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.