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National Day of Sri Lanka

National Day of a country, undoubtedly, is the most important and glorious day for that nation, and I think it would be the best time to take cognizance of the historical events that led to the independence of that country. In view of the 65th national day of Sri Lanka on February 4, 2013, I dedicate this article for a retrospective overview of independence of Sri Lanka and the struggle of our leaders to achieve it.

Sri Lanka was a popular commercial hub for Arabic traders in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the beginning of 16th century, Portuguese traders entered Sri Lanka in search of cinnamon and spices, which had a great demand in Europe. They captured the coastal areas of Sri Lanka in 1505 and introduced their religion, Roman Catholicism, to the predominantly Buddhist society.

In 1658, the Dutch took control over the coastal areas of Sri Lanka by expelling the Portuguese after 153 years of their rule. Thereafter, in 1796, the British established their rule after defeating the Dutch rule of 138 years. Introduction of trial by jury in 1811 and the construction of roads are some significant developments that took place in this period. The British were able to establish the crown colony in 1815, after conquering the last king of Sri Lanka.

There had been two rebellions in 1818 and 1848 against the colonial rule, which were crushed by the British rulers, and continued their authority in the island. In 1833, they introduced a wide-range of reforms, including making English as the official language (Currently, Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages), administrative changes and abolished slavery in 1844.

In the beginning of the 20th century, resurgence of nationalism among youths had given strength and courage to their agitation for independence. The struggle to gain independence was a political movement that was shouldered by many Sri Lankan leaders (mainly educated middle class), irrespective of their differences.

Ultimately, on February 4, 1948, Sri Lanka was granted independence with Dominion status within the British Commonwealth, which was retained until it became a republic on 22 May, 1972. It was named the Republic of Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon), with the adoption of a new Republican Constitution.

Although Sri Lanka was granted independence by the colonial rulers, it continued to be heavily dependent on the latter on defence and economic fronts. In political development of the pre-independence era of Sri Lanka, it is worth mentioning that it was the first Asian country to introduce adult suffrage in 1931, 17 years before independence.

Britishers were interested in growing coffee in Sri Lanka because coffee had been the popular drink in Europe in the early 19th century. They created large plantations for growing coffee and as a result a boom in Sri Lankan coffee export began at that time. However, from the 1870s, the coffee crop was devastated by the spread of a fungus and in the late 19th century, tea replaced coffee as the main crop, followed by rubber and coconut as secondary important crops. >A2

Sri Lanka was under foreign rule for 443 years before independence. However, independence and sovereignty enjoyed by the people were once again suppressed by violent acts unleashed by terrorists for over three decades from 1976. It was common understanding that terrorism is a menace that should be wiped out completely without leaving any space to raise its ugly head again and thereby, the Sri Lankan leaders had to act decisively and courageously. As a result of determined action, the Sri Lankan government was able to wipe out terrorism from its soil in May 2009, which is seen as the rebirth of independent Sri Lanka.

Any country has its vicissitudes, dark eras and prosperous periods. We have passed some difficult times and are now looking forward to developing the economy of the country in all sectors. Some mega projects, such as an international airport and a harbour, as well as medium level projects like road network, tourism development projects etc. have been started to meet the modern day requirements.

The 65th National Day of Sri Lanka is a milestone for Sri Lanka-Oman relations as it marks 25 years in our bilateral relations. To commemorate this important event the Embassy of Sri Lanka has organised a Sri Lankan Trade Exhibition and Food Festival from February 12-14, 2013 in Muscat to educate the Sri Lankan entrepreneurs about the potentials of Oman market with a view to strengthening trade links between the two countries. It would be an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs from both the countries to learn about each other, as this is the first ever Sri Lankan trade exhibition after the establishment of the Sri Lanka Mission in the Sultanate of Oman.
Food Festival that is organised along with the Trade Exhibition would be an ideal opportunity for our Omani brothers and sisters to learn about Sri Lankan cuisine and food habits, which would be a new experience to them. A Sri Lankan dancing fiesta will be staged on February 7, 2013 to provide more colour to our National Day celebrations.
Asoka Girihagama is Sri Lankan ambassador to Oman.

Source : Times of Oman