Sri Lanka issues coin for CPC centenary

‘China is one of our most sincere friends,’ says PM Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In a rare diplomatic gesture, Sri Lanka has issued a commemorative coin marking the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party. The country’s Central Bank on Tuesday said it has minted two coins in gold and silver, in connection with the Party’s 100th anniversary, and 65 years of Sri Lanka-China relations.

“The coins have been issued at the request of the government of Sri Lanka as an accolade for long-standing friendship and mutual trust between the two countries,” a statement from the apex bank said.

One of the coins, of LKR 1,000 denomination, bears the words ‘Communist Party of China’ in Sinhala, Tamil and English, and the years 1921-2021, along with the anniversary year 100, while the other has a view of the China-built Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre [located in Colombo], with national flags of Sri Lanka and China, and the words ‘Sri Lanka-China 65 Years’ and year 2022 inscribed, according to the statement. Central Bank Governor W.D. Lakshman presented the first coin to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday.

Economic help

The apex bank’s move comes amid substantial economic assistance from China to Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka already owes China over $5 billion from past loans, Beijing sanctioned an additional $1 billion in loan and about $1.5 billion in a currency swap to help Colombo combat its economic crisis since the pandemic hit the island nation in March 2020.

Speaking in a virtual conference to commemorate the Chinese Community Party’s centenary, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday said China was one of Sri Lanka’s “most sincere friends”. “The Communist Party of China is currently the world’s largest political party, which has delivered a very important message to the world on foreign relations for the past 70 years,” he said, pointing to bilateral relations since 1957, and relations between the Communist parties of both countries since the 1940s.

“I am aware that it was the foreign policy positions of the CPC that elevated China on the global stage. However, China has never tried to impose its own political views on the world,” PM Rajapaksa said. “China has also never felt the need to manipulate the affairs of other countries. China has helped the other countries, keeping them at the same level, which is a very important matter for a country’s independence as well as its sovereignty,” he said, even as sections within Sri Lanka, including political allies of the Rajapaksas, remain fiercely critical of Western and Indian “interference” that they see as a threat to the country’s sovereignty.

Further, commending China on its poverty eradication programme, Mr. Rajapaksa said China always believed that improving infrastructure would “provide new ways and new strengths for the people.” “Therefore, we have constantly invited China to help develop the infrastructure,” he said, months after government critics opposed creation of “a Chinese colony” in the China-backed $1.4 billion Colombo Port City.

The Rajapaksa administration has appreciated China’s governance and progress in the past too. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier vowed to pursue a “Chinese style” of development, while Basil Rajapaksa [brother of the President and PM], former Minister, and chief architect of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front) has remarked that he would model their party on the Chinese Community Party, and India’s Bharatiya Janata Party that he called the “best two examples”.

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