Picture shows first Premier D.S.Senanayake signing the Independence document in 1948
The day on which we got Independence is a long way back on memory lane for me , in a genteel era far removed from the world which is ours today. As a child it meant little to me then, I think I must have been far more interested in getting my own independence, freedom as a new teen, living in an age where we were protected and brought up like hothouse flowers which we were resentful of at that time, but understand now as parents and grandparents ourselves.
The security we had which was unappreciated then, would be appreciated much more in the insecure world we live in today. I am often accused by both friend and foe of being an anglophile. I suppose I am and I do appreciate the Brits giving us their wonderful language which has opened many doors and windows of opportunity to me and those of my generation. It has enabled us to hold our own internationally and in Britain, even to surpass them in our knowledge of the language, literature and history. I appreciate the tea they planted, a Godsend then and now, we have the roads and the beautiful bungalows they built on the plantations, each with a panoramic view.
My father had an extensive library with an exceptionally wide collection of books, ranging from biographies to history, poetry, literature and fiction. We were encouraged to read anything and everything, nothing was banned in our reading. This helped us to be broadminded, learn of other countries, traditions, cultures etc which helped us to be understanding of other people and beliefs, never to think one being superior to another. The clubs they began of which the Hill Club and The Colombo Swimming Club still maintain the high standards, there may be others too, but these are the ones I go to frequently.
- Railways, tea plantation and several schools were built during the British era
- Political changes, natural disasters, wars, separatism have hindered our economic growth
- The power of politics should be to right wrongs, rectify injustices, level inequalities
Before the British, we had the Portuguese who arrived in 1505 AD, then the Dutch who defeated the Portuguese to take us over in 1656, till the British defeated the Dutch and took us over in 1796 and achieved total power in our nation in 1815. While reading through our history, I think the Brits were by far the best and more superior of these three foreign powers. The others left their imprint in the sands of time in the annals of our country’s history by architecture. The Dutch architecture in particular, is much admired even today. Both the Dutch and the Portuguese also influenced our food and left us with many of their delicacies which we relish even today. The Portuguese language too, has had some influence on the Sinhala language and there was intermarriage too, much more than with the British.
I do wish though that we had kept the English language as a choice, rather than Sinhala only for the Sinhalese and Tamil only for Tamils.This has built barriers and suspicion and been a great loss, as those who do not come from more affluent homes where English is spoken are at a serious drawback when seeking employment. Employers invariably prefer to have employees who speak and understand English which is the language of the world and a necessity in moving forward in a global economy, the knowledge of English is a must and a plus point.
Although ours was a peaceful Independence with a good relationship with the Brits, there was no struggle. India with its countless struggles had paved the way for us. But we did have many great statesmen who never stopped their clamour for Independence from all ethnic communities
Although ours was a peaceful Independence with a good relationship with the Brits, there was no struggle. India with its countless struggles had paved the way for us. But we did have many great statesmen who never stopped their clamour for Independence from all ethnic communities. These included the Senanayake brothers, The Father of the Nation, D.S.Senanayake and his brother F.R. Senanayake,D.R. Wijewardene, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sir James Peiris, Sir Baron Jayetilleke, T.B. Jayah and many others.
What those forefathers in political history would now think of how we have dealt with our independence is quite another matter! Great Leaders of the past after that who contributed much to take our country forward were the late Dudley Senanayake, the late SWRD Bandaranaike, the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike,the late JR Jayewardene. Of those still with us; Chandrika Kumaratunge, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa. We went through a long drawn out war with the terrorists, from which we suffered in no uncertain terms, losing our countrymen in hordes, leaving widows, orphaned children, parents losing their children. But we still have a long way to go, to achieve permanent peace and reconciliation as diehards on both sides have proved to be thorns who seem to want hatred among races and religious groups to continue unabated. Their dogmatic arrogance is an immovable obstacle on the road to Peace. Whether I will see an end to this in my lifetime,at this stage of life with not too many tomorrows being mine, is a debatable question.
There are also happenings we can’t prevent or bargain for, natural disasters like Tsunami, Floods, droughts, disasters built on hatred and bent on destruction like the Easter Bomb blasts, the constitutional coup, all these contributed to hinder our economic progress and development.Freedom must remain untainted by racial or religious enmity.
In this, 72nd year of Independence,we must all do our bit to make our country known as a Paradise again and not as Paradise lost. Let this year be a new beginning enthused with vigour and enthusiasm
Unfortunately, there seems to be a domination of bigotry, racism, brutality, oppression and murder. Cruel men with evil intent seem to have influenced youth who have grown away from religion and spirituality of all faiths into dangerous habits like drugs. As I look back, the moments seem to have flown in my life, the good, the bad, the weak, the strong, the tragedies, the victories, wins and the losses.... We all have them. The world is full of a variety of people; intelligent, less intelligent, downright dumb, some amusing, some dull... We have to live and let live with them all. The power of politics should be to right wrongs, rectify injustices, level inequalities and that its practitioners should be idealistic people who use their power wisely and well. Not for personal agenda’s to further themselves and their cohorts.
In this, 72nd year of Independence,we must all do our bit to make our country known as a Paradise again and not as Paradise lost. Let this year be a new beginning enthused with vigour and enthusiasm,and let us never give up the fight to make this a better place for all citizens in our beloved emerald isle.