Feature: Six decades on, Sri Lankan brothers carry on family legacy of friendship with China

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-03 23:31:27|Editor: yan
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COLOMBO, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Located in the busy area of Borella, in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, is the ancestral home of Ajith and Sumathi Dharmawardena.

The two brothers, while excelling in their respective careers, have many stories to tell on Sri Lanka's strong relations with China, dating back to the early 1950s.

Today, they are continuing the legacy started by their father, Sudharman Dharmawardena, in strengthening relations between the two nations.

Ajith is currently the vice president of the Sri Lanka-China Friendship Association while Sumathi is the president of the Sri Lanka-China Buddhist Friendship Association.

"My father built up a strong friendship with China in the late 1940s. Back then, he contributed many articles about Chinese people's liberation in the newspaper Communist, which had its first publication on May 1, 1949," Sumathi told Xinhua.

The newspaper of Communist was published by the Communist Party of Sri Lanka.

Even though Sudharman passed away in 1979, his two sons are still carefully keeping the old newspaper as a precious legacy.

Sumathi said his father was also part of the core group which persuaded the Sri Lankan government to sign the Rubber-Rice Pact between the two countries, by publishing convincing stories in the local newspaper.

In 1952, Sri Lanka's late Minister of Commerce R. G. Senanayake visited Beijing to sign the pact. In the same year, Sumathi formed the Sri Lanka-China Friendship Association along with some of his friends in order to push forward the bilateral relations.

After the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Sri Lanka in 1957, more and more Chinese came to Sri Lanka. At that time, Sudharman was more popularly known as "Brother Sudha" among the Chinese.

"He always told us that China would soon turn into a world power and with Sri Lanka having ancient ties, the island nation would benefit with China's growth," Sumathi said.

In the 1970s, Sudharman begun preparing his eldest son Ajith to travel to China for higher studies. At first, Ajith was reluctant to the trip to China. But today he said, it was the best decision he made.

"I am proud of the decision taken by my father. I first went to China in 1978 and today I travel to China almost every year. I have seen China's development from the 1970s. China has developed into one of the world's super powers today. That was the vision my father had seen," Ajith said.

Today, Ajith and Sumathi are actively involved in their associations.

Since 2001, Sumathi has been coordinating Buddhist exchange activities between Sri Lanka and China, and in 2015, he along with a few others decided to establish the Sri Lanka-China Buddhist Friendship Association.

"Since the establishment of this association, we are actively working with the Chinese Buddhist Association. And with the help of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, we have done a number of projects to uplift poverty and to assist the people who have been affected by chronic kidney diseases in the country," Sumathi said.

Through this association, a number of Buddhist monks have also traveled to China to learn more about Buddhism and some of these monks are even preparing for their doctorate degrees in China, Sumathi told Xinhua.

Sumathi said the relations between the Sri Lankan and Chinese Buddhist associations is at its peak.

Ajith leads many friendship delegations to China every year to strengthen ties.

He said both countries will benefit immensely under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and already the construction of the Port City in capital Colombo, the Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka and other infrastructural developments funded by China, have promoted the development of Sri Lanka and created many jobs.

"The BRI will not only benefit Sri Lanka, but it will benefit the whole world. I am glad that Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to support the BRI and today we are reaping its benefits," Ajith said.

Over 60 years after his father pledged to work towards strengthening ties with China, Ajith said his father's dream had come true.

"If my father were alive today, he would be very happy to see how far Sri Lanka and China have come in terms of development and friendship. We being his sons, will continue his legacy and our children will continue it after us," Ajith said.