As New Zealand celebrates Waitangi Day with a national holiday, Sri Lanka has its own public holiday in celebration of its independence
As New Zealand celebrates Waitangi Day with a national holiday, Sri Lanka has its own public holiday in celebration of its independence.
Every year on February 6, New Zealand celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, with the national public holiday meant as a time of reflection on the controversial document and its effect on New Zealand society then and now.
The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on February 6, 1840 and is often described as the country’s founding document.
British officials and Maori chiefs made a political agreement to form a nation state and government in order to deal with quickly changing circumstances in the country: the settling population was growing rapidly and resulting in uncontrolled crime and violence.
Furthermore, Britain wanted control over the island, when Europeans were acquiring Maori land to establish commercial operations and there was a possible threat of French or US colonisation.
Copies of the treaty, which had been signed by 500 Maori chiefs by September 1840, were sent across New Zealand, though inaccurate translations of the treaty from English to te reo Maori has resulted in misunderstandings and conflict in terms of land possession.
Initially, it established British authority, with this authority later moved to the New Zealand Parliament.
The move has been recognised as one of national importance and is currently under investigation by the Waitangi Tribunal.
Waitangi Day is often seen as a celebration of the Maori culture, or just a long weekend, but many have used the day to protest.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands hosts festival-type events on the day, including a ceremony and speeches from government officials, but it is also the location for protests against the mistreatment of Maori people, their culture, history and land.
Across New Zealand, communities participate in hangi, a feast of traditional Maori food, kappa haka dance performances and a commemoration of unification through tree planting.
February 6 has been a national public holiday since 1974, though its name has alternated between Waitangi Day and New Zealand Day.
Meanwhile, on February 4, Sri Lanka celebrates its Independence Day with a national holiday.
The day primarily celebrates the country’s independence from British rule in 1948, but is also used to remember the struggle for independence from various regimes.
Sri Lanka has been an attractive acquisition for centuries due to its location and geography.
Europeans started arriving in the region for imperial and trade expansion hundreds of years ago, with the first serious attempt at colonisation made by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
A century later, the Dutch coveted the island and clashed with the Portuguese.
With an established power base in the region, and fearful of a French takeover of the island, Britain took control of Sri Lanka’s coastal areas and named it Ceylon in 1796.
By 1815 they had colonial control of the whole island.
In 1948, Ceylon was granted independence and became a dominion within the British Empire, later changing its name to Sri Lanka in 1972 and becoming a republic within the Commonwealth.
Independence Day in Sri Lanka is celebrated with military parades and official ceremonies, with the main events taking place in the country’s largest city, Colombo.
The President traditionally hoists the national flag and delivers a speech, which is televised to the nation.
New Zealand and Sri Lanka were once both under British colonial rule, but now they stand autonomous and celebrate their respective independence with national holidays, whilst still acknowledging their historic ties through membership to the Commonwealth.
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