Amid criticism by political opponents and activists, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday directed to slash the cost of the 75th Independence Day celebrations (February 4), primarily due to the severe economic crisis facing the island nation.
At a meeting with high-ranking officials and ministers, Wickremesinghe said the 75th Independence Day should be celebrated with pride, but maintaining minimum cost.
While pointing out that there is huge opposition among people regarding allocation of funds for the 75th Independence Day celebrations, the President emphasised that efforts should be made to minimise the related expenses, the President's Media Division (PMD) stated.
The President has advised the officials that it is their responsibility as well as that of the political authority to pay attention to the current financial situation of the country while estimating the expenses to be incurred for the Independence Day celebrations.
"We must celebrate the 75th Independence Day otherwise the world will say that we are not capable of celebrating even our Independence. Similarly, we need to attract tourists and investors to our country. We need to build a positive image of our country.
"Therefore, let us minimise our expenditure and celebrate our Day of Independence," the President told those present at the meeting, including Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, ministry secretaries and other senior officials.
Wickremesinghe also announced that it has been planned to initiate a project to create urban forests in conjunction with the Independence Day celebrations.
"We expect to start the activities prior to attending the Climate Summit (COP28) in Dubai. In addition, we also expect to initiate several new institutions. Further, we have planned to establish the University on Climate Change, which will bring long-term benefits to the country," the President said.
"However, the treasury does not have enough funds to bear the full cost of these activities. Therefore, we will have to focus on other events only after allocating funds for the main activities," he emphasised.
Celebrating the February 4 anniversary of gaining Independence from the British, Sri Lanka had planned a number of special programmes, including religious ceremonies of all faiths, cultural show in Colombo, the main event at Galle Face Green, opening of the Jaffna Cultural Centre, the Kandy republic parade and the cycle race from the northern most tip to the southernmost tip of the island -- Dondra Point to Point Pedro.
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