Sri Lankan Muslims
The Sri Lanka Flag
At the time of gaining political freedom from the British Colonial rule the question of the National Flag of Ceylon became a vital issue amongst the political leaders of that era. On Friday, January 16, 1948, when the parliament met after lunch, Mudaliyar A. SinneLebbe (MP Batticaloa) rose in parliament and moved,
“That this House is of opinion that the Royal Standard of King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe depicting a yellow lion passant holding a sword in his right paw on a red background, which was removed to England after the Kandyan Convention of 1815, should once again be adopted as the official flag of Free Lanka”.
The proposal was seconded by A.E. Goonesinghe (First member, Colombo Central). However, the proposition ran into difficulty on account of a section of the members of parliament opposing it. Later, Prime Minister Don Stephen Senanayake, appointed a committee on January 27, 1948 comprising of S. W.R. D. Bandaranaike (father of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Speaker of the House, Anura Bandaranaike, and husband of the late Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike), Tuan Branudeen Jayah, Sir John Kotalawela, Junius Richard Jayawardena, I.A. Rajapaksa, G.G. Ponnambalam, and Senator S. Nadesan.
On February 4, 1948, the Lion Flag was hoisted and on February 12, 1948, after a period of 133 years, the downtrodden flag once again resurrected its importance and dignity when it was hoisted by Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake at the Dalada Maligawa, at 9:20 pm. On the night of March 2, 1951 the Lion Flag was finally accepted by the House of Representatives with 51 voting in favor, 21 against, and 8 abstentions. From February 1952 the Union Jack was replaced with the Lion Flag after eleven changes were made.
Mudaliyar A. SinneLebbe and his father Ana Mana Cheena had contributed immensely to the social mosaic of Sri Lanka and in particular to the educational upliftment of the people of the Eastern Province. They provided the first school for the Muslims of Kattankudy (Al Hira Vidyalayam, Kattankudy), the first Central College for Muslims at Kattankudy and the first Technical School which is now the Technical College, Batticaloa. They also donated the first rural Hospital located on the outskirts of Kattankudy and Ariyampathi in 1925, a five acre piece of land for the Jamiathul Falah, land and buildings for the Grand Meera Mosque and the Market Square donated for the upkeep and maintenance of the Mosque, the burial grounds, the present land for the Muslim Ladies Arabic College at Kattankudy, and the Muhiyadeen Jummah Mosque at Eravur.
The Mudaliyar SinneLebbe Educational Foundation grants Scholarships to needy undergraduates. “Just Books” is a subsidiary of the Foundation that provides text books printed in India at low cost to the students of the region. Some of the other institutes that were set up by them are, The SinneLebbe Institute of Languages, Arts, & Culture, The SinneLebbe Institute of Studies, and the SinneLebbe Da’wah Mission.
In 1972, Mrs. Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, saw Sri Lanka through to the status of a Democratic Republic. She also directed her then Cultural Minister, Mr. S.S. Kulatilleke and Permanent Secretary, Mr. Nissanka Wijeyaratne, to define clearly the four Bo Leaves at the four corners of the flag in its present day format.
Today, the identity of Sri Lanka as a Nation is symbolized by the National Flag where it shall fly freely, uniting all races, cultures, creeds, and religions, within our motherland.