69th National Day celebrated in The Netherlands
|07 Feb 2017|
The National Day, marking the 69th Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka from almost 450 years of colonial rule was celebrated at the Embassy on Saturday, 4th February 2017 in The Hague.
The program commenced with the hoisting of the National Flag by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Mr. A.M.J. Sadiq to the accompaniment of ‘ Magul Bera ‘, in the presence of a large number of Sri Lankans, Dutch friends and well-wishers. Thereafter, the National Anthem was sung in both official languages, Sinhala & Tamil, followed by the observance of 2 minutes silence in remembrance of all Sri Lankans who had sacrificed their lives for the motherland.
This was followed by the lighting of the ceremonial oil lamp by the Ambassador, Second Secretary and the Attaché. The participation of Ms. Ayumi Pathirana, Master Arjun Murugesu, Master Amru Fatheen and Master Thomas van der Gert dressed in their traditional costumes and representing the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Dutch Burger communities respectively in this event was the cynosure of all eyes.
Thereafter, multi-religious observances were conducted by 4 religious dignitaries representing Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Islamic faiths. Following the reading of the National Day messages of President Maithripala Sirisena in Sinhala, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Tamil and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in English by members of the staff, Ambassador Mr. A.M.J. Sadiq addressed the assembled gathering.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Sadiq while extending a warm welcome to all the guests, referred to the participation of children from all four communities represented in Sri Lanka, in the lighting of the ceremonial oil lamp, as symbolic of the ardent desire and aspiration of all peace loving Sri Lankans for national unity and genuine reconciliation in the motherland. He also highlighted the need for all Sri Lankans to acquire at least conversational ability in the three languages of Sri Lanka, namely Sinhala, Tamil & English, which would help create a new society in which people would be able to truly appreciate the value and benefit of life in a multi-cultural, multi-faith and multi-linguistic environment. In this manner, it would be possible for all communities to embrace and cherish the rainbow diversity of the nation.At the end of the ceremony, a sumptuous Sri Lankan lunch was served, which was greatly enjoyed by the guests.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
6th February 2017
69th National Day Address
By H.E. A.M.J. Sadiq, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Netherlands
Ven. Kahagolle Charana Sumana Thero,
Rev. Fr Ad van der Helm,
Moulana Saheb Mohamed Fares Mokiem,
My dear Sri Lankan compatriots,
Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Assalamu Alaikum, Good Morning.
A very warm welcome to my fellow Sri Lankans from all communities, both citizens as well as those who have made The Netherlands their home, who have joined us today at the Embassy of Sri Lanka to celebrate our National Day, marking the 69th anniversary of independence from almost 450 years of colonial rule, successively by the Portuguese, Dutch and British.
I take this opportunity to extend a special welcome to our Dutch friends and well-wishers who have honoured our invitation to be present with us on this important occasion, especially those who are here for the first time.
Others who have regularly attended the National Day celebrations in the past would recall that it was last year that an open invitation was extended to Dutch friends of Sri Lanka to attend the event.
The presence of such a large number of our Sri Lankan compatriots as indeed Dutch friends and well-wishers today is tangible proof of their love and attachment to Sri Lanka.
As in previous years, we are honoured to have the presence of the dignitaries representing the four main faiths in our motherland and to commence the official proceedings with their invocation of prayers and blessings upon Sri Lanka and her people.
Likewise, as we did last year, I am delighted to have four children belonging to the Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Dutch Burgher communities, dressed in their traditional costumes join me and my staff to light the ceremonial oil lamp. I believe this is a significant gesture symbolizing our collective desire to foster ethnic harmony and national unity in our country.
Although in May this year, it will be 8 years since the bitter and long drawn out armed conflict, which claimed the lives of many thousands of people from all communities, ended in our motherland, genuine reconciliation among the communities is still a matter of “work in progress”.
The National Unity Government elected in 2015 has taken the country forward during the past two years based on the three pillars of democratization, reconciliation and development. Sri Lanka is in the process of finalizing a new Constitutional draft that celebrates the diversity of the nation.
Notwithstanding these positive and salutary measures, it is my belief that in order to achieve durable peace, ethnic and social harmony among the different communities, it is imperative for all Sri Lankans to take an active and positive interest in learning each other’s languages, as well as study and understand the different cultures, so that they can begin to truly appreciate the richness and diversity of their heritage. It is in this manner that we would be able to foster a Sri Lankan identity.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching”. There is no good in my preaching the virtue of learning the three languages of Sri Lanka, Sinhala, Tamil and English, if I do not genuinely believe in it. My words would then amount to no more than empty rhetoric.
In order to demonstrate my own personal commitment to the importance for all Sri Lankans to acquire at least conversational ability in the three languages, I decided to read the National Day Message of the Hon Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Tamil today. Although I do speak Tamil, I must confess that reading and writing Tamil is challenging!
In this context, it is imperative that the education system in Sri Lanka is urgently reformed to enable all students to acquire competence in Sinhala, Tamil and English, in order that they will be able to build a strong Sri Lanka, and be free from the prejudice and mutual hostility and suspicion, that have corroded the mindset of the present and past generations, contributing greatly to fuelling the armed uprisings that we have faced in our post-independence history.
I am delighted to learn that India and Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Understanding 2 days ago in Colombo on 2nd February to construct a new multi-ethnic tri-lingual secondary school in Polonnaruwa District, fully equipped with classrooms, laboratories and library. The school would provide opportunities to Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim students to learn in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural environment.
While this school project is a step in the right direction, I personally am of the considered view that for at least the last 60 years or so, students in Sri Lanka have grown up and been taught in a segregated school environment, thus denying them the real value and benefit of a life in a truly multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic society in which we genuinely cherish and appreciate the rainbow diversity of our beloved motherland, Sri Lanka. For this to happen, children should be taught in a mixed and fully integrated environment in the classroom from the primary level.
Expecting adults to learn a new language is a tall order, as you would have noticed in my own personal struggle to read the Prime Minister’s National Day Message in Tamil today!
Before I conclude, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all our respected religious dignitaries for their presence, which has been a source of inspiration and strength to us today. I also wish to thank all my dear Sri Lankan compatriots and Dutch friends and well-wishers for taking time off from their usual schedules to join us in celebrating our National Day.
A special word of thanks to Ayumi Pathirana, Arjun Murugesu, Amru Fatheen and Thomas Van der Gert, representing the four communities in Sri Lanka and their parents for participating in the lighting of the ceremonial oil lamp, adding colour to the occasion.
I am also thankful to Mr Asoka Siriwardena for lending his sound equipment for the occasion, without which it would not have been possible for you to listen to the proceedings today.
I am deeply grateful to my dear friend, Mr Niyas and his wife, who despite their indisposition, as always unfailingly rose to the occasion to make the catering arrangements. I am certain that all of you whom I cordially invite to the Sri Lankan buffet shortly will enjoy their delicious cooking.
Last, but not least, I will be remiss in my duty if I did not acknowledge with profound appreciation and gratitude the hard work and dedication of all members of my staff at the Embassy to make the celebration of Sri Lanka’s 69th National Day a truly memorable one.
I would like to conclude with a few verses from a poem entitled The Call of Lanka by Rev. Walter Stanley Senior, which eloquently captures the ardent desire and aspiration of all peace loving Sri lankans for our beloved nation.
But most shall he sing of Lanka
March to a mighty purpose,
Hark! Bard of the fateful future,
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