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POSTED AT 08:04 AM 04-02-2019

Sri Lanka celebrates 71st Independence Day

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih waves upon his arrival in Colombo yesterday. Solih is paying a three-day official visit to Sri Lanka on the invitation of President Maithripala Sirisena. He will be the Guest of Honour at the 71st Independence Day celebrations at Galle Face today – Pic by Chamila Karunarathne

- Maldivian President arrives to participate as Guest of Honour at main event 
- President says poverty and corruption biggest challenge to independence
- Points out minds enslaved to imperialism more dangerous than colonial rule  
- Wants national customs and values to take centre stage 
- PM calls on public to help build robust economy, stable Govt. 
- Says true freedom is living in a socially and politically developed country 
- Over 500 prisoners to be released with presidential pardons 

All is in readiness for Sri Lanka to celebrate its 71st Independence Day with festivities organised countrywide to mark the occasion. The main event will be held at Galle Face and will be presided over by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will attend the ceremony as Guest of Honour. He arrived in Colombo on Sunday and will begin his State visit on Tuesday. 

First Lady Fazna Ahmed and a high level delegation of the Maldives Government are accompanying the President on his visit. The President, First Lady and the delegation of the Maldives Government was received at the Airport by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. During the three-day visit, President Solih will hold one-to-one deliberations with President Maithripala Sirisena on charting the course for future Maldives-Sri Lanka bilateral ties.

As part of events to mark the 71st Independence Day at least 545 prison inmates will be granted Presidential pardons, according to Prisons Department Media Spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya. 

President Maithripala Sirisena releasing his Independence Day message on Sunday called on all Sri Lankans to commit to fight poverty and corruption as they were the twin evils that prevented the nation from moving forward. 

“The common enemies of the progress of national revival are poverty and corruption. We must resolve to eradicate these evils completely. All those patriots who sacrificed their lives for the sake of independence of the nation, since the colonial era, are commemorated on this occasion, with honour and dignity. All the servicemen and women dedicated to safeguard the freedom and independence of the nation today are also remembered with gratitude,” he said. 

President Sirisena also stated that the public must understand the true meaning of freedom and attempt to define and understand what it means to be Sri Lankans and citizens of Sri Lanka. 

“Having gained independence from imperialist rulers, as a nation, we expected a political, socio-economic and cultural forward march, with a unique national identity free of colonial shackles. To entrust the future of the nation to minds enslaved by imperialism for more than a century is more dangerous than being under colonial rule itself.”

“Hence, for future progress, we need people with spirits invigorated by national customs, values and culture. We could accomplish colossal tasks, similar to those gigantic achievements of other great civilizations of the world in the past, by being independent,” he added. 

Given the importance of Sri Lanka’s 71st Independence Day, President Sirisena urged political parties and other stakeholders to work towards a more developed country.   

“It is my wish on this important occasion that all political parties, together with all of us, will be able to march forward with courage and peace towards accomplishing the ultimate goals of independence.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his Independence Day message called on the public to join him in building a robust economy and a stable government for the future generations of Sri Lanka. 

“Celebrating ‘independence’ does not necessarily mean that it has been entirely achieved to the true sense of the word. ‘Independence’ is fully realised only when all human beings in a nation achieve a state of environmental, economic, political, social and spiritual coexistence. This demands an organised program and collective sacrifice,” he said.  

The Prime Minister pointed out that while celebrating the country’s liberation from long years of foreign rule, ‘Independence Day’ is the ideal opportunity to inspire public discourse and social activism for a more broad based ‘National Independence’ that transcends ethnic and religious biases. 

“Since being propelled into power by the people, the Yahapalana Government has overcome countless challenges and obstacles to establish a refreshingly new social and political culture, while taking significant steps to strengthen democracy.” 

“We are savouring the positive results of these collective efforts, as this transformed society has already proven its resolve to defeat anti-democratic, extremist forces.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe invited all Sri Lankans to join him in building a robust economy, stable government and a prosperous nation. “So that all our citizens can enjoy the true freedom of living in a socially and politically developed society.”