Sri Lankans mark I-Day with fervour

DUBAI - H.M.T Wijewickrama, the acting Sri Lankan Consul General in Dubai, unfurled the national flag at the consulate and lit the traditional lamp marking the country's 56th Independence Day celebrations in the Northern emirates.

By (By a staff reporter)

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Published: Thu 5 Feb 2004, 12:17 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:36 PM

He also read the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga's message released on the occasion urging Sri Lankans around the globe to pay tributes and to acknowledge the selfless service rendered by the Sri Lankan armed forces, who sacrificed their lives to protect the sovereignty of the country.

Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe's message imploring his countrymen to make a joint effort in creating more peaceful environment and a prosperous future for all Sri Lankans was read by L.K Ruhunage, Counsellor Employment and Welfare.

The occasion witnessed a large turnout of Sri Lankan community members from Dubai and the Northern Emirates who joined the officials in the celebrations. Patriotic songs and traditional beating of the drums was part of the event in Dubai which was thereafter followed by a huge spread of ethnic Sri Lankan food served for the members of the community and guests at the consulate.

A cultural programme was also organised at the Al Wasl Ladies Club grounds in the evening. A large crowd of Sri lankan expatriates including garment factory workers attended the cultural programme which featured songs, dances and dramas by school children.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankans in Abu Dhabi celebrated the day with traditional gaiety and fervour, which commenced with a flag hoisting ceremony by Ambassador Lalith Hettiarachchi at the embassy premises, followed by patriotic speeches in the country's four different languages.

In his message, Mr Hettiarachchi asked his countrymen to use the occasion to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and to look upon their achievements as steppingstones to future success.

"We are at that moment in history, when we look forward to peace and to the economic stability that comes with it. Sri Lankan expats contribute $4.5 billion to the country's economy, and the government is appreciative of this effort, and I hope they will sustain this momentum, as peace finally starts taking root," he said.

He urged Sri Lankan expatriates in the UAE to work in a unified fashion to raise their profile and serve as good ambassadors of their country abroad. The Ambassador also lauded the annual volume of two-way trade between the UAE and Sri Lanka, which had scaled over $ 300 million.

Messages from the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tyronne Fernando, all focused on the ceasefire agreement, which came into force in February 2002, ending almost two decades of bloodshed, and called upon Sri Lankans within the country and overseas to work together towards achieving a true independence.

The lighting of the traditional lamp, followed by the singing of patriotic songs by Sri Lankan schoolchildren, and staging of cultural events marked the remainder of the day's ceremonies. The event concluded with the distribution of traditional Sri Lankan sweets.

An exhibition of stained glass and oil paintings, by Sri Lankan artist, Saman Leema Perera, was also opened at the Abu Dhabi Health and Fitness Club, by Sri Lankan Ambassador Lalith Hettiarachchi, on Wednesday to coincide with the Independence Day. The exhibition, which will continue until February 14, is the artist's first-ever solo endeavour in the UAE, and is titled "Welcome to My World". It showcases Sri Lanka's picturesque landscapes, customs and traditions, and the quintessential Sri Lankan way of life, which the artist feel are fast disappearing, caught up as the island nation is in the race for modernisation and progress.

"I have attempted to present vignettes of Sri Lankan daily life, the women at work, the wildlife, flora and fauna, I wish to preserve such work for posterity, I am sure when my children are older, they will not be able to see such images in reality," she said.

She reminisced that her art was really the result of her childhood attachment and inspiration drawn from the wild natural beauty that surrounded the village where her parents lived.

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