As thousands of national flags fluttered in the breeze all around, the 70th National Independence day of Sri Lanka was celebrated great pomp and pageantry at the Galle Face Green today (4th February 2018).
His Excellency the President, Maithripala Sirisena and the First Lady Mrs. Sirisena graced the main event at the Galle Face Green, with the Prime Minister, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex representing the Queen of England along with Countess of Wessex Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Speaker of Parliment, the Governor of the Western Province, Ministers, the Chief Justice, and Tri-Service Commanders, the Inspector General of the Police, State Secretaries, Diplomats and other distinguished dignitaries also graced the occasion. Religious dignitaries, Ambassadors and a massive crowd of spectators present at the historical venue to witness the proceedings.
The celebrations commenced with the hoisting of the National Flag by His Excellency the President amidst the beating of “magul bera” and blowing of conch shells. Later, three service Commanders and the Inspector General of the Police conducted the President to the special dais, opposite which twenty-five school girls recited Jayamangala Gatha to invoke blessings of the noble Triple Gem on the Nation and also the “Devo Vassatu Kalena” to bless the Nation.
Subsequently, a Guard of Honour followed by a twenty-one gun salute was accorded to the President by the Armed Forces. Thereafter, His Excellency the President delivered the address to the nation.
Director Air Operations of SLAF Air Vice Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana coordinated the Flypast, comprising 30 Aircraft including one Bell 212, three Bell 412, four MI 17, five Cessna 150, three PT6, four Y 12, two B 200, one C 130, one AN 32, one MA 60, three K 8, one Kfir and three F 7 aircraft. A kfir aircraft flew through the Galle Face Sky marking the end of the SLAF Aerial Display. Wing Commander Sanath Fanando, Squadron Leader Chanaka Maligaspe, Squadron Leader Kelup Rupasinghe, and Flying Officer Eranga Gamage navigated the flypast while the Aerial Display was coordinated by Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Payoe.
Another notable and significant event was the participation of the Special Air Borne Force of the Sri Lanka Air Force in the Independence Parade.
Air Commodore HSS Thuyacontha represented the Sri Lanka Air Force as Overall Parade Commander. 40 Officers, 800 Airmen and Air Women participated in the parade to salute the President. The SLAF parade comprising five Squadrons was commanded by Wing Commander Ananda Kumarasiri while Group Captain Chandana Amarasinghe commanded the tri services ceremonial band at the Parade for the first time in Air Force history. The first squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader Prasad Kulathunga, the second squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader Asela Vithana, the third squadron which was made up of airwomen was commanded by Squadron Leader Viludani Yatawara.
The Regiment Special Force marched under the leadership of Squadron Leader Romesh Bastion while the Special Air Borne Force was commander by Squadron Leader Sumedha Ritigala in their first appearance at the Independence Parade.