China and Sri Lanka to build stronger relations

General Wei Fenghe, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister, meeting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat.

China and Sri Lanka yesterday, April 28, reiterated their commitment to building stronger relations between the two nations, during separate talks the visiting Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister, General Wei Fenghe had with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A brief communique issued by the President’s Media Division quoted General Fenghe as having said that bilateral discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were extremely fruitful and the relations were further strengthened by the visit.

Chinese Ambassador in Colombo – Qi Zhenhong, Deputy Chief of staff of Joint Staff Department under the China’s Central Military Commission -Lieutenant General Shao Yuanming, Major General – Ci Guowei and Secretary to the President – P. B. Jayasundera participated in the discussion.

A top-level delegation led by the Chinese Defence Minister arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Tuesday night, April 27. Defence Secretary – Gen (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne, Army Commander – Gen. Shavendra Silva, Navy Commander – Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne and Air Force Chief of Staff – Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Payoe welcomed the delegation. Ambassador Qi Zhenhong, too, was there to welcome the delegation.

At the onset of talks with General Fenghe, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa appreciated China going ahead with the visit in spite of the fresh Covid-19 eruption. Having thanked China for donating 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine and Personal Protective Equipment, PM Rajapaksa assured that in spite of the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the Government wouldn’t declare countrywide lockdowns due to the impact such lockdowns would have on the economy and society.

The Prime Minister’s Office quoted the PM as having told General Fenghe: “I’m sure you’ll agree that there is still a lot that needs to be done for post-pandemic economic recovery. One of our main priorities in this effort is to attract investments from around the world. I look forward to your support in rebuilding investor confidence in Sri Lanka.”

Among those ministers present were Foreign Minister – Dinesh Gunawardena and Education Minister – Prof. G. L. Peiris.

Both statements issued by the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s didn’t make reference to the biggest China funded project in Sri Lanka, Colombo Port City.

The Supreme Court over a period of five days beginning April 19 heard 19 petitions filed against the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill. The SC is expected to inform the President and the Speaker of its ruling soon, as per constitutional requirements.

General Fenghe’s visit follows high level talks senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi had in Colombo in the third week of October 2020. Mr. Jiechi was followed by then US Secretary of State -Mike Pompeo who asked Sri Lanka to decide whether it wanted to continue relationship with China as if in an ultimatum.