By Huang Haimin
COLOMBO, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Loans and investment from China are crucial not only for the development of Sri Lanka but also in strengthening China-Sri Lanka bilateral ties, A senior official of Sri said.
In a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua and the Asia Pacific Daily, Chamal Rajapakse, speaker of Sri Lankan Parliament, said that while China and Sri Lanka have enjoyed generations of friendship and cordial relationship, it was only at the end of the civil war in 2009 that China started to play an important role in the country's reconstruction efforts. "The famous Sino-Lanka Rubber-Rice Pact signed in 1952 played an important role in the development of Sri Lanka. The pact witnessed the great friendship between China and Sri Lanka. However, the development of Sri Lanka stagnated because of the 30-year-civil- war," Rajapakse said.
Rajapakse said that after peace was achieved in 2009, China provided loans and investment to support the post-war reconstruction in Sri Lanka. "With China's financial support, the Sri Lankan economy was able to take off and the country is now being noticed by the world."
The speaker cited as an example of the China-funded project, the Puttalam Coal Plant, which has provided 50 percent of the country's power requirement and cut by 25 percent the electricity cost since its operation.
Another China-funded project is the south container wharf at the Colombo Port, a joint venture between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchant Holdings Ltd. "Through China's expertise and funding, the Colombo South Port has become the World ' s Fastest Development Port in 2014."
The ColomboKatunayake Expressway, which connects Colombo City and the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, reduces the travel time between Peliyagoda, in the outskirts of the capital, and Katunayake to 40 minutes from the previous two hours. The reduced travel time between the airport and Colombo with enhanced safety will also help boost the country's economy in addition to providing pleasant travel to the road users. "China has vigorously supported and participated in the construction process of Sri Lanka which has benefited the Sri Lankan people. The friendship between China and Sri Lanka is difficult to break and would remain vibrant in the years to come," the Speaker said.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping's official visit to the island nation in September last year, the friendship between the two countries has risen to a higher level with deeper mutually beneficial cooperation in various sectors, Rajapakse said, adding because of this, there has been a noticeable increase in the inflow of investment from local and foreign sources into the country.
Commenting on the exchange and cooperation between the Asia Pacific Daily and the Sri Lankan media, Rajapakse appreciated the efforts made by the newspaper, saying that the Asia Pacific Daily could take advantage of being the international convergence platform of new media and contribute to the deepening of cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.
Rajapakse also appreciated the efforts of the China-Sri Lanka Friendship Association in strengthening the bilateral ties between the two countries. He proposed a communication exchange program between the Asia Pacific Daily, the China-Sri Lanka Friendship Association and the Sri Lankan media. He also proposed cooperation between China's medical institutions with local healthcare facilities so that Sri Lankan citizens can benefit from China's advanced health system.
Rajapakse also expressed his appreciation for the efforts made by the Asia Pacific Daily in donating and reporting about the major landslides that hit southern Sri Lanka last year which caused heavy casualties. The Chinese government provided relief supplies and rescue equipment and the Asia Pacific Daily had been successful in raising money through Chinese enterprises in Sri Lanka to donate to landslide victims.
The Speaker also showed great interest in the Asia Pacific Daily's global development plan, especially the Hong Kong Youth Music Festival, the Free Trade Zone Forum and other brand building activities, hoping that the Youth Music Festival could foster more cooperation and exchanges between the youths in China and Sri Lanka.