzy heights. The country also produced eminent men of learning, scientists, doctors, engineers etc. who could stand shoulder to shoulder with any of their counterparts in the world.  

 There could also be regrets for lost opportunities. At the time we gained Independence we were second only to Japan in terms of development, so much so, it made the late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew yearn for his country to emulate us. No doubt, somewhere along the way things went haywire, chief among the reasons for which was politics and thirst for power among politicians. Three insurrections - two in the South and the other in the North also stymied our efforts to achieve progress. Here too the chief reason was politics and lust for power.  

It is time to put the past behind us and resolve to work as one nation forgetting all differences, to rebuild the shattered country. There is no better time for this than the 75th Independence Day milestone that will be upon us in a few days time.   

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