Two weeks ago Sri Lanka commemorated its independence from the British in 1948 with annual National Day celebrations on February 4 that assumed particular significance as 2008 hallmarked the island’s 60th year of independence. Few things, if any, escape polarization in the context of the island’s decades long conflict and the celebratory atmosphere also blended with politics. Stickers appearing on public transportation and billboards through Colombo displayed large maps of Sri Lanka in 2005 and 2007 outlining the territory seized back from the LTTE by the military with a final map confidently projecting complete control in 2008. In contrast, some people privately expressed the grievance that the official ceremonies only presented a Sinhalese exclusive nationalism as a mere replacement to the British crown in subjugating other ethnic identities.
Along with political zeal, violence against civilians also spiked in the days surrounding National Day with multiple bomb attacks including a bus near Dambulla, the Colombo Fort railway station, the National Zoo in Dehiwala, and a Welioya bus. These attacks were blamed on the LTTE and were also accompanied by deadly roadside bombings of civilians in Wanni and Mannar that were attributed to Government forces operating within LTTE controlled territory.
The National Day festivities included a military review of tanks and troops on the Galle Face promenade in central Colombo with fighter jets flying overhead and a week long exhibition recounting Sri Lanka’s glorious past, present, and future. However because of the security concerns friends also observed that National Day was probably the best day of the year to stay home. After all the drama had subsided, the following week has accordingly returned to the relative but uneasy calm.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Feb 17th, 2008