Parades demonstrating military power vied with displays symbolising the pride of the country`s great cultural heritage at the 59th National Day celebrations held yesterday.
Ceremonies began with a guard of honour by the three forces commanded by Major S.P. Aluvihare of the Gajaba Regiment. It was followed by a parade of the three forces and police commanded by Major General U.B.T. Fernando.
The parades which lasted about 45 minutes were a show of country`s military strength. Sayuru, Samuduru, Sagara, Shakti, Udara and Nandimitra along with another six fast attack dvoras performed naval exercises while 36 aircraft held the crowds spell-bound with a display of aerobatics.
The off-shore petrol vessel SLN Sayuru, the flagship which was re-introduced into service for the first time after repairs in India led the naval exercises.
Of the 36 aircraft participated in the air display, the three newly purchased MiG 27 aircraft captured the crowd`s attention with their breathtaking manoeuvres.
The celebrations concluded with a grand cultural show organised by the Cultural Ministry which featured hundreds of Kandyan dancers and drummers.
Conspicuous by their absence at yesterday`s National Day celebrations were several SLFP stalwarts including National Heritage Minister Anura Bandaranaike and Ports and Aviation Minister Mangala Samaraweera who are reportedly unhappy over the Cabinet reshuffle to accommodate a group of UNP cross-overs.
Another notable absentee was Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. JVP leaders Somawansa Amarasinghe and Wimal Weerawansa who campaigned heavily for the victory of President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Poll were also absent.
UNP spokesman Gayantha Karunatilleka said the party boycotted the main celebration to protest the government`s jumbo Cabinet which had become the laughing stock of the world.
He said however the party participated in the commemorative ceremony held in honour of the first Prime Minister, the late D.S. Senanayake and other national heroes.
A JVP politburo member said it did not receive an invitation to the National Day Celebrations.