Dubai: With patriotic fervour and reverent fanfare, around 2,000 Sri Lankan expats celebrated their country’s 72nd Independence Day from British rule in Dubai on Friday.
The celebration was highlighted by cultural dances and performances by Sri Lankan students who came from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. There was also the traditional lighting of oil lamp with the participation of Sri Lankans representing all sectors followed by multi-faith religious observances invoking blessings on the country.
A one-minute of silence was also held as a tribute to national heroes, including Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher leaders who fought for their country’s independence that was realised on February 4, 1948.
Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UAE and Majintha Jayesinghe and newly-appointed Consul General Nalinda Wijerathna led the celebration in Dubai that was organised by the Sri Lanka Cultural Centre of Dubai, under the auspices of the Sri Lanka Consulate General.
Ranil De Silva, main coordinator of Sri Lanka Cultural Centre of Dubai, told Gulf News: “Every year, we organise the Independence Day celebration in Dubai to replicate how the special day is commemorated back home.”
“Even though we are far away from home, we never miss to celebrate our National Day and continue to instill in our youth the love for our country. We also teach them
Sri Lanka’s traditional dance forms and promote our culture and creativity by bringing together the Sri Lanka expat community,” he added.
Siva underlined the celebration is also a “blending of cultures and various religious belief because Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural country.”
Shehara Rizly, Dubai resident and travel magazine editor, added: “We are very proud to celebrate our 72nd Independence Day as a united country under the current leadership. As a nation we have always been challenged with various issues; yet as Sri Lankans we have been resilient and have been able to stand in unity as a multi religious and multi cultural country.”
Another long-time UAE resident, Sampath Mathew Fernando, a Sri Lankan banker, said: “we are delighted to be part of the community celebrations in Dubai. My family has been away from home for 25 years and yet we continue to cherish our motherland so dearly and fondly. Moreover, we are beyond grateful to the UAE government for making us feel like we are in a home away from home.”
He also invited UAE resident to come and visit Sri Lanka. “It is a nation of peace and prosperity – a popular destination for tourists to come relax and soak in the sun.”
In an earlier interview with Gulf News, Consul General Wijerathna has assured UAE nationals and residents that it is safe to visit the island country, following a series of bombings that ripped through the country’s capital almost a year ago.
300,000 – estimated number of Sri Lankan expats in the UAE
250,000 – of Sri Lankan expats are based in Dubai and the northern emirates
21.4 million – total population of Sri Lanka