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China, Sri Lanka expand political relations following Pompeo visit



Close on the heels of the US urging Sri Lanka to join an alliance against China, the Chinese Communist Party has initiated a special dialogue with the ruling SLPP meant to take bilateral relations to a higher level.

Chinese Embassy spokesperson Luo Chong said that the meeting was aimed at implementing a consensus reached by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and President Xi Jinping in their telephone conversation as well as the recent high-level visit of top leader Yang Jiechi to Colombo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly attacked China during his one-day visit to Colombo where he requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government to end its close relationship with China. The US asked Sri Lanka to make “difficult but necessary choices” to secure its economic independence instead of choosing opaque practices.

Luo Chong issued the following statement Thursday night (5) after the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) held an advanced seminar on governance via video, strictly abiding by the health guidelines of both countries: “

Minister Song Tao of the International Department of Central Committee of CPC, Party Secretary Liu Cigui of CPC Provincial Committee of Hainan Province, SLPP Chairman Professor G.L. Peiris, Secretary General Sagara Kariyawasam, SLPP MPs including Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Namal Rajapaksa, Ramesh Pathirana together with some State Ministers and mayors from the Western Province participated in the meeting. Ambassador-designate Qi Zhenhong joined the discussion in his self-quarantine and delivered a speech on behalf of the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka.

“The two ruling parties of China and Sri Lanka are committed to jointly promote regular exchanges, engage in in-depth experience sharing on governance, and to enhance collaboration during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In the seminar, bilateral relations of the two countries and the two parties, suggestions on the CPC-SLPP cooperation and long-term exchanges, Hainan’s successful practice on provincial development and poverty alleviation, joint combat against COVID-19 were broadly discussed with fruitful outcomes. The CPC also gave an introduction on its Fifth Plenum of the 19th National Congress, at which the CPC Central Committee proposed the 14th Five Year Plan and the 2035 Vision, specifying China’s goal of development for the next 5-15 years. The two ruling parties also shared their opinions on aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with Sri Lanka’s “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor” to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples. 

“Ambassador Qi expressed his pleasure and honor to attend the opening ceremony, which was his first public event after assuming the office since last Friday (30/10). Ambassador Qi said the history of China – Sri Lanka friendship is a history of mutual learning, and the friendship between our two countries and our two parties has grown stronger through the joint fight against COVID-19. He also emphasized that the experience sharing between the two ruling parties will play an important role in bilateral cooperation in the post-COVID era to come. “To overcome the huge challenge in front of us, on one hand we need to support each other in both medical supplies and financial supplies; on the other hand, we need more cooperation in disease prevention and treatment, economic revival and local governance etc. As ruling parties, CPC and SLPP should enhance experience sharing so as to better lead the two governments and the two peoples for a brighter future.” 

Up till now, the CPC has established contacts and exchanges with more than 400 political parties and organizations in over 140 countries. It also maintains friendly relations with a dozen political parties in Sri Lanka both in the government and the opposition. On October 22nd, the CPC co-host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Political Parties Forum and the BRICS Party Round-table Meeting via videolink.”

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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops



Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Concerns over the human rights record in Sri Lanka has led to the halt of the police training contract between the Sri Lanka and Scottish Police, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the Scotland Police confirmed.

He said they have written to the British High Commission in Colombo to inform the Sri Lanka government that they are no longer planning to renew the training contract with Sri Lanka’s police force due to end in March next year.

The British Foreign Office reported last week that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated during the first half of 2021.

The report said: “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

News of Scotland’s Police not renewing the contract was welcomed by critics of Sri Lanka including Mercedes Villalba who is a Scottish Labour politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland since May 2021.

British MPs and MSPs jointly sent a letter to the Scotland Police and the British High Commission in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago requesting them to stop the training programme.

Villalba was one of the signatories and after this announcement, she said “I have been pleased to support the campaigners and thank them for their tireless efforts in securing the commitment from the chief constable. I also want to thank Police Scotland for being responsive to the real concerns which were expressed about Sri Lanka’s record of human rights violations.”

Talking about the decision to stop training, Chief Constable Livingstone said that a review must be done to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since the initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

“We remain of course committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world so that we can enhance and enable human rights and we can underline the values that we hold dear in Police Scotland of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”, he added.

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Interfaith Week celebrated in London



Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

A Pooja to celebrate Interfaith Week was organized here last week with the advice and guidance of Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thera, head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain.

This annual event begins on Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of the World War I to remember armed forces personnel who died in the line of duty. This tradition was inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

Adhering to the country’s Covid guidelines, this year’s celebration was held using Zoom technology on the theme “Altruism in each religion”.

Ven. Seelawimala welcomed everyone who joined the session. Notable participants of the event were Ven. Thawalama Bandula Thera, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thera from London Buddhist Vihara, Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of Interfaith Network, UK, Ranjish Kashyap, General Secretary/Director Hindu Council,UK, Dr. Pujya Samaniji Pratibha Pragya, who is a Jain nun from Harrow, Rev Gyoro Nagase, Japanese monk, London Peace Pagoda, Battersea, Dr Desmond Bidulph – Chairman of Buddhist Society and Charanjith and Ajith Singh MBE, Hounslow Friends of Faith, who represented the Sikhs.

All present chanted prayers according to their own faiths to eradicate human suffering, to have peace and especially to see an end to the pandemic situation in the world.

A pre-recorded video of Devotional Songs by London Buddhist Vihara Dhamma School Children was played at the event.

Interfaith Network – UK was founded in 1987 with representatives from the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Islam, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities,

National and local interfaith bodies, academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter-religious issues are affiliated to the organization. Then head of the London Buddhist Vihara late, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was actively involved in forming the Network and was a founding member.

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Frankfurt Consulate massive white elephant, alleges Lankan living there



Foreign office looking at closing some overseas mission due to financial constraints

by Harischandra Gunaratna

Sri Lanka’s Consulate in Frankfurt has turned out to be a white elephant although the Sri Lankan government spends a whopping Rs. 200 million per year for its operations, Azad Shaukatally, a businessman and a Sri Lankan expatriate in Frankfurt told the Sunday Island.

“Over the years, this consulate has not contributed anything tangible to the country. All that has happened is successive governments appointing political loyalists to head the Mission. None of them have done anything concrete to promote business between the two countries,” he said.

According to him, the Mission could have contributed a great deal by promoting Sri Lankan exports and tourism as Frankfurt is the business hub of Germany.

“What actually happens is, the Consulate in Frankfurt simply replicates several tasks performed by the Embassy in Berlin and that’s it. But it cost the country exorbitantly without the knowledge of the authorities. This is sheer waste of national resources and it needs to be brought to an end,” Shaukatally said.

When the Sunday Island contacted the Foreign Ministry on the matter, its Acting Director General Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said: “The Foreign Ministry regularly evaluates individual performance of each Sri Lankan mission abroad, and constructively engages with them from time to time on specific issues or matters which are mutually beneficial in promotion of Sri Lanka’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the host country and various international organizations while ensuring best interests of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan citizens living abroad.”

He said that any decisions related to opening of new missions or closure of particular Missions/Posts abroad including the Consulate General in Frankfurt would be taken after wider consultation with relevant stakeholders based on the relevance of each Mission/Post in promotion of Sri Lanka’s relations abroad.

“Under the current financial constraints, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of closing down some of the Sri Lankan Missions/Posts abroad after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, no final decision, has so far, been taken with regard to the Missions/Posts which would be closed down in the near future,” Gunaratna said.

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