Don’t exaggerate Lanka’s strategic importance to the Great Powers
by Kumar David
The foreign powers relevant to Sri Lanka’s predicament, in order of involvement are India, China, the United States, and Pakistan to a lesser degree. Japan, Australia and the UK will bestir themselves to the extent that the US compels them. To India the island is so critical that a threat to its security such as setting up a hostile military base will provoke a hard militarised response. US military interest is to backup India and deny China military facilities, but its economic forebodings are deeper and it has vowed to push back China’s economic wallop and in particular to spoke the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by which China is taking over the Asian politico-economic landscape. This colkumn last week (Sept 6) titled “America’s New Cold War” was about this.
India is concerned about the tilting Sino-Lanka axis from many perspectives – security, regional economy and Belt-and-Road; see strategic papers: http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/node/2656 and
http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/node/2658. The first paper is written from the perspective, true at one time, that Mahinda is China’s man. It is more complex now with GR-MR manoeuvring between the IMF, China, the US and India to keep the wolf of foreign debt and interest repayment from the door. They have recently even proposed the partial-sale of private banks to multilateral agencies. The Rajapaksas will throw themselves at the mercy of anyone for a debt moratorium, new loans and MCC grants; beggars can’t be choosers. Modi and Indian security folks would like to buy the Rasapaksas off with deals and loans and Lanka cannot afford to pose a strategic threat to anyone. On the other hand, GR and MR are well aware that the big money is with China. It’s a hard world!
Though Sri Lanka’s economic-strategic location is useful to China as a centre point on shipping lanes to the Suez Canal, the Persian Gulf (and its oil), and China dependent East Africa, the island’s military-strategic significance should not be exaggerated. The crucial choke point for China and for all Far Eastern shipping is the Malacca Strait, a narrow strip of water between Peninsular Malaya and Sumatra, two miles (2.8km) wide at its narrowest and 550 miles (890km) long. It carries a quarter of the world’s oil shipments, a quarter of global freight, and 100,000 vessels transit it each year. It is the Malacca Strait, not Sri Lanka, that is a nightmare for China because the US Navy can throttle the Strait and China does not have the clout to respond.
Hence BRI: Five corridors, three operational and two a bit dicey. The Mongolia-Russia railway to the Baltic Sea and the more southerly and more important Eurasia railway are both operational. A branch of the latter through Iran into the Middle East and Turkey maps the Ancient Silk Route – this Central and West Asia Corridor is a third, part-operational arm. The fourth in fitful “progress” is the Pakistan Corridor of roads crossing through contested parts of Kashmir and rail links to the Arabian Gulf port of Gwardar. Fifth the Myanmar-Bangladesh Corridor to the Bay of Bengal port of Chittagong runs through India so it may never get done, but Chittagong is being developed as a transit port. This fifth proposal has a slice on the side, sometimes called a Sixth Corridor, down the spine of Peninsula Malaysia to Singapore. This too is unlikely to get done.
A profoundly important new development is the China-Iran deal signed a few days ago. China will invest $400b in petrochemicals ($280b) and transport ($120b) in exchange for a 32% discount on Iranian oil for the next 25 years. The rail project will connect the Iranian port city of Chabahar to Zahedan near Iran’s Afghan border and presumably go north to join the Eurasia Corridor. Last year India stopped buying Iranian oil to please Washington and Delhi has also reinforced military ties with Israel. Tehran’s attitude changed; in effect the US and India have pushed Iran into China’s welcoming arms and a new strategic partnership is taking shape; perhaps it will include Russia and Turkey in the future. So, as per plan the via-Pakistan route to Gwadar will be paralleled by a via-Iran route to Chabahar, and significantly Chabahar is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. This complex now becomes a Pakistan-Iran Corridor. What is significant after this gets done is that the Malacca Strait and Lankan ports may, but unlikely, be bypassed for freight, but will certainly dim on the Chinese strategic radar.
Were the Communist Party less hostile and repressive of every other mass organisation (the Catholic Church, Fulan Gong and now the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang who are not prepared to abandon their faith) China could much improve its image among Muslim nations, and critically in this context, among the people of Iran. One-party Stalinism (or semi-Stalinism) suffers from a complex, a deep sense of insecurity, a foreboding of all other big entities.
There are other reasons than sea-lanes and security not to exaggerate the standing of the Chinese connection. Lanka does not export much to China which needs oil, gas, high-tech and masses of electronic chips that we do not have. The PRC exports tons of the same stuff as we do to the whole world and a wider variety and better quality – garments, manufactures. We have not even found niche markets in China for our specialist foods. For training professionals (doctors, engineers, IT types) and post-graduate placements, we are bound hand and foot to the English-speaking world. Investments from China are large but front loaded with a big graft slab for our leaders – all mega projects include a slice. Actually, China does not care as loans are commercial-repayable and unlike Western agencies which are accountable at home, the Chinese public cares tuppence if projects are alabaster-pure white-elephants. Mattala, Hambantota Stadium, highway projects, anything that has the label Rajapaksa in front is likely to be superfluous and a graft opportunity.
The US blacklisting 24 Chinese companies is unlikely to affect Lanka. The giant holding entity China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) has not been named though several of its subsidiaries have. These subs are not involved in the Colombo Port City Project, a different CCCC spin-off, China Harbours – which criminally pumped tens of millions into the 2015 Presidential race – has a stake in the Port City project. This all seemed clear, though last week the Colombo US Embassy muddies the waters with a warning. Separately, the US Secretary of State, Defence Secretary and National Security advisor have been in telephone contact with President Gota not to mention a letter from Trump said to have been handed over to Gota. But all to make sure that Lanka does not get out of line in the new anti-China cold-war. But we are dead broke – the 2020 fiscal deficit will be about 10%, I believe the highest ever in the country’s history and the economy limps from bad to worse. China not India or the US has the money so as beggars who can’t afford to be choosers where are we to beg and what are we to choose? Things will roll on in this style for five, maybe ten more years.
[Both this and last week’s essay have greatly benefitted from information supplied by a Mongolian Comrade]
Viewing 20A through governance prisms
By Austin Fernando
(Former Secretary to the President)
Twentieth Amendment (20A) is reviewed by commentators from political, legal, journalistic, and religious angles. Not belonging to any such group, I do not venture to cover the multitude of discussions on 20A. My focus is to view 20A to understand how it affects governance and causes political contradictions.
In democratic good governance, there are essential elements, such as the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensual oriented action, equity and inclusivity, accountability, and participation. Irrespectively, it is surprising to observe public administrators/their associations (except Auditors) in stoic silence on the 20A, though they will implement and experience fallouts of the 20A.
Ministerial Review Committee
The 20A created contradictory opinions even among the government ranks. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Committee of Ministers to review 20A. When this Committee Report was handed over, the public expected a review by the Cabinet. But it did not happen. Responsiveness, inclusivity, and participation have been lost even before 20A is passed, with a presidential directive to discuss the revisions of the Ministerial Committee at the Committee Stage. Such directives are common in Executive Presidency though one may question the applicability of Article 42(2) – “collective responsibility.” Anyway, the revisions will hence lack prior legal or public scrutiny.
Drafting crucial law
Probably, the Minister of Justice, who coordinated abolishing 19A, would have ordered the drafters to revert to 18A. Due to the critical nature, the Legal Draftsman would have officially conveyed the Cabinet of the implications of the amendments. It would have been opportune if that had happened, and their views shared, least as an Annex to the Cabinet Memorandum, especially for the Cabinet to observe the weaknesses/adversities of 20A, independently. Let me view 20A to observe the effects on good governance in this scenario.
Post-conflict issues and President’s duty
One sensitive amendment is the deletion of Article 33(1)(b) “Promote national reconciliation and integration.” It entered the 19A from post-conflict demands and tagged as a presidential ‘duty.’ Not much to exceptionally disturb the President through this ‘duty’ happened during the last five years. Hence, this deletion wrongly orchestrates negativism that he may be averse to ‘reconciliation and integration.’ It is unfair by him and hence deserves review.
Constitutional Council vs Parliamentary Council
Chapter VIIA – The Executive, matters to good governance. The first important issue is the erasure of the Constitutional Council (CC) and replacement by the Parliamentary Council (PC). The membership of the PC is political, and the proposed processes in application are subjected to presidential whim, especially by the power to supersede PC’s observations. These dilute PC’s independence and restricts inclusive participation.
Audit and Procurement Commissions
Under the 19A, nine Commissions were established out of which 20A has deleted the Audit Services Commission and National Procurement Commission (NPC). Erasing the Audit Services Commission does not reflect well for good governance.
Worst is to selectively leave-out audit of the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office by constitutional fiat [Article 154(1)- 20A]. The primary objective of auditing is to examine the accuracy of accounts and express opinions on financial statements. The secondary objective is to detect and prevent frauds, misuses, misappropriations, etc.
Preventing auditing cheekily endorses the reluctance to be transparent and accountable; and could motivate officers to deliberately committing errors, frauds, and corruption. More important is the impact on parliamentary control of state finances (Article 148). The President, PM, and their officials, immune to parliamentary financial control, predict an accountability disaster. This also ridicules the government’s “One Country, One Law” rhetoric because other Ministers and officials have no such immunity.
In the private sector, the shareholders decide who the Auditors are, to audit the Board, Chief Executive (CEO), and all transactions. The 20A wants everyone to be audited, but not Sri Lanka’s CEO and his deputy. If 20A equivalent had happened in the private sector, shareholders would have revolted, but 20A is Amurtha (elixir) for government supporters.
Article 156C directs the National Procurement Commission (NPC) to formulate fair, transparent, competitive, and cost-effective procedures and guidelines for government procurements. These are extremely positive objectives. It is surprising for 20A to push them aside because we hear of wrongdoings, worth millions of rupees, happening even while the 19A is operative, as alleged by government spokespersons. What can we predict without an NPC? If the NPC is slow performing, corrections should be followed, rather than to abolish it.
According to the 19A, members of the Commissions were appointed by the President. (Article 41B and 41C). There had been very few disagreements on appointments between the CC and the Executive, which had been sorted out proving the ability to cohabit.
Special concerns on the CC are projected regarding higher judicial appointments. We sometimes hear the complaint of the President’s inability to get judges appointed at will. These are probably related to the CC’s unanimous rejections of two judicial appointment recommendations. Nevertheless, these decisions were made with the participation of the representatives of the then Opposition and civil society. Thus, 20A will ignore the latter arrangements negating an existing democratic process. Under 20A, a President’s recommendations, though wrong, may stay on, irrespective of negative observations of the PC. Article 41C blocked this happening, post-19A. Therefore, are the 20A provisions democratic and hail good governance?
Proposed Article 111D permits the President to appoint two members of his wish to the Judicial Services Commission. When such open-ended appointments are possible it gives hope to the judiciary that they could manipulate their personal gains.
Therefore, reviewing these appointments by the CC will do justice to the judiciary.
Though the incumbent President, with a strong Parliament, and personality, may not sometimes succumb to such influencing, but a weaker President certainly will, to sustain power. Constitutions must be drafted with appropriate controls applicable to any President, and not person-centric to the incumbent. This mistake has been repeated by us and should end.
Even the Public Service Commission (PSC) is appointed by the President after receiving PC observations. Again, overruling these observations, like in other instances, could make the PSC also toothless.
The effects will be observed in the short, medium, and long terms in recruitment, promotion, discipline, transfers, etc. The future of public administration may effectively face dismal problems.
We hear from the Minister of Justice of the constraints to appointment an IGP. He castigated the “purpose” or “use” of a National Police Commission (NPC) based on this. But such an appointment is prohibited by Article 155G. The increased numbers of criminal incidents were referred to prove the ineffectiveness of the NPoC. He ignored that the NPoC does not have the power to fight criminality. (Article 155G)
Removal of Officers (Procedure) Act No. 5 of 2002 clearly states that IGP’s removal is possible only under specified circumstances, such as insolvency, ill health, ceasing to be a citizen, etc. None of these sins were proved and the incumbent government retired him with all attached perks. Factually, there was no vacancy until he formally retired to appoint a new IGP. But when such irresponsible criticisms happen others hang on to such arguments. Therefore, they also pray for NPoC’s demise!
By deleting Article 91 (d) (xiii), 20A permits dual citizen’s appointment as parliamentarians. The need to use this amendment will be at the next general election, after five years. But the government is in a mighty hurry. Urgent implementation will be required if the National List is to be tampered for special political gain. Some ministers stated that 19A – 91(d)(xii) should be repealed because it was incorporated by person-centric lawmaking and thus wrong. The irony is that the 19A deletion also appears to accommodate person-centricity.
The keen advocates of this amendment are those who argued against Singapore-rooted Arjuna Mahendran. They forget that the difficulties with Mahendran would arise with dual citizen politicians sinning after 20A. Politicians sin whichever the party they belong!
When a clerk, a Grama Sevaka, IGP or a Secretary must be a citizen, but not parliamentarians, Ministers, PMs, or Presidents, it is a joke. Since the President has shown how to solve the dual citizenship problem, individually, why mess with the Constitution without following the Leader?
Another important reason is that this amendment will apply to any other dual citizens while being members of international terror groups (e.g. ISIS) or Tiger remnants. This situation is worsened by repealing the administering of the Official Oath (Article 53) in Schedule 7 of the Constitution. We are assured that the President will not do underhand deals with LTTE remnants or the Islamic terror groups. But this amendment affecting security governance could be used by another President or Minister, supported by extremists, by being inactive, permitting “support, espouse, promote, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state.”
This freedom to engage in separatist agendas may motivate helpful activities for separatism and it will be the base for another conflict that has to be fought. Such motivators are mentioned of previous regimes and cannot it repeat with the current and future regimes? This country has suffered enough and hence this amendment needs erasure or at least modifying.
Election promises and constitutional amendments
That the incumbent President received nearly seven million votes at the presidential election and a 2/3 majority at the general election is used to validate the 20A. But were the electors told that these questionable changes (e. g. abolition of dual citizenship, Audit and Procurement Commissions, Article 53, immunity, and castrating the independence of the CC/Commissions, etc.) would follow? No!
We must also remember that these amendments cannot be repealed conveniently. A President in power with a lean margin or performing with a weak parliamentary alliance can use these amendments to the detriment of democratic governance/country, even militarily. Canvassers may emerge inviting political leaders to be autocrats using some of these amended powers. In such circumstances, what is the guarantee that an Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe will not emerge from among our politicians?
President must be the Minister of Defence
The 20A corrects a prohibition in the 19A. The incumbent President, while possessing the power to declare war and peace and appoint the three Services Chiefs, is disabled to be the Minister of Defence because he is not a parliamentarian. I reason to differ from 19A, without being person-centric on the incumbent President’s professional suitability to be the Minister of Defence.
To wit, Article 4 (b) of our Constitution stipulates that the “executive power of the people, including the defence of Sri Lanka,” must be exercised by the President. Only “defence” is specially chosen here, not Agriculture, industry, etc. Under Article 33A, (which will be deleted by 20A, included in Article 42), the President is accountable for “his powers” to the Parliament on laws applicable to public security. Public security always combines with defence.
At present, there is no Minister of Defence and there is a Secretary Defence. According to Article 52(1): “There shall be a Secretary for every Ministry of a Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers.” By Article 52(2) the Secretary shall act “subject to the directions and control of his Minister…’’ It is the Cabinet Minister of Defence and not the State Minister. This status is thus challengeable legally.
When these situations are bagged together, the Ministry of Defence/relevant institutions should come under the President. However, 20A permits him to hold even any other Ministry [reintroduced Article 44(2)] and sadly this “residual power” deviates from democratic governance elements.
The 20A has revisited the issue. Taking into consideration the above-mentioned reasons only the Ministry of Defence should be handled by the President.
President the Messiah
There is a school of thought that considers the incumbent President as the Messiah who has proven prowess to accelerate action and therefore wants to “strengthen his hands,” to bring in political stability and economic revival. The successful manner the President managed the COVID-19 issues showed that for him the 19A was not a hindrance to perform efficiently and effectively.
However, considering the challenges ahead, the President requiring concentrated power is not surprising. Evening TV news everyday shows that he is attempting it. Concurrently, it is a fact that pre-2015 when Presidents had these executive powers there was an ongoing 25-year conflict. Equal development outputs were not observed during the tenures of some Presidents. Exceptional performances were based on individualistic strengths. Hence, to tag the Executive Presidency as a panacea for stability and development is a misnomer.
Emerging political contradictions
There seem to be six major political contradictions that affect political governance.
One is how the incumbent PM would bear the amendments reducing his powers substantially. Tisaranee Gunasekara has explained this, as quoted below. Agreement or not is your choice.
“Rendering the post of PM powerless is a measure of protection, in case the family is compelled by circumstances to bestow the premiership on an outsider, as a stop-gap measure. If the 20th Amendment becomes law, such a premier will be a mere cipher and will not have the power or the authority to challenge Rajapaksa primacy in any serious sense. His role will be to warm that seat until the next Rajapaksa is ready to step in.”
If true, brilliant manoeuvrering!
The second contradiction is the stance of the United National Party and break away Samagi Janabalavegaya. For them to oppose the 20A is a cautious ride. It is because the 20A basics evolved from their original Jayewardene Constitution, tinkered with by others later.
The third political contradiction is from the politicians who now venerate 20A – the by-product of the Jayewardene Constitution – the “Bahubootha vyavasthaava” (Mayhem Constitution)
The fourth extremely embarrassing political contradiction is for President Sirisena to vote for 20A, having praised 19A as the apex of democratic governance. He was the major force behind its approval in 2015. He may vote for the 20A, but his conscience will bleed until his last breath.
The fifth contradiction will arise from the expectations of the Tamil political parties who will see 20A to be the majoritarian political steamroller.
The last contradiction emerges with the speculation that the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress may support the 20A, as they did in 2010, and the sufferings Muslims experienced. Maybe, for the SLMC governance is reborn!
A historical opportunity has been given to consider solutions for the contradictions through constitutional amendments with a 2/3 majority in the Parliament. The country wishes the government will give priority to the country’s needs over personal or political group needs. It is a difficult proposition, but the government was given the unusual power to face and overcome even worse difficulties.
A short article cannot discuss the vast array of issues arising out of the abolition of the 19A. Hence, issues such as the presidential immunity, appointment and removal of Ministers and the PM, dissolution of parliament, etc., are not dealt with here though those issues certainly affect good democratic governance extensively.
There are deep ramifications of issues arising from the proposed constitutional amendments. The President must first protect himself, politically. As a democratically elected person he need not camouflage himself with an anti-democratic cloak because he has a massive vantage value unlike anyone else in his government, to take correct steps. Hence, his actions need not be at the expense of democratic governance. Regrettably, the published amendments do not show such. The sacred principles of good governance will safeguard him, us and the country.
The right groove…for local DJs
Some of the big names in the DJ industry at the ceremony
We do have a few associations, around, that work for the benefit of those involved in the entertainment field.
Yes, there’s an association for oriental artistes and also one, catering to the needs of the local Western musicians.
In fact, I believe the second AGM 2020 of the Western Musicians’ Association was held just recently, in Colombo.
Well not to be outdone, an association, for local deejays, has become a reality. And, that’s encouraging news, indeed!
The Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) was incorporated on July 5th, 2020, and the inaugural forum, involving the disc spinners, as well as the big names of the past, took place at the Movenpick Hotel, on Sunday, September 5th.
Several well-known personalities, in the entertainment field, were seen at the forum.
The CDIA will certainly be a boon to the local DJ industry.
The lighting of the traditional oil lamp at the inauguration ceremony
The Vice-President of the Association, Romesh Fernando, said that connecting both the present and past DJs, within an industry with a rich history of over 45 years, is the cornerstone of the CDJA.
The forming of an Association for DJs was an idea in the making for many years, but never became a reality. However, with the entertainment scene changing drastically, due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has affected the whole world, and the hardships faced by many DJs, in recent times, the need for a Single, Unified Voice for all Disc Jockeys, in Sri Lanka, became an absolute necessity – thus, the Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association was born.
The Board of Management consists of some of the pioneering DJs, who have made a mark as business leaders and entrepreneurs in the country’s DJ and Entertainment Circuits.
The Office-Bearers are: Gerry Jayasinghe (Chairman and President), Romesh Fernando (Vice President), Kosala Sureshchandra (Secretary), and Kapila Peiris (Treasurer).
The Committee Members are: Bonnie Perera, Niranjan Wanigasuriya (Asst. Secretary), Chamila Perera (Asst. Treasurer), Thanujika Perera, Serul Wimalasena and Amal Fernando.
The Advisory Council consists of Harpo Goonaratne and Roshan Wijeyaratne, while the Legal and Compliance Officer is Tareeq Musafer.
“Our Mission is to be committed towards improving the career opportunities, skill levels and performance capabilities of our members, and gathering DJs from all around Sri Lanka, under a single Organization. Our Vision is to gain the professional recognition that talented and good DJs truly deserve,” said a spokesman for the Association.
The Constitution of the Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) is focused on three main principles. As an industry, to develop, improve and advance the Art and Science of the DJ, to advance Public Education and Understanding of the art and science of the DJ, and improving the Professional standing of the DJ.
The Association offers three types of Memberships – Full Time, Part Time and Student Memberships. It also has a category of Honorary Memberships presented to senior DJs who have significantly added value and changed the landscape of Sri Lanka’s DJ Industry.
Members will also receive many benefits from Insurance schemes, Healthcare privileges, Membership Recognition, Legal advice and Discounts from Equipment retailers. Above all, the CDJA offers a sense of Community and Oneness, as an Industry, and shall uphold its members at all times.
The Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association (CDJA) has a very strong mandate towards Education. To that end, it will offer Soft skills Development in Communication Skills, Email Etiquette and Writing Skills, as well, and Basic Compering, etc., which are added proficiencies, required by DJs to better their business scope.
The Association has also planned for Seminars and Workshops on Small Business Development, Legal Compliance, Taxation, SME Policy Frameworks and Start up Training, conducted by Sector Professionals. Apart from Academic programmes, the CDJA will implement initiatives to inculcate Creativity and Originality in DJs.
Through these initiatives, the CDJA hopes to create a new landscape in the Mobile, Producer and Event DJ Circuits of Sri Lanka.
“Especially in these difficult times, a New Outlook and a Commitment to Excel, is what our Association hopes to promote and develop,” the spokesman added.
Invitees and celebrities taking in the scene at the Movenpick Hotel
China Cultural Centre – Sixth Anniversary celebrations !
By Chamara Ranmandala
Consultant – local Affairs
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka
(Based on an interview with
Liwen Yue, Director
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka
The China Cultural Centre (CCC) in Sri Lanka is celebrating its 6th year anniversary of its establishment as the official organization for cultural exchange in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka CCC is the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre established globally under the patronage of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which was inaugurated on 16th September 2014 by his Excellency the Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The preparations and establishment of the CCC was carried out by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka, and it is run and operated by a working team from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
This article attempts to highlight the significance of this cultural relationship, and the establishment of a path for cultural exchange between the peoples of China and Sri Lanka.
A 1000-year-old friendship refreshed
Although the formal bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and China was established only 63 years ago, the history of the friendship between the two countries dates back far beyond. The recorded history origins from the times of Jin Dynasty of China, where such information is found in the written stories of famous Chinese buddhist monk Faxian, who travelled to Sri Lanka between 410 – 415. Sri Lanka has been a very important partner during the ancient times where significant trade was carried out through the maritime silk route, used as a gateway to bridge East Asia and South Asia. The archaeological findings in Sri Lanka are evident to this trade and exchange of cultural values taking place between Sri Lanka and China.
The establishment of the China Cultural Centre in the year 2014 has significantly brought the bilateral cultural exchange to a totally different level. Across the world, the Chinese Cultural Centres have contributed immensely to establish the meaning and significance of authentic cultural values of China, which is often misinterpreted by many. It is evident that the world has not enough chances to experience the traditional culture and values of China. Hence the 60+ cultural centres established in various countries have attempted to bridge this gap of understanding the real cultural values of China without infiltrating to the local culture but supporting and thriving together with the customs of respective ways and norms.
As the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre amongst the 60+ other centres across the world, and as the first center inaugurated by the two presidents of the respective countries, the CCC in Sri Lanka highlights its importance and the value placed on the friendship of the two countries, which was created many centuries ago between China and Sri Lanka.
Cultural exchange – continued effort with variation
The China Cultural Centre has now become a fully functional apparatus that enables cultural exchange through many different facets and complementing programs. The CCC is in a constant drive to educate the society at large how cultural exchange helps to bridge the gaps and bring the peoples of the countries much closer to each other.
During the past six years, the Sri Lankan culture-loving society was exposed to some of the unique experiences of traditional Chinese art, music and dancing, calligraphy, cinema, drama, authentic Chinese cuisine, photography and intangible cultural heritage through the commitment of China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka.
The events carried out by the CCC are aligned to the diverse cultural heritage of many different parts of China, and many of them are held in the form of “Cultural Week”, planned by the CCC and organised together with some local partners, including scholars, artists, painters, photographers and journalists who have travelled across China. The “cultural weeks” reflect many aspects of Chinese cultural heritage from different areas. Based on the need, the CCC sponsors and brings down the respective professional artists who are highly regarded as unique contributors of nurturing and preserving the authentic cultural heritage of China. The CCC also accommodates Chinese scholars, journalists and media personnel to be a part of these “cultural weeks”, thus enabling the knowledge sharing amongst different audiences.
The cultural footprint of China is not only limited to events of cultural exchange, but also is extended to long standing relationships through memorandums of understanding (MOU) with many local institutions such as libraries, museums and various friendship associations. The contribution through the Confucius institutions established at various universities in Sri Lanka, such as the University of Kelaniya, is another approach adopted by the CCC to provide greater access to resources and scholarships for the students who pursue higher studies in Chinese language, literature and culture.
Appreciation of the communities
across Sri Lanka
The educational knowledge and unique experience achieved from those programs and events organized by the CCC can meet various appetites of a wider spectrum of the society and intellects. Moreover, the officials of the CCC have made every attempt to reach out to most remote communities in Sri Lanka creating value for all age groups who witness and engage with the programs. This is highly commendable since most international cultural programs are being focused only on a limited crowd in a major city in Sri Lanka. The CCC has done the opposite way and concentrated on both urban and rural areas, which benefited more people here.
At present, the CCC has carried out over 100 programmes, including more than 300 various types of activities and events (including performances, exhibitions, lectures, workshops, teaching programmes, and etc.). More than half of Chinese provinces (Jiangsu, Hubei, Canton, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Yunnan…and etc.), provincial-level autonomous regions (such as Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Xinjiang, and Ningxia), provincial-level municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin) , and Chinese SAR Hong Kong have been invited by the CCC to conduct different cultural exchange programmes in Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, the events organized by the CCC have reached people in all 9 provinces of Sri Lanka as well, where specially skilled artists are not hesitant to delight an audience of students or parents at a Sunday school, a university, a school in a remote part of a district, government institutions, and even a military camp. All events of cultural heritage are held with complete sponsorship of the CCC, thus enabling all Sri Lankans to experience most of these high-level events free of charge.
These events are a first to many where most Sri Lankans are amused and appreciative of the skill and professionalism of the artists and performers, who participate in these events and create positive vibes about China and its friendly people.
The efforts of the CCC are also extended to enable and strengthen the ties between the media and journalist forums of Sri Lanka and China. The cordial sponsorship of professional programmes conducted for the benefit of the Sri Lanka journalists in China is such an instance that the CCC extends their hand to build friendship and confidence among all stakeholders.
The future of the friendship
It is obvious that the expectation of the CCC is to build a cultural relationship amongst the peoples of both countries. The CCC has successfully created an atmosphere of understanding the true nature of authentic Chinese culture whilst respecting and appreciating the Sri Lankan values and traditions.
With the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), which attempts to bring economic and cultural prosperity to all the nations from far East to Africa and Europe, there is no doubt that the China Cultural Centres will go on playing a vital role in defusing the misconceptions level against the great efforts of the People’s Republic of China. Sri Lanka, being part of the BRI through the maritime silk route and having a better understanding of China and its people, will also play an important role in bridging the gaps between the countries of the BRI.
The future road will probably be a challenging one! However, as proven in the past, the sincere friendship between the two countries and the mutual respect to each other’s culture and value will be the north star for both of our nations to follow during challenging and dark times. With the efforts of past six years, the China Cultural Centre has contributed much more to Sri Lanka and its people, and surely enough, it will continue to do so, nurturing the friendship which China and Sri Lanka value so dearly.
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Chit-Chat Tall, dark and handsome not her kind of guy