Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Independence Day 2009

The meaning and significance of such a day differs from person to person based on his or her life experiences. I was born long after independence from Britain and so the significance of the word Independence from subjugation to rule from another nation does not have as much weight. On the other hand I have lived most of my life in the United Kingdom, and second most in Sri Lanka, closely followed by the 14 years spent in the United States so I am a person who has immersed himself deeply in three very different cultures. Apart from the last four years of life in Sri Lanka from which all my blog experiences have been born, it was only my pre-teenage years from birth, that I spent in Sri Lanka. Now as a peasant farmer in a village I speak Sinhala.

So when I view with awe on TV the arrival of guests, and members of government and the forces in very expensive gleaming vehicles, with spotless extravagant uniformed guard escorts and in attendance, if I was from outer space I would think this is the wealthiest place on earth. What grander place for the show than on Galle Face Green! Then the endless parade in immaculate dress of the different regiments of the forces, and the military hardware on show, and the sleek show of naval strength on the high seas with an even more impressive show of air force might, lead me to believe that we have the power to conquer lands outside our shores just as Britain did in years gone by.

While I believe unquestionably that this event was for home consumption, by the people gathered in front of their TVs as all channels were obliged to show this, no international TV channel would have felt it worthy of being shown in any other country. I was also saddened by the lack of the general public gathered to view the show live, as they were only permitted to see it on TV. It smacked of a private party for invited guests, making it an exclusive event for a few. I am told this is the first Independence or equivalent parade of any country in the history of the world where there were no members of the general public present at the proceedings.

The only other two events on the program were, the raising of the National Flag with the singing of the National anthem and the President’s address to the Nation. I am trying to be objective in my observations, so please tell me if I am being unfair. The President was asked to rotate a wheel to raise the flag, something only ever done in Sri Lanka, and the flag was not raised on a flag pole straight up but at angle like on the rear of a ship, which would be judged by perfectionists as an insult to the flag. Needless to say these minor details are lost amongst the organizers.

The President’s speech was too long, too political and not sufficiently unifying. He could easily have chosen the occasion to give a short, fiery speech of inclusion and entitlement where all the citizens of this country are called upon to serve the nation and motherland devoid of petty religious, racial, caste and language differences. He could have laid the gauntlet for a truly united nation where all people’s rights of freedom would be guaranteed in the constitution and we would have applauded. As he was making a party political broadcast, bearing in mind the provincial council elections in less than ten days, it was none of that, so it alienated half the nation, and for that I am truly disappointed.

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