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Sri Lanka gears for Independence Day

Catholics hope for genuine peace, reconciliation, unity and liberty

Sri Lanka gears for Independence Day
Sri Lankan flag reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

February 3, 2011

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Catholics in Sri Lanka hope that tomorrow’s Independence Day will be a reminder to help strive to bring about lasting peace, reconciliation, unity and liberty in the country. Sri Lanka will mark its 63rd day of independence from colonial British rule on Feb. 4 when in 1948 it became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. "Everybody should take this opportunity to work toward achieving a lasting peace and it must promote true freedom, justice and political reconciliation for all its citizens,” said Nalin Fernando, a Catholic teacher in a government-run school. The event marks not only the defeat of 133 years of British rule, but also the chance of living in a truly peaceful country, he said. Roman Packianathan, a Catholic government servant, expressed concern for the freedom of expression in the country. It is popularly believed that the government is allegedly behind muffling free press and the freedom of expression. “The UN insisted on freedom of expression regarding the treatment of the press and recent incidents,” said Packianathan. “Journalists should be able to carry out their work without fear of attack or being harassed to do the work that they need to do,” he added. In Sri Lanka, 14 journalists including Christians have been murdered within the past two decades, with 12 of them in the past five years. Some of them have been imprisoned and many have left the country. Meanwhile, the main opposition United National Party said they plan to boycott tomorrow’s national event. “The country could not celebrate Independence Day when the real war hero who defeated terrorism is behind bars,” said its general secretary Tissa Attanayake at a press briefing. It plans a vigil on Feb. 4 calling for the release of jailed former army commander Sarath Fonseka. The former general was arrested on Feb. 8, 2010 and is serving a 30-month jail sentence. He was credited with winning the war against the rebel Tamil Tigers but charged with corrupt arms dealings and conspiracy to topple the government after his defeat to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential election. Local media reported official of the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms saying President Rajapaksa will however pardon 1,500 prisoners on Independence Day as part of national celebrations.   Related reports Sri Lankan priest urges justice for war crimes Sri Lankan bishops promote post-war unity Nuns learn how to heal Tamil-Sinhalese rift SR13149.1639
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