3 August, 2021

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Can President & Prime Minister Work Together For Real Solution? 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The EU parliament’s resolution to withdraw its GSP Plus import duty concession to Sri Lanka comes as a body blow to the country at a time when it is economically on the brink. The EU sanction has come much faster than anticipated, if it was anticipated at all. Government spokespersons have tried to make the case that the EU parliament’s resolution is an unjust one. According to them, GSP Plus is about economics and should not involve human rights. The problem is that the purpose of GSP Plus is very different and the government leaders who got it wrong in 2010 when Sri Lanka lost it last, have got it wrong again. The EU has explained GSP Plus as an incentive and a reward to those countries that are committed to improving the human rights situation within their territories. The support that is given to a country’s development is an outcome of respecting and promoting human rights.

The disregard of the purpose of the EU’s GSP Plus duty concession goes back to the last election. Nationalism in the country reached a peak during the presidential elections of 2019. The winning election campaign emphasized that Sri Lanka would no longer bow its head to the dictates of those in the international community who wished to impose their will upon Sri Lanka. They said that national security and national security came first, even though the ethnic and religious minorities feared that their rights would be trampled upon. A large majority of the Sri Lankan electorate endorsed this view. The new government leadership with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the helm, were impelled to give expression to a Sri Lankan nationalism that was prepared to take on those in the international community which was depicted as seeking to dictate terms to Sri Lanka.

However, the price of a confrontational approach is likely to be very high. If the EU withdraws GSP Plus from Sri Lanka, it will mean that Sri Lankan exports to the 27 countries that comprise the EU will be taxed at regular rates at the point of entry into the EU. This will drive up the prices of Sri Lankan exports in the EU markets and reduce the demand for Sri Lankan goods. The last time this happened in 2010 the price that Sri Lanka had to pay was very heavy. Many factories and commercial enterprises had to close down and thousands of workers lost their employment. Sri Lanka also lost a significant amount of foreign exchange that could have helped to balance its payments such as the repayment of loans. Even after the government change of 2015, and its pledges to follow the EU guidelines on human rights, it took a further two years until GSP Plus was restored.

GSP Puls

The EU resolution has set out several conditions that need to be met by Sri Lanka if the GSP Plus concession is to be kept. Many of the conditions imposed follow on the conditions set out in the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March this year. The EU resolution of June 10 expresses “deep concern over Sri Lanka’s alarming path towards the recurrence of grave human rights violations”, which is an observation earlier made by the UNHRC and makes specific reference to the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) pointing to the arrests of lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah and poet Ahnaf Jazeem, among others, who are in detention for over a year on charges that they had links to the Easter bombing. These two detentions have been denounced by national and international human rights organisations but to no avail.

The resolution also notes the continuing discrimination against and violence towards religious and ethnic minorities. At the UNHRC in Geneva, the government denied this and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was eloquent in affirming with heart-stirring words that “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multicultural people of Sri Lanka, closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people. It is therefore our strong conviction that the aforementioned actions within the framework of Sri Lanka’s domestic priorities and policies, are not only realistic but also deliverable.” The problem is that this is not the reality on the ground.

The reality on the ground is that wounds of the country’s 30 year war have not healed. The attempts to promote healing have lacked commitment. Thousands of acres of land in the North and East still continue to be under military control. This is land that was once lived on and cultivated by Tamil people. Today it is being used by the military, some of it being cultivated, some it used for recreation purposes including hotels, and some of it for security purposes. Thousands of families still await news of the whereabouts of their loved ones despite an Office on Missing Persons which has yet to give a ruling on even a single missing person although four years have elapsed since it was set up. There are also still a few hundred persons in detention for a large number of years, some exceeding a decade in prison without trial.

PTA

As seen above, the EU resolution makes particular mention about replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act with a national security law that will conform to international standards. In addition to all those incarcerated in the aftermath of the end of the war 12 years ago, there are a large number in custody in the aftermath of the Easter bombing. Several of the long term prisoners arrested under the PTA and held without charge or being produced before courts are said to be members of the LTTE. After the Easter bombing another large number of people have been held in custody without trial or charges against them including the former head of the Jamaat e-Islam which is a benevolent social service organization devoted to the social upliftment of less privileged sections of society. Those who know Rasheed Hajjul Akbar say this is a travesty of justice. Unless corrected, these injustices will sear into the people’s consciousness and create long lasting enmities.

One of the worst features of the PTA is that it makes it impossible to bail out detainees if the government is opposed to granting them bail. The detainees can be held indefinitely in custody. The danger of giving this power to the government can be seen in the case of the arrest and detention of police crime buster Shani Abeysekera who was held in custody for over a year. During this time he contracted Covid and suffered a heart attack. In a landmark case the Appeal Court granted him bail. In the course of its judgment the court said “The allegations against the suspect Shani Abeysekara are a result of falsification and embellishment and a creature of after-thought.” This case highlights the importance of revising the provision in the PTA that can delay detainees from being brought before a judge and being bailed out regardless of the approval of the government.

Bringing the PTA into conformity with international standards by amending or repealing it would be a confidence building measure. The accompanying measures such as releasing all those held without charge or trial for many years would increase the trust level that the government is serious in its commitment to the protection of human rights and induce the EU to hold back on its plans to withdraw GSP Plus from Sri Lanka. This could also pave the way for the government to engage in successful dialogue with the TNA when it takes place hopefully soon despite last minute postponement of planned talks last week. Underlying the EU resolution and the UNHRC resolution that preceded it is the issue of the long unresolved ethnic conflict. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former president and present Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who took leadership in ending the 30 year war have an opportunity to perform another historic task. This is to seal a long lasting settlement of the ethnic conflict that has eluded Sri Lanka for the past 60 years and restore the lost prosperity and hope we had at independence.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    11

    It is common sense that if you offend the EU, the West, and the likes, they shun you. Why should they give any concession if the country does not satisfy certain “Norms”, essentially meaning to dance according to their tune? The standing example is the conduct of the “Yahapalana” Government and its so called “Neo-Liberal Policies”. That is the bare minimum. But that is the very thing that made people to reject it, so much so, that the leader of the UNP lost his Parliamentary seat. Hence, I continually state that Sri Lanka will soon become another hermit state in trying to project the concept “Sri Lanka First”, while it is alright for other countries, big or small, to promote their interests. Draconian legislation and action such as the Prevention of Terrorisms Act! Prolonged detentions! Something was afoot during “Yahapalana” times to make changes but, it did not. Though the EU talks of the incarceration of Shani Abeysekara, for 10 long months in remand, it viewed with a “Nelsonian Eye” the incarceration of late Anura Senanayake in remand without any charges. We must pay for being in the center of the Indian Ocean without bargaining through our advantageous position.

    • 3
      27

      Dr. JP GSP and GSP Plus is a European colonial joke – to perpetuate our economic dependence on the West! It is an example of how Fake Economic Development aid promotes COLONIALISM by other means.

      Did you ever study how the ‘west de-developed and under-developed the rest’? and kept third world economies producing cheap garments and kept them DEPENDENT on trade with western fake Human Rights hipocracy touting countries that are miitarizing the world right now with NATO and QUAD and destroying the Indian Ocean, while talking Fake Vaccine Humanitarianism with the Covid 19 Mask that conceals the on-going cyber, trade and THIRD WORLD WAR at this time?
      GSP should have been rejected long ago and the useless Sri Lankan business community that follows the US-EU economic Xperts suggestions like puppy dogs, rather than developing local industries and utilizing and value adding and building Solar panels using valuable minerals like graphite to INDUSTRIALIZE production in Sri Lanka
      Time for funded NGOs like you and yours to stop talking bullshit too!

      • 4
        20

        By the way Germany is looting Sri Lanka’s high value Graphite while GIZ funds useless, endless NPC NGO business projects to keep you all silent about how the valuable minerals in this country are being looted with collusion of corrupt local Politicians while funded NGOs in Colombo turn a blind eye!
        Joke indeed – the Colombo NGO circus -fixated on identity politics and unable to think straight about economics or anything else.

        • 4
          1

          We had that Golden Chance to be non-aligned during the Sirimavo time. But we were impatient for the goodies of the West, or at least the Lankan 1% was. Going on the super-capitalistic line via China was the next huge mistake repeated again. It was so obvious, but they tried again anyway. Shame on RR.

          • 2
            2

            Ramona,
            “But we were impatient for the goodies of the West, or at least the Lankan 1% was. “
            It is so easy to preach about socialist austerity while enjoying the goodies of the West. Would you live in the US without supermarkets, 500 TV channels, fast Internet, cheap cars, etc? If you were preaching to us from another North American country, Cuba for example, I might take you seriously.

            • 4
              1

              OC,…..it was appropriate for that time. By now we would have some if all that you mention. We should have gone into Capitalism gently. No, but Jayawardena whipped up the Capitalistic wand and forced Lankans out of their comfort zones and raised the capital bar. Masses of all races ended up in uprising….torture, death, and suppression ensued, after which they headed to the hard labour camps of the Middle East to bridge the artificially created money gap. Others started a terrorist war.

              • 1
                0

                ramona grandma therese fernando

                “We should have gone into Capitalism gently.”

                When?

                “Capitalistic wand”

                What?

                “forced Lankans out of their comfort zones and raised the capital bar. “

                What was their comfort zones?

                ” headed to the hard labour camps of the Middle East to bridge the artificially created money gap.”

                What gap?

                “Others started a terrorist war.”

                Others who?
                Greedy politicians, Sinhala/Buddhist chauvinists, State, JVP, LTTE, Jihadi, HLD M’s Vellalas …..?

        • 4
          2

          Dinuk
          Why are you blaming .Germany for that,who is supplying you lot send your mothers and sisters to serve the ME for money

      • 4
        1

        Dinuk,
        Wow!! How versatile you are, Yesterday you were in Kanatta as a Medical anthropologist. Today you’re a Solar panel Anthropologist.
        Tomorrow?

      • 1
        1

        Dinuk
        Dr. JP GSP and GSP Plus is a European colonial joke – to perpetuate our economic dependence on the West!
        ————–
        Japanese, koreans, chinese etc developed their nations due to discipline, focus and hard work.
        On the other hand there are many banana republic nations whose citizens have big mouths and talk alot but achieve nothing.

    • 2
      0

      What was being promised to the nation was ” as we brothers”; nothing would stand on our way,, we could achieve whatever we want for the benefit of the masses.
      :
      Saddest reality is, nothing is achieved even if 15 or more months passed since double-pakshes are back to power.
      .
      Not even hope is left to the people, about the chances of getting vaccined against COVID 19.
      :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6i85tjI4uw
      Their FAKE interllectuals have proved, that they are no different to uneducated Mahindananda, Johnsten, badathadiPRASANNA or and the like SUPER corrupted Rajaakshe men… So Gota and his thieves have proved they cant given a lead to this nation. Basta.

  • 19
    4

    Why not ??? Jehan do you think all those who read, your articles are naive as you??? It is Rajapaksa fiefdom . Remember Mahinda, s words prior to elections. “My brother will become the president and I will be the next PM “. They are working closely together as brothers on not so rral solutions.

  • 14
    3

    “According to them, GSP Plus is about economics and should not involve human rights.”

    Shouldn’t this fool at least Google and learn the basics before opening his mouth?

    “Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)
    EU’s GSP removes import duties from products coming into the EU market from vulnerable developing countries. This helps developing countries to alleviate poverty and create jobs based on international values and principles, including labour and human rights.”

  • 3
    30

    The Governments have not done anything to return the land belonged to Sinhalayo in North East grabbed by Tamils and Muslims during the time LTTE Tamil terrorists controlled those areas. Sinhalayo who went to claim their land were chased away by Tamil and Muslim thugs. JP never talk about injustices done to Sinhalayo during three decades of Tamil terrorism.
    —-
    “Thousands of acres of land in the North and East still continue to be under military control. This is land that was once lived on and cultivated by Tamil people.”

  • 16
    3

    Jehan Perera,
    “The new government leadership with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the helm, were impelled to give expression to a Sri Lankan nationalism”
    As implied by you it was not a Sri Lankan nationalism, but Theravada Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, that excludes all other people. It is not an inclusive nationalism. It excludes people of other communities living in this country.

  • 4
    18

    Not worth it.

    GSP Plus is worth a few hundred USD of tariffs. Terrorism costs more. SL Government should impose sanctions and levies on SL businesses of separatists and extremists.

    EU is getting irrelevant by 2030. Old economic powers.

  • 3
    11

    We wouldn’t have to beg from EU if we have a competitive economy. It’s quite unfortunate that even after 70 years we are still dependent on aids from EU and UK. They provide aids with malicious intentions and they are not doing out of love. We have to remember that. EU is certainly trying to bring Ranil back into power by making economic threats. They know by crippling our economy they can pass their agenda. EU may want Ranil but no one else wants him.

    • 11
      2

      Andare;
      “They provide aids with malicious intentions and they are not doing out of love”.

      If our leaders who governed this country for past seven decades didn’t have malicious intentions with our own people I don’t think that not only EU but also USA and China can’t play with us. Who made the country to this level?

    • 2
      4

      Exactly we are next to Singapore,G7 wants eager to include SL,we have military too,how many schools and churches were bombed.

    • 3
      1

      1. Accept the fact we will never have a “competitive economy” as long as we keep having scoundrels in power who focus on amassing their wealth before the interests of the country.
      2. Yes we should be ashamed that we are still dependent on aid and goodies from these Western nations that we keep attacking and insulting, every time they ask for accountability from our leaders, for endless crimes, and human rights abuses.
      3. Stop flogging a dead horse. They don’t care for Ranil for anyone else. At one time all the Rajapaksa supporters kept parroting the lie that the US wanted Ranil, but it turns out, the US may have wanted a dual citizen to lead this country. The US could have stopped Nandasena’s candidacy by delaying the cancellation of his citizenship, but they did nothing, and after a hasty trip to the US he returned the anointed favorite.
      4. Accept the fact that these wealthy countries will want their money’s worth when they keep sending us endless aid. The US was attacked, and accused of many things by Sri Lankans, including interference, favoring the LTTE etc., but when we are in trouble and Sri Lankans are dying from a pandemic, we become quite outraged that the US is not sending us their excess supplies of vaccines.

      • 3
        0

        Finally:
        It seems while we keep embracing all things China, we turn to the Western nations we criticize, for give us the help we need. It seems it is China who is not doing anything for love, it is always with strings attached, and the intention to own chunks of this country.
        As long as the present regime keeps arresting political activists, patriots who stand up to them, and members of the minority, and as long as they have suspected war criminals, felons, and cronies, in their administration, NO Western nation will trust this country. We keep biting the hands that feed us.

        • 0
          3

          Ashan,
          People in Sinhale/Ceylon/Sri Lanka got into this situation because of decisions and actions taken by racist separatist politicians for their political survival. They started these activities even Sinhalayo gained Independence from British who divided the people in Sinhale on the basis of race, caste, religion, place of residence (Udarata, Pahatharata, Ceylon Tamils in the North and Indian Tamils in plantations). A tiny minority who became the most privileged community in Sinhale during British rule carried out the instructions given to them by their master and ruined this country.

    • 5
      1

      A2,
      “They know by crippling our economy they can pass their agenda.”
      What economy are you talking about?

      • 0
        5

        old codger,
        What ever left after Tamil and Muslim terrorists ruined.

        “What economy are you talking about?”

    • 1
      0

      We wouldn’t have to beg from EU if we have a competitive economy.
      ———–
      Analyse the mindset of japanese people and sri lankans.
      ‘You shall know them by their fruits (achievements)’

  • 18
    1

    There is no difference between Mahinda & Gotabaya and other brothers Basil, Chamal or Namal. All of them share more than 75% of the wealth of this country and Buddhist Sinhala backing. Their physical appearance and their roles may be appear different but they are common in cheating, bribing (both directions), threatening, and murdering. Every abductions and murders happened during their regime with their orders. They are not bothered if the GSP plus affects ordinary people. If the people protest they will order to shoot and military is there to do that without any hesitation. China and Russia always with them to protect Rajapaksa family, not the country or people.

  • 6
    2

    The only thing one is certain is that the RAJAPAKSHE’s and their merrymen, will loot this country dry.. For the last 70 years, our politicians have only bent us over driven the proverbial rod up the anus. Every man is unto himself. Politicians never work for the people, it’s about only themselves.
    Taking an example from some of the most reputed companies, They all have a Vision and Mission and Strategic Master Plan to achieve that Vision. Thereby providing Management to deliver profits to its shareholders. If we were draw a similar comparison, at a country level, the Share Holders are the Public, CEO and Management are the Politicians.
    However, as country we don’t have a Master Plan be it 5/10/15/20 or 25 years, wherein Governing and Opposition Members sit across the table with the best brains in the country to chalk out a plan and stick to it no matter who comes to power. Instead, what started by one Government is disbanded by the other the other now starts a new plan. This Vicious cycle never ends. In the end the poor share holders i.e. the public is left high and dry.
    We the public are to blame, we need to make sure that we ensure we don’t send criminals of any order to determine our future and have the people best interest at heart.

  • 1
    1

    The Govnt is there to serve the people,this is not business to do make profit and make some shareholders happy,work for what good for people of all corners and future generations,education social care health well fare up lift the poor make quality secure people regardless.
    The health sector is big business now people compelled to sell the houses and get treatment,most of these greedy doctors privileged to have free education in return……
    Should ban the pvt hospitals and international schools,they are big cash cow,look at the mess for last 70 odd yrs,we all have to greatful for Bangladesh for their helping hand.

  • 4
    1

    Our ultra racist representative EE,
    .
    Dream further !
    Where do you find such sinhalayo ? Doublepakshes have now proved, that our SINHALAYAS cant make wonders – as the saying says it loud – ” sinhalaya modaya kaewun kanna sooraya.சிங்கள மோடயா காவும் கண்ண சுராயසින්හලය මොඩය කැවුම් කන්න සූරයා..; Puthalam buruwas of your nature, are totally misled by crminals PAKSHES from the day one. Entire world is now well aware of the abusive mindset of Rajapakshes but punnakku drinking you guys would take another few decades. I really dont know what brought you decades of life on the EARTH ? Grasp it or leave it !

  • 5
    1

    Not only GSP+, but we are also soon going to have numerous countries imposing travel and trade ban on Sri Lankan Ministers and on trade. Even the Bank of China has refused to give loans to Sri Lanka recently.

    • 3
      1

      Dear Buddhist1, good to see your comment.

      Ban on culpable SriLankan ministers and officials and their families and their businesses would be tremendous. Hitting their own personal pocket books should always be the first line of action.

      We don’t want to punish the innocent folk like the children of the 6.9million who elected the Rajapaksa criminals and those who voted against the criminals.

      If the Rajapaksa’s don’t take the opportunity to resolve the situation while they still can, the blame will have to fall entirely on the Rajapaksas.

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