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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame & the Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom > China > 'China, a benign and sincere friend of Sri Lanka' - Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, at the unveiling of the bust of the late Premier Chou En Lai at the BMICH on 9 April 2005

STRUGGLE for Tamil Eelam: china

'China, a benign and sincere friend of Sri Lanka'

Text of speech delivered by (SLFP led Peoples Alliance)
Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar
at the unveiling of the bust of the late Premier Chou En Lai
at the BMICH on 9 April 2005

'China, a benign and sincere friend of Sri Lanka'

This great hall, a work of art and a thing of beauty, in which we welcome today the Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China, His Excellency Wen Jiabao, is the most visible and dramatic testimony to the age old friendship between the people of China and the people of Sri Lanka.

The offer to build this hall, entirely at China's expense, was a "spontaneous gesture of goodwill" on the part of the former Chinese Prime Minister Chou En Lai.

As Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, described the moment in her speech at the opening of the BMICH on May 18, 1973: (I quote)

"Almost at the conclusion of my discussions with him during his visit to Sri Lanka in February 1963, he spontaneously asked me whether there is any special assistance that we require. This question he asked after he had already pledged substantial assistance to us.

When this question was thus put to me I remembered my late husband's desire to have an international conference hall built, and I must confess that I rather hesitatingly expressed this to the Chinese Prime Minister. I was indeed surprised by the very prompt and sincere response for, without hesitation, he said "yes, I shall be very glad to gift a hall in memory of my late friend. Only, I ask of you that you should name it after him." .

After extensive consultations the Governments of Sri Lanka and China came to an agreement on the hall project and a design was prepared by a joint team of engineers and technical personnel. The foundation stone for the hall was laid by Madam Bandaranaike on March 15, 1965.

However, thereafter political developments intervened, there was a change of government and the project was put on hold and it was not resumed until Madam Bandaranaike was re-elected Prime Minister in 1970. Work proceeded apace and was completed in February 1973. This hall was ceremonially opened on May 17, 1973.

Prime Minister Chou En Lai was unable to attend the opening. China was represented by a 24-member delegation led by the Vice Chairman of the State Council of the National People's Congress Marshall Shu. I can do no better today than recall, and endorse, the words of Madam Bandaranaike in her speech at the opening ceremony.

She thanked China for "this outstanding gift" as well as other generous assistance, referred to the "warm and cordial relations" between Sri Lanka and China and hoped that the hall would be (quote) "an abiding embodiment of Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike's faith in internationalism and the brotherhood of man, as well as the realization of a wish which was dear to his heart that Sri Lanka could some day serve as a meeting ground for the nations of the world". (unquote) Prime Minister Chou, in a message read by Marshall Shu, described Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike as (I quote) "an outstanding statesman" who "enthusiastically promoted and developed the friendly relations and cooperation between Sri Lanka and China and was a sincere friend of the Chinese people.

He believed that the hall would be recorded in the annals of Sri Lanka as a symbol of the friendship between Sri Lanka and China."

It is a pleasure and privilege to have you with us today to unveil, in this historic hall, a sculpture of that great internationalist, statesman and visionary, Chou En Lai, your distinguished predecessor. For three decades it had escaped the notice of our two governments that no sculpture of any of the great leaders of China of a bygone generation had been place in this complex of buildings to commemorate the association of these buildings with the magnificent munificence of China. Nor indeed is there any reference to China in the name of this building.

These grave omissions will be repaired today when Your Excellency unveils the sculpture of Chou En Lai, and the plaque that adds to the name of this building the words "Sri Lanka China Friendship Centre", thus retaining the reference to Prime Minister Bandaranaike which Prime Minister Chou En Lai would have wished to preserve while recording for posterity a simple truth - that this building is indeed a monument to the friendship between China and Sri Lanka - a truth which although self-evident nevertheless requires to be explicitly stated.

In the three decades that have elapsed since this building was formally opened and named, the relations between China and Sri Lanka have expanded exponentially in diverse directions.

When a relationship is based on mutual respect and affection, the size, importance and power of one of the two countries in that relationship does not have a disproportionate influence on the other. China has never sought to influence the domestic politics of Sri Lanka. Over the years China has proved to be benign and sincere with no ulterior motives for befriending Sri Lanka. She has never tried to dominate, undermine or destabilize Sri Lanka.

She has come to our rescue with timely assistance on several occasions when there were threats to Sri Lanka's national security and territorial integrity.

"There have been no strings attached to Chinese aid. When a relationship between two countries is not based on dependence, it is strengthened by the fact that it is based on the mutual recognition of equality. Sri Lanka in its own way has been helpful to China. The rubber-rice pact of 1951 has been referred to.

In more recent times Sri Lanka has in a modest way been of assistance to China in international fora especially in the field of human rights where Sri Lanka, taking the view that China was being unfairly treated in certain quarters, has been her steadfast ally. It is good for a relationship when both countries are able to contribute something towards sustaining and enhancing it. Sri Lanka has remained steadfast and unequivocal in respect of its One China Policy.

We believe that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China - something which the United Nations has reaffirmed each year. We support China's policy of peaceful reunification and China's efforts to promote cross-straits links for the benefit of the Chinese people and their social and economic development. Sri Lanka has expressed its support for China's recent anti-secessionist law.

It is in the light of these considerations that Sri Lanka observes with admiration China's steady, peaceful ascent to the summit of economic power. Long may the People's Republic of China flourish and prosper. Long may the friendship between China and Sri Lanka grow in strength and vigour.



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