by Jamila Najmuddin
COLOMBO, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Several events have been planned for this year to further promote Sino-Lanka ties and spread further awareness on China's Belt and Road Initiative in Sri Lanka, a association president said here Thursday.
President of the Association for Sri Lanka-China Social and Cultural Cooperation Indrananda Abeysekera told Xinhua that his Association, along with several friendship associations in China, has been planning many events this year including a South Asian Forum and a Sri Lanka-China women entrepreneurs forum, which will be the first of its kind to be held in both countries.
These events aim to spread awareness on the cultural heritage of both Sri Lanka and China and bring the peoples of the two countries even closer, Abeysekera said.
The Association for Sri Lanka-China Social and Cultural Cooperation is one of the four friendship associations recognized by the Chinese Ambassy to Sri Lanka. Abeysekera established the association in 1997 while working for a Chinese media in Beijing and since then he has visited China more than 100 times to organize events, forum, and gatherings.
Although now back home, Abeysekera continues to travel to China at least once a month and is still actively involved in organizing events and forums to promote the development of bilateral ties.
"Last year marked the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and China, our Association organized more than 100 forums in Sri Lanka and China," Abeysekera said.
"Our main aim is to make the Sri Lankan people aware of China and the Chinese people aware of Sri Lanka. So we have organized many photo exhibitions, art and craft exhibitions, a professional lawyer's forum and many other events," he added.
The association which initially only consisted of 14 members, has now over 400 registered members from universities, schools etc. All of them work for the association on a voluntary basis.
Many medals and Chinese arts and crafts adorn Abeysekera's home in the heart of the capital. At the entrance is a traditional Sri Lankan oil lamp while two small pandas hung on the side to give a Chinese touch.
The medals and gifts which are displayed in his living room have been the recognition for his tireless work in promoting friendly ties between the Sri Lankan and Chinese peoples.
Abeysekera received an award for his efforts to help the earthquake victims in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China's Sichuan province.
"I was in Beijing when the earthquake struck the Sichuan province. When I came to know I called my friends in the Sichuan Friendship Association and discussed about the situation," Abeysekera said.
"After a few weeks, I visited some worst-hit areas with some members of the association. We tried to support some students who had been injured in the earthquake. With the help of some Sri Lankan students studying in Beijing at that time, we donated some money as well," he added.
To date, Abeysekera still visits the province to extend his association's support in every way possible.
Abeysekera himself has been closely linked to China since his childhood. His father once served as the vice president of the Sri Lanka-China Friendship Society and was also one of the co-founders of the Sri Lanka-China Friendship Society. Abeysekera hopes that his son will also follow his family's footsteps.
Abeysekera said his son has been to China for many times. "I think my boy will continue my work later as China and Sri Lanka have many more years of friendship."