Sri Lanka’s 69th Independence Day
6 February 2016
Cricket and Reconciliation were central to the remarks made by High Commissioner Sunil de Silva of Sri Lanka to South Africa and Minister Susan Shabangu Minister of Women in the Presidency of South Africa on the occasion of Sri Lanka’s 69th Independence Day.
Photo: Ambassador Bene M'Poko, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Mrs Champa Weerasekara, Minister Susan Shabangu - Minister of Women in the South African Presidency and High Commissioner Sunil de Silva of Sri Lanka in South Africa
Speech delivered by by High Commissioner Sunil de Silva of Sri Lanka to South Africa at the 69th Anniversary of Independence Ceremony
A very good afternoon to you and let me extend my warm appreciation for your presence here today to mark this important event in Sri Lanka’s history.
Indeed, we are honoured by your presence.
Sri Lanka marked its 69th anniversary of independence on the 4th Saturday of February. Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, gained independence from the British rule. We decided to celebrate our independence today, as it is a working day and considering the convenience for the distinguished invitees to attend the event. Since Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has made considerable achievements in the socio-economic development, evidenced by an average GDP growth of over 6.0% per annum and higher literacy rate of 92.63%
The 69th Anniversary of the Independence Day of Sri Lanka takes place at a momentous time, when our country has embarking on a journey to achieve twin objectives of reconciliation and economic development with a staunch emphasis on the sustainability of the environment. It is also a new chapter, in the development of regional and international relations, where we reiterate our unrelenting commitment to non-alignment.
This anniversary also coincides with the completion of the second year of the Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that is committed to strengthening democracy, good governance, rule of law, human rights and relations with the global community of nations.
I would like to reiterate on the longstanding excellent bilateral relations enjoyed by Sri Lanka and South Africa. The Governments of Sri Lanka and South Africa have enjoyed warm friendly relations since the establishment of Diplomatic ties in 1994, which was further cemented with the opening of the resident Mission in Pretoria in 1997. The close ties spans even further than 1994 where Sri Lanka extended its fullest support towards the freedom struggle of ANC through Non-aligned Movement. These ties have diversified and expanded in political, economic, trade, cultural spheres.
As Your Excellency is aware, Sri Lanka stood firmly by the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) freedom struggle and consistently opposed the policies of apartheid, practiced by then Government of South Africa, even prior to the establishment of formal ties, through international fora. Sri Lanka had extended co-operation and support for all the moves and measures initiated by the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth, aimed at the total dismantling of apartheid policy.
I am pleased to note that the bilateral relations between our two countries have further expanded and deepened in the recent years. We have continued to cooperate and support each other at multilateral, regional and bilateral fora. The areas of cooperation encompasses, among others, trade, tourism, and political relations. The Government of Sri Lanka highly appreciates the invaluable contribution made by South Africa in relation to Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process.
The long standing friendship that binds Sri Lanka and South Africa is further enhanced by the common features shared by our two countries. Both Sri Lanka and South Africa boast of a diverse population with different ethnicities, religions, and traditions – a diversity that strengthens and enriches our countries.
Sri Lanka and South Africa also share the passion for the game cricket, though it is a remnant of our colonial past, the game has taken root in all corners of Sri Lanka to be named as a national past time. The Sri Lanka National team is currently on a tour of South Africa. The South African team has fared very well throughout the tournament.
I would like to conclude by proposing a toast to the President of South Africa and for the abiding friendship between our two countries.