Today Sri Lanka marks its independence from British colonial rule. In his message for the occasion, the archbishop of Colombo calls for building "coexistence and joy." For the first time, during the event, the national anthem was sung in Tamil. Some activists march in the capital, demanding the release of Tamil political prisoners.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka this morning celebrated its Independence Day marking the end of British colonial rule in 1948 in the presence of the country’s highest officials. Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, was among the dignitaries present. However, a few days ago, an Anglican clergyman joined the National Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners in a march through the streets of Colombo to demand freedom for unjustly jailed Tamils.
In his message on Sri Lanka’s national day, Card Ranjith said, "as we celebrate the 68th anniversary of independence, I want to emphasise the importance of unity for building a climate of true independence in the country, where all communities can live in peace, unity, coexistence and joy”.
Celebrations began when President Sirisena hoisted the national flag, followed by Sri Lanka’s national anthem. The most touching part came when pupils, after singing the anthem in Sinhalese, sang it in Tamil.
For the first time since the end of civil war, which pitted the government against Tamil rebels, the country’s national anthem was thus sung in the county’s other national language, a sign that a real attempt is underway to reconcile the island communities following the election of President Maithripala Sirisena (pictured).
For Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva on his Facebook page, this is “A first in my lifetime! After many years the independence day celebrations came to a close with the national anthem sung in Tamil!”
Similarly, Mano Ganesan, Minister of National Dialogue and Tamil Progressive Alliance leader, tweeted, “Yes it's a very small act but [one] that goes long way forward. [The] National anthem in Tamil after decades [is a] Victory 4 our Coexistence journey”.
However, for Card Ranjith, “It is well known that we gained independence from British colonialism due to the people’s efforts, motivated by a single objective”. Yet, “We failed to use independence in a meaningful manner for the development of our country since we have divided based on race and political views. We could have been in a better place had we been able to rise as a single Sri Lankan nation.”
In fact, on the margins of national celebrations and nice words, some continue to protest the continued imprisonment of hundreds of innocent Tamils.
On 1 February, Rev Marimuttu Sathivel joined political activists and marched from Welikada Prison to the Prime Minister’s office in the capital to demand the government «stop playing a double game and seriously address the problem of political prisoners."
(Melani Manel Perera contributed to this article)