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Sri Lanka made a big splash at the Conservative Party Annual Conference, which concluded in Manchester recently, with a country exhibition stall followed by a well-attended reception at a neighboring hotel.

It was all the work of an indefatigable group of Sri Lankan expatriates calling themselves "Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka", which toiled for months spending their own resources without sponsorship from any Sri Lankan institution, to present a positive image of the country ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo .

Leading Conservative Party figures including Foreign Secretary William Hague, who will be attending the Colombo CHOGM, other ministers, MPs, members of the House of Lords and councilors called at the Sri Lanka stall or were present at the evening reception to express their gratitude for the help extended to the Conservative Party and to strengthen the links between the UK and Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the evening gathering Conservative Party Chairman, Lord Andrew Feldman said:  "I am particularly delighted that Conservative Friends Sri Lanka has emerged out of nowhere within a short space of one year, to be hosting such a fabulous event at Conference and to be such an integral part of the Conservative family. I have some long-standing connections with Sri Lanka - it’s a fabulous country and I am a big fan".

"It’s wonderful that the Sri Lankan people of this country feel fully connected to the Conservative Party through Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka. It’s long-overdue and I only wish it had happened ten years ago. We’ve started a bit late, but I can assure you that the Executive Committee, who run Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka, have our fullest support and confidence in bringing this organisation forward", he noted.

Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka (CFSL) was formed as a UK organisation by a group of British Sri Lankans, from all the main ethnic and religious communities, who were united by their commitment to the values of the Conservative Party, their desire to encourage greater positive engagement between Britain and Sri Lanka and to support the country’s progress towards peace and reconciliation.

The group was granted official affiliate status by the Conservative Party’s Central Headquarters in 2012 and its Executive Committee and members have worked tirelessly from within the Party to ensure that the concerns and aspirations of Sri Lankans living in the UK are adequately represented and heard.

Senior Conservatives including ministers and  others visited the prominently located Exhibition Stand in the main Central Hall  spent time engaging with members of CFSL’s Executive Committee and discussing  recent developments in Sri Lanka.

The Conservative Party Conference provides a unique opportunity for British Ministers, MPs, Councillors, activists and their European counterparts to meet and discuss current affairs, national issues and political strategies.

Foreign Secretary William Hague visited CFSL’s stall soon after delivering his keynote addressing in the Main Conference Hall. He noted with optimism that Sri Lanka ’s recent progress, especially after the recent high turnout in the Provincial Council Elections in Sri Lanka ’s Northern Province .

Hague was personally looking forward to the opportunity of visiting Colombo for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November, when he will be accompanying the Prime Minister, David Cameron and Prince Charles.

Jeremy Hunt (Health Secretary) and Alan Duncan (Minister of State for International Development) also met with CFSL’s Executive Committee and commented on the wonderful beauty they had personally experienced on visits to Sri Lanka and were glad to hear that CFSL was providing a link between the large Sri Lankan Diaspora communities in UK and the Conservative Party.

Other Ministers who visited CFSL’s stand included Theresa Villiers (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ), Eric Pickles (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government), Dominic Grieve (the Attorney General), Oliver Letwin (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office), Philip Hammond (Secretary of State for Defence) and Grant Shapps (Conservative Party Co-Chairman).

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