By Shamindra Ferdinando
Defence Secretary retired General Kamal Gunaratne has greatly appreciated the stand taken by China on behalf of Sri Lanka at the recently concluded 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), during talks with the high powered Chinese delegation led by State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe.
The delegations led by Minister Fenghe and Defence Secretary Gunaratne met at the Shangri-La Hotel, Wednesday (28). Minister Fenghe is the highest foreign dignitary to visit the hotel overlooking the mega China investment Colombo Port City since it was attacked by two suicide bombers on April 21, two years ago.
UN Security Council member China on behalf of Sri Lanka called for a vote on controversial draft resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,’ after the UK led Core Group targeting Sri Lanka insisted on a punitive text and the setting up of a new inquiry at a cost of USD 2.8 mn. The UNHRC adopted the latest resolution on March 23 with 22 countries voting for, 11 including China against and 14 abstaining.
Having condemned the resolution as typical example of politicization of human rights, Chinese Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador CHEN Xu alleged Western attempt to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and undermine its development and stability under the pretext of human rights.
China and Sri Lanka also signed what the Defence Ministry called ‘Military Assistance Protocol.’ The Defence Ministry statement quoted General Fenghe as having said: “We are looking forward to work together with Sri Lanka to enhance practical cooperation and to promote bilateral relations to a greater extent.” The Chinese Minister highlighted the existing military ties between the two countries. China remained a primary supplier of arms, ammunition and equipment to the Sri Lankan military throughout the war.
Chinese Ambassador in Colombo, Qi Zhenhong, Foreign Secretary Admiral (ret) Prof. Jayanath Colombage and Tri-Forces Commanders were also present.
The Chinese delegation comprised Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of PLA Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming, Director General of Office for International Military Cooperation of Central Military Commission (CMC) Maj. Gen. Ci Guowei, Deputy Director General of General Office CMC Maj. Gen. Shen Fangwu, Assistant Chief of Staff of Southern Theatre Command of PLA Maj. Gen. Hu Xianjun and Chinese Defence Attaché Senior Colonel Wan Dong.
General Fenghe also launched the official website of the Chinese National Defence University Alumni Association of Sri Lanka at the invitation of Gen Gunaratne and the Director General of Sri Lanka Customs and the Chairman and founding member of the Alumni Association Maj. Gen. Vijitha Ravipriya (Ret).
The Chinese delegation arrived in Colombo Tuesday (27) night and left yesterday (29) morning. The delegation met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and defence delegation led by Gen. Gunaratne.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met the Chinese delegation along with Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera whereas Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena joined Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s delegation that included several ministers.
Over a decade after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka maintains close relations with major regional powers, including members of Quad the US, Japan, India and Australia. Interestingly none of them backed Sri Lanka battling unsubstantiated war crimes allegations paving the way for Western powers to include Sri Lanka on the Geneva agenda.
Sri Lanka re-entered into high profile ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) with the US in August 2017 though talks on MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact) and SOFA (Status on Forces Agreement) failed. Sri Lanka first signed ACSA in March 2007 during Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tenure as Defence Secretary.