On Tuesday 4th, Sri Lanka marked a historical day. This nation celebrated its 72nd Independence Day anniversary from British colonial rule, defining us as a nation of freedom, rich culture, diversity and a country which is home to many religions.
Since 1948, Sri Lankan citizens have put in their heart and soul to move forward. However this beautiful country, which is blessed with an advantageous geographical location in the Indian Ocean and its rich soil, is yet to reach a satisfactory status, when compared to other countries in the region. This is because of weak governance, since 1948, by governments, mostly led by the UNP, who tried to govern through a colonial type ruling. These governments failed us in some way, leading to three major youth uprisings, two in the south and the other in the north, which transformed into Asia’s oldest civil war.
Sri Lanka sacrificed thousands of young soldiers in its 30 year battle against the ruthless LTTE, who were militarily defeated in 2009, under the strong leadership of current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Thousands of innocent civilians also lost their lives as the LTTE unleashed its terror on everyone including children. Some of our best politicians were assasinated and Sri Lanka was a country which was far from approached by any investor or tourist. 30 years of a war left us devastated and our economy ruined. At that time we saw no hope.
However, in 2005, with the LTTE already having caused massive destruction, Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as Sri Lanka’s President and then he appointed Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Defense Secretary. Realizing that past governments had done little to end the war, under the strong leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the military was strenghtened and within four years, the LTTE were banished. Terorrism was wiped off from our shores. The war had ended. Freedom had finally prevailed. Sri Lanka’s soil strenghtened once again after our independence in 1948.
I remember that day in May 2009, when my father was informed that the war was over he had tears in his eyes and his immediate reply to a few of his close associates was, “my people are free. We will now move forward and transform this country into the most developed state for the sake of those who sacrificed for us.”
From 2009 to 2015, Sri Lanka worked tremendously hard, so much so that within a short span of time, we emerged as one of the leading tourist spots in the world, a hot spot for investments, we welcomed large FDIs, our ports were strenghtened and we began appearing on several global rankings.
Sri Lanka was suddenly the talk of the world. Through investments, people started getting jobs, we attracted large foreign exchange, star class hotels entered our shores, global businesses were set up, global brands entered, our economy stablized and we were producing the fastest millionaires in the world. People who could not see the sudden transformation, criticized the past Rajapaksa government and attempted to destabilize the nation. Suddenly, in 2014, just months ahead of a presidential election, some groups with ulterior motives, caused riots to break out, attempting to brand the Rajapaksa government as racists and trying to divide the nation. Fear was unleashed on minority communities and the former UNF government made this their main election campaigning point. Their false campaigning eventually led to a government change in 2015.
Since then to last November, Sri Lanka once again faced a hurdle. All what this country had worked for, started slipping away as weak governance crept in, the same weak governance which led to youth uprisings. A ruthless era of corruption, under the guise of good governance took over, and the people paid a heavy price, through unjust taxes, rising unemployment, weak policies, zero FDIs, internal political rivalry and lies. Then in April 2019, the biggest nightmare this country had left behind, hit us again – terrorism. While the former government was busy clinging on to power, our national security was severely compromised, which cost us heavily as a nation. Sri Lanka, a budding nation, went silent again.
In November 2019, realizing that Sri Lankans truly valued peace and freedom, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who with Mahinda Rajapaksa and our valiant forces contributed in brining peace to the nation by defeating the LTTE in 2009, was sworn in as the President while days later Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the Prime Minister. The duo were back again to govern with a firm vision, to develop Sri Lanka and ensure that peace remains on our shores.
Today just three months since the new government, many changes have been made. Although it will take some time to clean up the mess created by the UNP, the government is slowly moving forward to ensure Sri Lanka propspers once again. Already people are recieving employment, a program to end poverty is in place, we are maintaining a neutral foreign policy, and investors are keen to enter this island once again.
Although some groups critisize the government claiming, minorities will face racism, President Rajapaksa, in his Independence Day speech to the nation, dismissed any fear stating, “Every citizen living in Sri Lanka has the right to live freely and securely. We will always ensure their right to think freely, hold independent opinions, and express themselves without any hindrance. We will always respect the right of any citizen to follow the religion of his or her choice. Every citizen has the right of free association and of free assembly. We will always defend the right of every Sri Lankan citizen to participate in the political and governance processes through his or her elected representatives. We consider all these as rights of human beings that no one can challenge.”
Sri Lanka has faced many hurdles. But today 72 years later, our citizens are still committed to take this nation forward. A new day and new era has dawned upon us under this new government. A new freedom has been laid on us all. Time we do everything to keep this freedom in tact once and for all and move forward together as one.
This is the least we can do for the thousands of brave men, women and children who were sacrificed in our struggle for freedom. We will do them proud.