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President Sirisena to visit China

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is to make an official visit to China next week to attend the “Dialogue of Asian Civilizations” which will kick off in Beijing on May 15 and have a meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Speaking at a media conference in Beijing on Thursday, Xu Lin, Minister in the State Council Information Office announced that Heads of State from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Greece, Singapore, Armenia and Mongolia, as well as heads of UNESCO and other international organizations, will attend the event spread over several days.

Speaking to the local media, a spokesman of the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat confirmed that Sirisena will be visiting China from May 14 to 16. The spokesperson also said that the President would be meeting his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

On Wednesday President Sirisena had met foreign ambassadors in Colombo and assured them that the security situation in Sri Lanka has been brought under control.

He urged foreign governments to lift the travel adversaries issued in the wake of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Colombo and two other towns which claimed more than 250 lives including those of 44 foreigners.

On being asked if the Lankan President should leave the country at this juncture when it is still reeling under the impact of the April 21 blasts, a Chinese analyst said that Sirisena should attend the conference because it will show that Sri Lanka is returning to normal. The President had himself said that 95% of the persons behind the blasts had been arrested and that the rest of the conspirators would be nabbed soon.

Sirisena would be able to personally convey this to President Xi Jinping, the analyst added.

The other reason why Sirisena should go to Beijing is the theme of the conference which is a Dialogue on Asian Civilizations, a subject close to Sirisena’s heart.

“Since Sri Lanka is an ancient multi-cultural civilization and President Sirisena is attuned to the culture of his country, he will have a lot to contribute to the discussion on the subject of Asian civilizations,” the analyst added.

However, tourism has undeniably suffered a serious setback in Sri Lanka. According to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the loss is of the order of US$ 1.5 billion. Three of the six targets of the Easter Sunday attacks were posh hotels.

One of them with 500 rooms, and with a normal occupancy of 300, is today down to ten guests, an informed source said.

Initially, outsiders were not allowed into the posh hotels except when they were specifically invited by a resident guest. But now they are allowed as the security situation has improved.

The public have been warned that a further attack is possible in the coming week. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the US Ambassador, have all said that another attack is a distinct possibility.

Theme of Dialogue

The Dialogue of Asian Civilizations comes hot on the heels of the recently concluded Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the 2019 International Horticultural Exhibition.

The dialogue’s theme is “Exchanges and mutual learning among Asian civilizations and a community with a shared future.”

Over 2,000 distinguished persons, including officials from 47 Asian countries and well-known figures in the fields of culture, education, cinema and television, think tanks, media and tourism are to attend the opening ceremony and the many sub- forums.

The event will also feature a host of cultural and tourism related activities including an Asian civilization parade, food festivals, an Asian culture festival, an Asian culture and Tourism exhibition, an Asian film week and a joint exhibition of Asian civilizations.

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