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Sunday, 14 February 2016





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Inspiring speeches at gaining Independence

Jawaharlal Nehru at midnight on August 14, 1947 addressed the nation with his now famous, ‘We made a tryst with destiny’ speech. The more you read his address to the nation that India was now a sovereign State having thrown off the yoke of the British Raj, the more you are enthralled and more nuances that assail you. It was deeply expressive against a background of violence and bloodshed, reaching a crescendo of mass massacres as the country was divided to India and the new born Pakistan. He said: “Years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure but very substantially.”

A day later, Ali Jinnah inaugurated the new nation of Pakistan consequent to a line being drawn down India, almost arbitrarily, since Viceroy Mountbatten wanted partition quickened. Partition may not have been made if Nehru, the Viceroy and the Home Office in London were privy to the strictly kept secret that Jinnah was dying of tuberculosis. Thus heavy displacement of Hindus and Muslims and their copious bloodshed could have been avoided.

In anticipation of independence from oppression and discrimination Martin Luther King Jr made his ‘I have a dream’ optimistic speech to thousands of African-Americans against the backdrop of the famous space in Washington DC with the statue of the seated Lincoln close at hand. It too is one of the world’s greatest speeches.

D. S. Senanayake’s Independence speech

To this cat, sensitive though feline, more inspiring is the address by D. S. Senanayake, on February 4, 1948 when the Union Jack was lowered and the Lion Flag hoisted on Galle Face Green and he was administered the oath to serve as prime minister of the newly independent country, by Governor Lord Soulbury.

Maybe this address lacks the crystalline sparkling lustre of Nehru’s eloquence; maybe it carries not the zeal, thrust and defiance of the King’s hopeful speech but it most definitely encapsulates the solemnity of the occasion; its great significance; and the responsibility now devolved on the country.

It also epitomises the speaker DS who was a down to earth, a very practical person not given to flights of fancy. He was concerned about the country and its people and thus the aptness of his speech. “Freedom carries with it grave responsibilities. Our acts and omissions henceforth are our own. No longer can we lay the blame for defects and errors in our administration on others. It is, therefore, the duty of every citizen of Lanka to grasp this opportunity and to strive and toil willingly for advancing the happiness and prosperity of the country. Our nation comprises many races, each with a culture and a history of its own. It is for us to blend all that is best in us, and to set ourselves with the resolute will to build up that high quality, and to join with the other nations of the world in establishing peace, security and justice for all peoples.”


Let’s take D. S. Senanayake’s Independence speech and notch up where we have lived to his declared intents and where we have failed or deliberately moved away from. Very mercifully, we can be optimistic that what DS said in all his earthy wisdom will be adhered to even if not fully achieved now that we are under two intelligent leaders. With the previous government we had lost all hope.

Responsibilities have been shuffled aside by governments off and on. Mistakes are made which are not excusable but inevitable like President Premadasa arming the LTTE to get the Indian Peace Keeping Forces out of our country. People blame Ranil Wickremesinghe for the negotiated peace with the LTTE but that was in good faith. We passed through 15 years of irresponsible government with the years 2010–2015 extra irresponsible with extravagant spending and subverting law and order.

Every citizen, D. S. Senanayake said must “strive and toil willingly for advancing the happiness and prosperity of the country.” Leave individuals aside and let’s consider the government in context of the foregoing statement. The country is far from prosperous and the shame is that our chief forex earners are maids sweating and slaving and even dying in countries with no mercy and no adherence to human rights, notwithstanding the efforts of Thalata Atukorale and Ranjan Ramanayake to better the lot of our maids overseas. Murder, road accidents, rape and incest, thuggery and eternal protests mar lives and stain the country’s reputation. With the new commissions set up, such as the Police Commission we have hope for the future.

DS spoke of the blending of cultures as “Our nation comprises many races.” Cultures blended before Independence and soon after with peaceful co-existence and people of the various religions respecting each other’s religions and the government recognising the freedom that should accrue to the people to follow any religion they wanted to, or be agnostic or atheist.

This was progressively abused with a nadir being carved out by the previous regime that encouraged Bhikkhus of the Bodu Bala Sena and such like to incite racial and religious disunity and strife. That will not be tolerated by the new government which is moving two strides forward to make us all Sri Lankans. A first small step but truly significant was the singing of the national anthem in Tamil before the President and in front of all on February 4 this year.

DS advocated getting together to build that high quality. High quality is still lacking but this cat says that with good examples from the top: the Prez and PM. people will improve, even parliamentarians and Pradeshiya Sabha persons. DS intoned that we should “blend all that is best in us” to be of even higher quality. We reached the depth of the low with corruption, bribe taking and harvesting commissions, sycophancy, nepotism and family bandyism. Those have been reduced. People point out lapses. It is hoped that great improvement will come to pass in civil and political life.

DS suggested we should “join with the other nations of the world in establishingpeace, security and justice for all peoples.” Our foreign policy which was definitely lop-sided is being set right. We went wooing tin pot dictators and shied away from nations that were our benefactors but turned critics and advisors. The present government is forging healthy diplomatic relations with all nations.

So our dear Father of the Nation can rest light and easy! We are on a more correct path.

- Menika



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