February 4, a landmark for Sri Lanka and
Sri Lanka celebrates her 65th
anniversary of independence tomorrow. It was exactly six-and-a-half
decades ago that we gained independence from the British and since then,
the nation has faced many challenges.
Almost half of the post-independence era was affected by LTTE
terrorism which not only affected the country's economy adversely, but
also claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, social,
political and religious leaders.
Sri Lanka's independence anniversary also coincides with the birthday
of the Sunday Observer, which marks its 85th anniversary tomorrow. The
country's English newspaper with the largest circulation was founded 20
years before the country gained independence from British colonial rule
on February 4, 1928.
This year's independence day celebrations take on added significance
in our nation's history as the country is marching towards new economic
Most importantly, Trincomalee will be the venue for this year's
independence celebrations. There was a time, about a decade ago, when
even the Lion flag could not be hoisted in Trincomalee. Since terrorism
was eradicated, Trincomalee and the entire Eastern Province have
experienced rapid development and the Easterners are now reaping the
rich dividends of peace with the province showing a growth rate of
around 22 percent.
The 65th independence anniversary will be celebrated on a grand scale
under a Government which has given top priority to the country's
sovereignty, territorial integrity and the well-being of its people. It
was almost four years ago that the country's valiant Security Forces
eradicated terrorism, thereby crushing the most ruthless terrorist
outfit in the world.
Thanks to the fearless decisions and political sagacity of President
Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Government, all Sri Lankans could celebrate
the 65th independence anniversary in a fitting manner.
When Sri Lanka celebrated its 60th anniversary of independence in
2008, only the East had been liberated. But in a little over 15 months
since then, the entire North too was liberated, vanquishing the Tiger
leadership due to the military strategies of Defence Secretary Gotabaya
Rajapaksa and the Security Forces' supreme sacrifices.
It has been proved in no uncertain terms that as a nation with a
proud history, we would not dance the fandango round any extraneous
elements. Sri Lanka has a rich culture and heritage that are second to
As a nation, we would by no means compromise on matters relating to
national security, culture, values or dignity. The right political
leadership and the commitment of our brave Security Forces helped create
a conducive atmosphere in which one and all could feel proud and stand
tall as one nation.
Never before in the recent past have we felt so proud of our nation.
The 2009 military success in the battle against terrorism strengthened
our resolve. At the same time, we also demonstrated to the world at
large that the nation cares for all its citizens, irrespective of ethnic
and religious affiliations.
Though various governments in power, from 1977 to 2005, either
succumbed to foreign pressure or made a business out of war, President
Rajapaksa has no doubt proved himself a true patriot and a true son of
our soil. This helped all citizens - Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims,
Burghers and Malays to live in peace and harmony.
Since taking office as President on November 18, 2005, President
Rajapaksa has always given top priority to national security and has not
permitted shady elements to meddle in the country's internal matters.
Moreover, the Government never compromised on matters relating to the
country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This has been the
hallmark of the success and new vision of the Security Forces. This not
only boosted the morale of the Security Forces, but also that of the
public - to unite in a spirit of camaraderie and peace. The
international community had seen for itself the LTTE's ruthless
terrorism. Even in the final stages of the battle against terrorism, the
LTTE leaders never showed even an iota of interest to hold a peaceful
dialogue. On the few occasions they came to the negotiating table, they
did so with ulterior motives - to regroup and reinforce its military
Regrettably, a few countries and some international organisations are
still attempting to speak on the human rights of terrorists killed when
confronting the legitimate army of a sovereign state. They also turned a
blind eye to the human rights of hapless civilians killed in widespread
LTTE bomb explosions targeting the public.
The US-led resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council
(UNHRC) last year and those they hope to bring in this year would only
undermine the supreme sacrifices of the Security Forces who did their
utmost in the world's largest human rescue operation. It is deplorable
that some Western countries had ignored the praiseworthy sacrifices of
the Security Forces to liberate over half a million people who had been
forcibly held by the Tiger terrorists as a human shield. These
civilians, who have now been resettled, received a new lease of life.
The mega development projects launched and reconciliation go hand in
hand, uniting people in the North and the South with renewed hopes.
As Foreign Secretary Karunatilleke Amunugama has quite rightly
pointed out, Sri Lanka has done much more than what was expected from
the Government though the resolution at the Human Rights Session last
year gave a wrong picture. Hence, we see no reason as to why Sri Lanka
cannot convince the international community at the forthcoming UNHRC
sessions in Geneva.
The Government allocated more than Rs.1,200 million in the 2013
Budget to implement the LLRC recommendations. In the event Western
countries are sincerely interested in the well-being of the people in
the North and the East who had suffered untold hardships due to LTTE
terror, they must support the Government in further developing the two
provinces, rather than trying to intimidate it by pointing an accusing
finger on the so-called human rights' violations of terrorists.
Our illustrious leaders had played key roles in Sri Lanka's freedom
struggles. They belonged to all communities and made huge sacrifices in
liberating our resplendent isle, winning freedom after 443 years of
Portuguese, Dutch and British domination.
Apart from the Sinhalese, the Tamil and Muslim leaders too made
tangible contributions towards our independence.
The time is now opportune to make it even more meaningful. There was
a time when LTTE terrorists enjoyed global sympathy and dominated most
parts of the North and the East. This situation changed dramatically and
President Rajapaksa played an exemplary role in the nation's battle
Despite direct and indirect moves by many local and international
LTTE sympathisers, President Rajapaksa made every endeavour to protect
the country's national interests. When President Rajapaksa was first
elected to office, it was the wish and prayer of all loyal and patriotic
Lankans to see the end of terrorism under his leadership.
In a little over three years, with the Security Forces proving their
indomitable courage and will-power, the country achieved this goal
successfully. Mother Lanka was liberated prior to the 61st independence
celebrations in 2010 and all communities in the North and the East
breathed a sigh of relief as they were no more subjected to LTTE misery.
The Sunday Observer, over the years, has gone from strength to
strength to be the most sought after English newspaper in Sri Lanka. It
has been Sri Lanka's flagship English newspaper, which served many
generations. It made a significant contribution to the socio-economic
development in the pre-and post-independence eras.
As we get ready to celebrate our 85th anniversary, let's remember
with profound gratitude all past editors, journalists, artists and
others who had contributed in various ways towards the success of Sri
Lanka's No. 1 English newspaper. Their indefatigable efforts made the
Sunday Observer the undisputed market leader - be it in circulation,
readership, quality or content.
On this historic occasion, we also remember ANCL's founder, the late
D.R. Wijewardene, with undying gratitude and appreciate the roles played
by him, successive managements, past editors and the employees of Lake
House. Our valued readership the world over has contributed to this huge
success in no small measure.