|Ceremony at Independence Square marks national unity
The official ceremony began after laying floral tributes to the statue of the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon and father of the nation D. S. Senanayake. Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya, Home Affairs Minister Alick Aluwihare and Education Minister Karunasena Kodituwakku laid floral tributes and Colombo Mayor Prasanna Gunawardene garlanded the Senanayake statue in front of the Independence Square. A section of the address to the nation by the first Prime Minister on receiving independence was aired while the tribute was paid. The stentorian voice of the late D. S. Senanayake reveberated a call on the newly independent nation 55 years ago to work towards development and prosperity putting aside all divisions.
On the arrival of the President who was received by Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe and Mrs. Maithree Wickremesinghe the official ceremony began. President Kumaratunga raised the National flag to the accompaniment of Magul Bera and conch shell performed by the students of D. S. Senanayake Vidyalaya, Nalanda Vidyalaya and Isipatana Vidyalaya. Thereafter the national anthem was sung by 100 school girls from Visaka Vidyalaya, Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya, Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Janadhipathi Vidyalaya, Ramanathan Hindu Ladies College, Muslim Ladies College and St. Brigets Convent. The Jaya Mangala Gatha was also sung by the students.
A two-minute silence was observed in remembrance of all those who laid their lives for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland. A guard of honour to the President by the three armed forces was followed by a 21 gun salute accorded by the Artillery unit of the Army.
The customary address to the nation by the President followed. She called on the people to move towards reconciliation and reconstruction and turn away from the past mistakes and failures. "On this historic occasion, after 55 years of independence, destiny has once a again placed before us a magnificent opportunity to turn away from our failures and mistakes and to move along the path of reconciliation and reconstruction of a strong and united nation-state with a multi-faceted, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and politically pluralist society, advancing with strength along the path of freedom and democracy and lasting economic prosperity."
"Do we, the leaders, possess the greatness of heart and the genius required of us to seize this opportunity in a constructive manner? Let us not leave history to decide our future for us. I truly believe that we Sri Lankans possess the greatness and the courage to do what is required of us."
"Let us together guide our nation to liberation from the oppression of violence, suspicion and hatred, towards that heaven of freedom, prosperity and peace we have so long dreamt of."
A military parade by the three armed forces and the police was the central attraction of the celebrations. The forces who have been fighting and sacrificing their lives to protect the territorial integrity of the nation marched proudly to the beat of drums and patriotic songs by the bands of the three services. The Army mascot baby jumbo Kandula also joined the parade. The military parade was led by the infantry unit of the army.
School children representing all provinces of the island joined the march past depicting national unity and harmony.
The military parade and march past was followed by a cultural show presented by school children and the national youth services council. The colourful show with traditional dances, gymnastic display and a school bands presentation, attended by a large number of school children was at the Torrington grounds in front of the Independence Square.
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