Flags of Colour not Convenience

During our visit to the sunlit river lands of Whanganui, we happened upon not one but TWO flags from Sri Lanka.

“This is the Buddhist flag.” Sue unwrapped a bright breezy piece of cloth over the sofa, instantly transforming her living room into a tiny slice of South-East Asia. “Blue represents compassion, yellow the path to liberation, red the Blessings of Practice, white purity, and orange for wisdom.”

“And what about this last bit?” Kate pointed at the sixth column where all colours were displayed.

But Sue was busy shaking out a second flag – with a symbolic lion dominating one half, and bold stripes down the other. “This is the official flag of Sri Lanka. It’s the only flag in the world that represents its country’s every ethnicity.”

“It’s very colourful, isn’t it?” I couldn’t think of anything cleverer to say. We were heading to Sri Lanka in just over a week and I knew nothing about its flags or ethnicities.

“The orange stripe is for Tamils, the green for Moors, the saffron border for Buddhism, and the maroon background for Sinhala.” Fresh from her visit, Sue had all the facts in her head.

“They don’t have referendums on their flags, do they?” asked Kate. “In case the people want something different? An elephant maybe, or a leopard.”

“I think they’ve got other things to worry about.” Sue shook her head. “For starters, they had an election recently. There were so many candidates, thirty-five of them, the voting paper was two feet long.”

“Wow, that’s almost as big as a flag!” Kate eyed the two flags as though she might take out her pen and mark on a cross. “What are you going to do with these?”

“I don’t know.” Sue glanced at the collection of paintings already on her walls. “I’ve still got the flag from Vietnam, one from Samoa, and another from Ladakh in the drawer. I think I’m going to have to cut down on all this travelling and just go to Hawera next year.”

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