Today is Sri Lanka’s 64th Independence anniversary, which marks a milestone in computer if not human memory. Here’s an excerpt of something coming out in the Nation this Saturday. This is one of the first times that Sri Lanka is both independent of the British and not at war with itself. Which is nice. Happy Independence Day. I’m going out of town.
Happy Independence Day. If you want to see how far Sri Lanka has come, just see Independence Square. In 1995, a cart bomb went off there, killing 22. For years afterwards it was neglected, high security, and dark. In the past few years, the space has blossomed. It’s now full of people, voices and light. If you walk around there you feel free. Free from traffic, free from pollution and – most importantly – free from war.
Not that Sri Lanka doesn’t still face demons. Corruption and crime are still major problems, problems we’re only beginning to see since the front pages have room. Walking around, however, you can see that – for the first time – we have the wherewithal to even begin to face ourselves.
Post-Independence, Sri Lanka never really had a secure government. The first Bandaranaike Prime Minister was killed. His wife faced a military coup. JR Jayawardena lost (some say gave) control of Colombo in bloody anti-Tamil riots that stain the honor of Sri Lanka still. President Premadasa was killed, Chandrika Bandaranaike lost an eye, et cetera. This is actually the first time the country has been united in any coherent sense. It is the first time we’ve been independent from both the British and, well, ourselves.