The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. commemorated the 75th Independence Day celebrations on the 04 of February 2023, under the patronage of Ambassador Mahinda Samarasinghe.
In keeping with tradition, the celebrations began with hoisting of the National Flag by the Ambassador, followed by the singing of the National Anthem in the Sinhala Language, lighting of the traditional lamp and the observance of two minutes silence for those who sacrificed their lives on behalf of the motherland. The ceremony proceeded with the conduct of Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, and Christian religious observances.
The Buddhist religious observances were conducted by Ven. Maharagama Dhammasiri Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Washington Buddhist Vihara, Washington D.C. and Chief Sangha Nayaka of North America, Ven. Katugastota Uparatana Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Maryland Buddhist Vihara and Chief Judicial Sangha Nayaka of North America and Ven. Thalawe Damitha Bodhi Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Mahamevunawa Buddhist Meditation Centre, Washington D.C. Hindu observances were conducted by Swami Ragupathi Kurukkal, Islamic observances by Gaddafi Ismail and Christian observances by Reverend Monsignor John Paul Pedrera, First Secretary, Apostolic Nunciature, Washington D.C.
To mark the 75th Independence Day celebrations, messages from President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Foreign Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry were readon the occasion, along with a message from Ambassador Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, who forwarded a video message congratulating the people of Sri Lanka on its Independence Day and for being resilient through all the hardships and turmoil that the people had to face over the years. He also recollected his first visit to Sri Lanka and how he will always remember the warmth of the people and the beauty and splendour of the country. Ambassador Lu, concluded by reiterating how the two nations share a special relationship and assured the support of the United States in Sri Lanka’s future and growth.
Ambassador Mahinda Samarasinghe, in his address, recalled that after 450 years of foreign domination and subjugation, Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948. He said that the present is an opportunity for reflection of the 75 year journey since then. He added that we should focus on the positives as well as the negatives during this period. He recalled that for over 30 years of the 75-year period, Sri Lanka was combatting one of the worst forms of terrorism. In addition, he said, there were two youth insurrections that took place. There were many young lives lost and persons who disappeared or went missing. Sri Lanka has been called upon internationally to account for these persons.
The Ambassador also highlighted some of the positives. Sri Lanka was the first nation in South Asia to adopt an open economic model, invest consistently in universal health coverage and free education. Sri Lanka was a pioneer in some of these policy initiatives. These investments in the people were reflected in high levels of human development in advance of other countries in the region. He referred to levels of international support for Sri Lanka after the end of the conflict in 2009 and said that the country had missed an opportunity to achieve comprehensive reconciliation, peace and a sense of togetherness between different segments of the population.
Referring to the youth led protests of 2022, he said that there was a clear message being conveyed that the Government was ready to pay heed to. What was commented on was that there was no political, ethnic or religious division amongst the youth who demonstrated in favour of a system change. He also stated that the Government of President Wickremesinghe would take steps to accommodate the views of the youth in its efforts to promote unity in an effort to move forward together toward a better future.
What is necessary, Ambassador Samarasinghe added, is the acceptance that Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual nation and that all should strive to build a national identity free from prejudice and division. Recognition that our diversity is a source of strength that should be protected and nurtured is a prerequisite for advancement through achieving sustainable peace which will result in sustained development.
The Independence Day celebrations concluded with the playing of the National Anthem in the Tamil Language.