By Ranil Wickremesinghe –
The United National Party welcomes the visit of President of Peoples’ Republic of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping to Colombo this week.
China is a long time friend of Sri Lanka and our two countries share a deep cultural, economic and political relationship. Together, our two nations have weathered many storms and collaborated effectively for the mutual benefit of our peoples.
During World War II, China fought alongside Europe and Asia against fascist forces threatening the peace of the world. Ceylon, under the United National Party Government became one of the first countries of the world to recognise the Peoples’ Republic of China in 1950. Our economic ties were strengthened in 1952 by the Ceylon China Trade Agreement of 1952, when under the leadership of then Commerce Minister under the UNP Government R.G. Senanayake, the two countries signed the Rubber-Rice Pact. Sri Lanka paid a price for signing the agreement, when the US halted aid to Sri Lanka and stopped selling their sulphur to Colombo, a much needed material for rubber cultivation in the island. Yet the Rubber-Rice pact became one of the most successful and sustainable trade agreements in the world.
When China decided to liberalise trade and open its economy to the world, Beijing’s leaders turned to Sri Lanka for lessons learnt in liberal trade and attracting investment, sending its economists and trade specialists to Colombo to study the work of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission that preceded the current Board of Investment.
Initiated by the UNP Government, China became one of Sri Lanka’s foremost partners in its fight against terror. Beijing’s support continued until the war finally ended in May 2009. Under President Xi Jinping, China has undertaken an effective anti-graft drive, aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in Government across the system. Under the system, local government officials are no longer permitted to use luxury hotels and thousands of officials have been punished for disciplinary violations, including the hosting of lavish banquets, spending public funds on travel, the improper use of government vehicles and constructing luxurious government buildings.
His Excellency Jinping will observe that Sri Lanka is engaged in its own battle against raging corruption and nepotism that has become a grave strain on the country’s economy. As the main opposition, the UNP is adamant that the country should embark on an anti-corruption campaign of its own, that ensures that elected representatives and government figures are accountable to the people of Sri Lanka for every cent, borrowed and spent. The UNP hopes this campaign will reach across the spectrum of economic activity, including in the sphere of development assistance, grants and other types of commercial and humanitarian funding.
Finally, it is an honour to have His Excellency in Sri Lanka on this important visit and we hope that Sri Lanka-China relations can continue to prosper and stand strong through the years, based on mutual respect and amity.
*Statement Issued by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the United National Party – September 15, 2014