First Independence Celebration cost only Rs 14,000
By Bandula Guneratne
Sri Lanka recently celebrated its 70th anniversary of Independence. Since the day when Ceylon gained Independence back in 1948, and up to date the Independence Anniversary has been graced by foreign heads of States or by foreign dignitaries.
Previously Sri Lanka's Independence celebrations had been graced by Royal Family members as Prince Charles and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
This time it was the turn of Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex to grace the celebrations.
During Ceylon's first Independence celebrations the Chief Guest at the event was Duke of Gloucester who was the younger brother of King of England George the Sixth.
The following is an account of the role played by the Duke of Gloucester during Ceylon's Independence:
The news of Ceylon being granted Independence by the British Empire was relayed to the country through younger brother of King George the Sixth, Prince Henry.
Prince Henry who was born on 31 March in 1900 at Sandringham Palace had been educated at Eton School and Cambridge University.
Having joined the forces in 1918 he had subsequently joined the Army unit dealing with horses.
Prince Henry who was the head of the student unions concerning the Commonwealth nations had also been an envoy to delegations to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In 1945 Prince Henry had also been serving as the Governor of Australia.
At 7:30 a.m. on 4 February 1948, Sir Henry Monk Mason Moore was sworn in as Ceylon's first Governor General before Chief Justice John Howard.
To inaugurate the country's first ever legislature on 8 February, Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester had arrived on the aircraft known as 'Endeavour North'.
A special dais had been prepared to inaugurate the first Dominion Parliament at Torrington Square.
It is said the Duke of Gloucester and his spouse had been escorted to the ceremony from the Governor's Residence (President's House) with horses and carriages. Their path had been decked in many decorations while the British Air Force, Army and Navy personnel had stood side by side to provide security to the Royal couple.
Among other VIPs in attendance were Colombo Mayor, Senators, then Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake and his wife, Governor General Mason Moore et al.
It is said the Duke of Gloucester had left his residence at around 10:10 a.m. while he had been welcomed at Torrington Square by PM Senanayake, Governor General Moore and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
After the end of a 21 gun salute the British Flag had been hoisted while flying alongside it were two flags of Ceylon.
After the playing of the English National Anthem the VIPs then took their seats at the special dais.
The Private Secretary of the Duke then read a letter which gave the power to inaugurate the first Parliament in Ceylon.
Then on the invitation of the Prime Minister of Ceylon, the Duke of Gloucester read a letter sent to the event specifically by the King of England.
The letter read as follows: "I have entrusted the task of inaugurating the first ever Parliament of Ceylon which paves the way for this country's Independence on behalf of myself, to my younger brother the Duke of Gloucester. At this momentous occasion my entire focus is on your people. It is with greetings that I accept Ceylon's entry into the British Commonwealth of Nations. I also wish that Ceylon prospers into the future on many different fields."
The Duke after having read the letter which he did having doffed his cap, the vote of thanks was delivered by Leader of the House S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and President of Senate Sir Oliver Goonetilleke.
Afterwards the copies of the Act of granting Independence which had been signed by King George the Sixth were presented to the PM and the Leader of the House by the Duke.
It is said a few other events had also been held in Kandy under the auspices of the Duke on 12 February.
The Duke having had audiences in the morning with the Chief Prelates of both the Asgiriya and Malwatta Chapters had visited the Peradeniya University to attend its granting of degrees for the first time.
It is said Prince Henry had placed the foundation stone to a new hall at the Peradeniya University. Among other British dignitaries in attendance at this Independence celebrations was the Earl of Salisbury while envoys from the US, Australia, India, Pakistan, Czechoslovakia, Iran, Indonesia, France, Greece and New Zealand had also participated in the event.
However, Opposition members had boycotted the event claiming that the Independence gained was not a true one.
They later charged that the government had incurred a sum of Rs.14, 000 for the event.
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