Sri Lanka celebrates 70th Independence Day on grand scale

Sri Lanka Navy – the Golden Fence Around the Nation, took part in the 70th Independence Day celebrations held under the theme of ‘One Nation’ at Galle Face Green, Colombo today  (4 February). This majestic event was graced by the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, as the Chief Guest.

Meanwhile, religious dignitaries including Maha Sangha, Hon. Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Commanders of the Armed Forces, the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the Civil Defence Force and Government officials were also present on this august national ceremony. A member of the British Royal Family Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex accompanied by Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, attended the celebrations as a special invitee representing Queen Elizabeth II of England. Scores of Sri Lankans also lined the venue to catch the glimpse of the celebrations.

The proceedings of the 70th Independence Day celebrations commenced with the hoisting of the National Flag by His Excellency the President on an auspicious note, amidst the beating of ‘Magul Bera’ and blowing of conch shells. Going by the customs and traditions involved in the hoisting of the National Flag, the naval personnel of the Communication Branch made all ceremonial arrangements ready for the magisterial hoisting of the National Flag. To coincide with the flag hoisting, 110 students from the schools in Colombo joined singing of the National Anthem for which the music was played by the Sri Lanka Navy’s Oriental Orchestra.

Subsequently, a Guard of Honour followed by a 21 Gun Salute was awarded to HE the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The delivery of HE the President’s address to the nation soon ensued.

Thereafter, the distinguished invitees and crowd could witness the majestic Independence Day parade where Commodore Jayantha Kularathna was on the pilot vehicle representing the Sri Lanka Navy. Meanwhile, Commander Athula Jayaweera led the naval contingent comprised of 6 divisions made up of naval personnel representing the Naval Headquarters, Naval Fleet Command, Special Boat Squadron (SBS), Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS), Marine Battalion and women sailors. Stamping the Navy’s mark in the day’s celebrations, 1019 naval personnel marched in the Independence Day parade clad in their traditional blue, white and camouflage outfits to the tunes played by the Navy Band in attendance. Upholding the honour of the Navy, the President’s Colours of the Naval Headquarters, Eastern, Northern, Fleet commands and Naval and Maritime Academy, conferred as the highest accolade for the exceptional service rendered to the nation, being paraded symbolizing the gesture of the memories of all naval personnel.

 At the very outset, the division of Naval Headquarters marched ahead under the command of Lieutenant Commander Prabath Kumarasinghe. Meanwhile, the naval personnel belonging to the Naval Fleet Command which is fully fledged with a wide array of ships, craft and small boats, marched in the parade paying their utmost respect under the command of Lieutenant Commander Sameera Ediriweera. The elite forces of the Sri Lanka Navy, the Special Boat Squadron which is capable of clandestine, waterborne entry and even air mobile to operate deep in the enemy controlled land, was led by Lieutenant Commander Manjula Wanninayake. Similarly, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Amal Piyasena the Rapid Action Boat Squadron that is expert in small boat and littoral operations marched next in the parade. Being a force specialized in amphibious operations, rescue operations, operations in urban areas and waterborne operations, the Marines of SLN Marine Battalion made their mark in the parade under the command of Lieutenant Commander Milinda Dehigama. Thereafter, the Navy’s women sailor division comprising members from Medical, Communication, Supply and Information Technology Branches paraded under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nimali Madhurangani Kumari. Showcasing some of their key weaponry and equipment in its arsenal the march of Sri Lanka Navy Armoured parade ensued under the leadership of Commander Rukshan Mahagedara.

The proceedings of the parade came to a climax with the parachute display presented by the tri-force personnel. Representing the Sri Lanka Navy, Lieutenant Commander Sagara Lokuge glided onto the Galle Face Green from high skies and he was followed by Petty Office GCMK Geekiyanage.

In parallel with the parade on ground, the largest Off Shore Patrol Vessel of the Navy, SLNS Sayurala, making her debut on the Independence Day, combined with SLNS Sagara, Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship Suraksha, Fast Missile Vessel SLNS Nandimithra, Fast Gun Boats SLNS Udara, Prathapa, Rathnadeepa and Ranadheera and craft of the 4th Fast Attack Craft Flotilla sailed past in formation in the seas off Galle Face Green paying their respect to HE the President. This fleet of ships were commanded by Captain Ashoka Wijesiriwardana and the craft of 4th Fast Attack Craft Flotilla were led by Captain Damian Fernando.