The 69th Independence Day celebrations kicked off at the Galle Face Green Colombo with much pomp and pageantry yesterday under the theme ‘National Unity’. The celebration commenced with the arrival of President Maithripala Sirisena and First Lady Jayanthi Sirisena and then the hoisting of the national flag followed by the recital of the National Anthem by 110 school children of all communities.
A two minutes silence was observed in honour of all national heroes and servicemen who laid down their lives to protect and serve the country. The President was accorded a guard of honour by the Tri Forces along with a 21 gun salute.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Former First Lady Hema Premadasa, Ministers, Commanders of the Tri Forces, Inspector General of Police, Parliamentarians, Ambassadors and many other distinguished guests were present.
Addressing the nation, President Maithripala Sirisena called on the country to rise up to ensure economic freedom. Political stability and development could be achieved through reconciliation and religious co-existence, he noted. He also stated that honest, committed politicians as well as state sector employees are important to develop the country. “One must fulfill his responsibility towards the country,” he said.
The President stressed the importance of alleviating poverty while also noting the international recognition Sri Lanka has received for its reconciliation efforts.
Over 7,500 military personnel representing the three Armed Forces, Police, Civil Security Department, National Cadet Corps and National Youth Corps displayed the country’s military might in the National Day parade. The Sri Lanka Army showcased their weaponry while the Navy and Air Force displayed their latest air and sea capabilities in the sail-past and fly-past in the bordering seas off Galle Face green.
The crowds were treated to a magnificent finale by parachuters representing the tri forces as well as the Police. Thirty four Parachuters showcased three types of parachute formations over the skies of the Galle Face Green to the delight of the gathered distinguished guests and public.
Nineteen Army personnel, 12 Air Force Personnel, Two Navy Personnel and One Special Task Force Officer took part in the spectacle. While it is the first time the Sri Lanka Police had taken part in such a parachute jump the team also comprised two female military personnel.
The celebration culminated with a colourful cultural event held later in the day.
Pictures by Chinthaka Kumarasinghe, Malan Karunaratne, Gayan Pushpika and Sudath Malaweera