Countrywide celebrations are to be held on an unprecedented scale to mark the Sinhala and Hindu New Year. For the first time in three decades, the North and the East have joined in the festivities with the dawn of peace.
Reports coming in from the provinces confirm brisk shopping and enthusiastic preparations for festive activities. A large influx of tourists has seen almost full occupancy in holiday resorts countrywide.
In addition to the holiday revelry in the hilly town of Nuwara Eliya, holiday makers are also heading to the North and the East.
In Colombo a mass of Avurudhu shoppers were busy doing their last minute buying while milling crowds thronged the Central Bus Stand (CBS) and the Fort Railway Station to take them to their far flung villages to celebrate the first National New Year in post war Sri Lanka.
There was an air of freedom and leisure in the air as the large masses of Avurudhu shoppers engaged in a buying spree sans fear and tension of the past where terror lurked in the city.
The Pettah Central Bus Stand and the Railway Department deployed extra fleets of buses and additional train services for the convenience of commuters to journey them to the remote corners of the country to celebrate Avurudhu in peace and tranquility.
Pettah Central Bus Stand Manager Thilak Wickramasinghe said that the Central Bus Stand has deployed 220 additional bus services during the festive season on the instructions of the Transport Ministry so that the commuters would not have to languish for long hours and to take them to their destinations as soon as possible. He said the number of buses deployed was relatively high compared to last year.
We have made arrangements to provide services without any delay, Wickramasinghe said. On ordinary days we operate around 130 bus services. Now altogether we operate around 250.
He also said the CBS obtained buses from regional offices in Gampaha, Kalutara, Colombo, Sabaragamuwa and Kandy with 300 employees to provide these additional bus services.
Special bus services were deployed for Badulla, Hatton, Bibile, Kataragama, Ampara, Nuwaraeliya, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Muttur etc.
Wickramasinghe said the CBS has made arrangements to provide special bus services for the return journey to Colombo for those who went for Avurudhu celebrations.
A commuter N. Selvakumar ,39, of Upcot Road, Maskeliya who was at the head of the queue to board a bus bound for Maskeliya told the Daily News that he had remained only 15 minutes in the queue to catch his bus. However, last year he had to spend over one and half hours in the queue before boarding the bus.
He is employed in a shop in Colombo and leaves for Maskeliya every year for the New Year. I thank the Government for providing such a convenient bus service for this New Year, Selvakumar said. I think we would be able to enjoy much facilities hereafter as the problem of the LTTE is over now .
A teacher by profession, W. A. L. Wasanthadeva, 43, of Ratnapura stated he was going to Ratnapura with his family. He had come to his wife s village at Ragama and it was customary to come to Ragama every year after his marriage .This year he experienced a very convenient bus service. There were buses every 10 minutes which were not seen in any of the previous years.
Colombo Fort Railway Station Superintendent, Manatunge L. Chandrasoma said the Railways Department had deployed a number of special train services in the morning and evening to Rambukkana, Bandarawela, Mahawa, Galle and Trincomalee for the convenience of commuters during the festive season. We had our special train services since April 7 .
He said a special train left Fort Station at 8.10 a.m. to Galle and several were scheduled to leave for Galle in the evening. There were enough power sets ready for special train services.