Colombo, September 21, 2023 – The 73rd anniversary celebration of the Sri Lanka China Friendship Association took place in grand style on September 21, 2023, at The Temple Trees Colombo (the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka), under the esteemed patronage of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena. The event not only marked seven decades of unbreakable camaraderie between Sri Lanka and China but also served as a poignant moment to acknowledge the significant role played by the illustrious Philip-Kusuma Gunawardena couple in forging this enduring friendship.
Chinese Ambassador H.E. Qi Zhenhong, the guest of honor at the celebration, delivered a stirring speech that paid tribute to the Gunawardena couple’s indomitable spirit and unwavering commitment to fostering the China-Sri Lanka bond. Ambassador Zhenhong spoke of the invaluable foundation laid by this remarkable duo in the 1940s, which has been instrumental in shaping the rich history of friendship between the two nations.
Mrs. Kusuma Gunawardena, renowned as the first president of the Sri Lanka China Friendship Association when it was known as the Ceylon Chinese Friendship Association, was singled out for her exceptional contributions. Ambassador Zhenhong emphasized that while China is profoundly grateful for her dedicated efforts, they should also extend their gratitude to Mrs. Kusuma Gunawardena for giving birth to Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena a friend of China for many decades. He highlighted the Prime Minister’s unwavering commitment to maintaining a close friendship with China, carrying forward the legacy initiated by his parents.
Mr. Ananda Gunathilaka, an esteemed Attorney-at-Law and President of the Sri Lanka China Friendship Association for last 27 years, presided the event, and provided historical context to the association’s origins in his welcome speech. He recounted that it started modestly, in the home of a dedicated member with a small group of like-minded individuals. However, it gained strength exponentially following the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and China in 1955.
Gunathilaka eloquently described how, during the association’s nascent years, when Mr. Philip Gunawardena was unseated from parliament by colonial rulers, it was Mrs. Kusuma Gunawardena who took up the mantle. Elected uncontested to represent her husband’s constituency in Avissawella, she transformed the association into a formidable left-wing political institution steadfastly dedicated to fostering friendship with China.
He further underscored the importance of remembering the pioneering members of the Association, including Mrs. Theja Gunawardena, who stood alongside Mr. Philip Gunawardena during the early days of the association, as well as leaders of the Communist party, Dr. Sugiswara A Wickramasinghe and Mr. Peter Kenneman, whose dedication and vision played pivotal roles in the association’s growth.
The celebration was graced by the presence of State Minister Hon. (Ms.) Geetha Kumarasinghe, Members of Parliament Hon. (Mr.) Yadamini Gunawardena and Hon. (Mrs.) Rajika Wickramasinghe, former Deputy Speaker Mr. Geetanjana Gunawardena, Secretary to the Prime Minister Mr. Anura Dissanayaka, and senior representatives of the Chinese Embassy. Eminent members of the Sri Lanka China Friendship Association, who have worked tirelessly to strengthen bilateral relations, also participated in this remarkable event.
As Sri Lanka and China continue to deepen their friendship and cooperation, the legacy of the Gunawardena couple stands as a testament to the enduring bonds between the two nations. Their tireless efforts and commitment to friendship have undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the annals of history.