29 July, 2021

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Mere Tweaking Of PTA Insufficient To Secure GSP Plus Concession

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government has announced that it is taking steps to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with a law that is more in conformity with international standards. The Foreign Ministry reported it had informed the EU of action underway to revisit provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act with the study of existing legislation, past practice, and international best practices. The EU was informed of the decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers to appoint a Cabinet Sub-committee and an Officials Committee to assist it and to review the PTA, and to submit a report to the Cabinet within three months. The Officials Committee comprises officials from the Ministries of Justice, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Public Security, Attorney General’s Department, Legal Draftsman’s Department, Police, and the Office of Chief of National Intelligence. The Foreign Ministry also announced that the government will continue its close and cordial dialogue with the EU with regard to commitments, while demonstrating the country’s substantial progress in areas of reconciliation and development.

The government’s willingness to address the issue of the PTA follows the EU Parliament’s unexpected resolution that calls for the withdrawal of the GSP Plus tariff concession, though as a last resort, in the event of Sri Lanka not abiding by its commitments to the protection of human rights. The wording of the EU resolution leaves open the possibility of salvaging the GSP Plus, the importance of which has been articulated by the country’s exporters, particularly the apparel and fishing industries. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage who met senior representatives of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) Sri Lanka, the Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL) and trade unions, had reassured them of the government’s commitment to ensuring that the EU GSP+ would continue to remain beneficial to the country.

The exporters have pointed out that the EU market is just too important to lose as the prices paid by the EU are more than double that of purchasers in other countries. It is not only the fate of Sri Lankan exporters that hangs in the balance. The media reported a government decision to restrict imports of so-called luxury goods that included mobile phones and electronics. While the government has formally denied this, such news indicates a catastrophic collapse in public confidence in the economy. On the other hand, if Sri Lanka become truly a country that treats all its communities equally, and abides by the rule of law, foreign investors. Including the large and prosperous Diaspora can be invited to invest in the country and bring in the much needed foreign exchange for the country’s development that benefits all communities.

27 Agreements

The government will be aware that a mere tweaking of the PTA will be insufficient to secure the GSP Plus concession from the EU. This is why the Foreign Ministry statement goes on to mention that the government had released 16 LTTE prisoners and has informed the EU of the release of Rs 79 million to the Office of Reparations in June to settle 1,230 processed claims for reparation and that an additional Rs 80 million was released on 29 June to settle a further 1,451 processed claims, out of a total 3,389 processed claims. The GSP Plus is given as an incentive to countries that have committed themselves to implementing 27 international human rights agreements. This goes far beyond the redesign of only the PTA and release of prisoners detained under it, who in any event, should not be there in the first place having been subjected to coerced confessions, not charged or brought before the courts of law or who have had their cases delayed for too many years.

The 27 human rights agreements that the EU expects beneficiary countries to be following include those focusing on human rights, which are the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987), Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990). Those relating to labour rights include the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) (and its 2014 Protocol), Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).

There are also conventions relating to the environment, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987), Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989),Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2000), Stockholm Convention on persistent Organic Pollutants (2001), Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1998). Finally, there is the category of protection of good governance, which include the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971)’ United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Presidential Leadership

Despite this plethora of international agreements relating to human rights, labour rights, environment and good governance, at the root of the EU’s concerns is the lack of progress in addressing the consequences of the country’s protracted ethnic conflict. This led to three decades of war, and now to 12 years of post-war peace in which the root cause of unequal and discriminatory treatment remains unaddressed. The government has an uphill task to convince the international community about the sincerity of its intentions. This is a government that was elected to power in a highly polarizing and nationalistic election campaign which depicted the ethnic and religious minorities as potential threats to national security and national sovereignty that needed to be neutralized. It is also the government that was in place following the end of the war in 2009 until 2015, which may have been the best time to settle issues once and for all, but which did not take up the challenge.

The irony is that as a result of its antecedents, which brought it to power, the government is finding it difficult to convince the ethnic and religious minorities within the country, let alone the EU, that it is sincere in its commitment to peace, reconciliation and human rights. The unfortunate reality is that the government has a dearth of credible champions within its fold who can articulate a message of peace and reconciliation in a convincing manner. Those champions of the past decades, including Prof G L Peiris, Prof Tissa Vitarana, DEW Gunasekara and Vasudeva Nanayakkara, have receded to the background in terms of their contributions to peace and inter-ethnic justice. But the appreciation of their past commitment suggests that they can play a role if called to man the breaches by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They have the intellectual capacity to realise that simply changing the PTA and releasing prisoners is not sufficient to show change of heart, but there needs to be a demonstrable commitment to ensuring that all sections of the people are treated equally.

An important task therefore devolves upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to articulate the change that is necessary as no one can doubt his bona fides in relation to preserving national unity, national sovereignty and national security. The foundational principle for his government’s approach could be the speech he made at his inaugural swearing in, when he said that he would be the president of all Sri Lankans, including those who did not vote for him. The essence of human rights, and of the 27 international covenants that the EU wishes Sri Lanka to comply with, is the concept of equality and equal treatment before the law, irrespective of race, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, caste or political party. A genuine reconciliation process with devolution, associated with changes to legislation in this regard that ensure equality treatment to all, may be able to change the stands taken by most countries than any other singular alteration.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    “On the other hand, if Sri Lanka become truly a country that treats all its communities equally, and abides by the rule of law, foreign investors. Including the large and prosperous Diaspora can be invited…”
    Yes, this is the crux of the matter. Our politicians have used racism to come to power. They simply cannot give equal rights to all because it would piss off those who voted for them. But it has to be done. Simply appointing committee after committee to gain time is not going to fool the EU any longer.
    We have to make decisions based on the real situation. China may give us loans, but it doesn’t buy our products. The loans have to be paid with dollars that we get by selling stuff to the EU.
    If we stand on our sovereignty to the EU, we could lose it to the Chinese. Not that our “sovereignty” is worth much anyway.

    • 3
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      Dear JP I appreciate your push for reconciliation and therefore I am reproducing your conclusion.
      A genuine reconciliation process with devolution, associated with changes to legislation in this regard that ensure equality treatment to all, may be able to change the stands taken by most countries than any other singular alteration.’
      We hope that European Union will not be like our naive Tamil leaders who can be hoodwinked easily.

    • 1
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

      • 1
        1

        Eagle,
        When do you reckon Nandasena will give a pardon to that innocent Ranaviruwa Lt.Commander who was framed by a 15 year old girl while he was examining her for medical reasons?

  • 7
    2

    JP, be honest . Are you expecting anything different from Rajapaksas ???

  • 3
    6

    Dr. JP, since you and the so called National Peace Council work for Peace and presumably de-militarization, how come there is no mention in your weekly columns about the US and its Asian Proxy Japan’s Carat-21 War games last week in Trincomalee?
    Also no mention of and the Covid-19 lockdown for Carat-21 War games in the Eastern Province based on Fake PCR tests donated by the US? The Covid-19 numbers game for which people are arrested at night in their homes based on fale positive PCR tests and taken to quarentine centers is run from the CIA’s Covid-19 bio-surveillence project for bio-securitization and militarization of Lanka set up by USAID and by the Sri Lanka Army at the USAID built Covid-19 hospital in Iranavila where the Voice Of America was. Wake up JP and smell the toast – your funders are the biggest promoters of war in the World!
    Also no mention of the environmental destruction that increasing US War games in Sri Lanka caused last year with Pilot wales dying. Please move on from GSP which is another COLONIAL project to keep Sri Lanka DEPENDENT on its European masters.. You need to broaden your fame of analysis and focus on Geopolitics and Militarization in the Indian Ocean and how the US citizen Rajapakse family is supported by their home country to militarize Lanka.

  • 4
    6

    Dr. JP; In order to prevent protests the day that US citizen Basil Rajapakse takes his seat in Parliament, Sri Lanka will be in a strict Covid-19 lockdown based on the false positive PCR tests numbers game promoted by the joint USAID/ CIA and Lankan Military run Covid-19 bio-security surveillence and Data project at Iranawila. Any ideas what civil society can to do about this?
    So now the Parliament will have 2 puppets, Basil and Ranil Wickramasinghe to do the bidding of the biggest Rogue State in the world and enable crash of the SL economy to ensure that Black Rock front companies and Selendiva can asset strip and land grab in Lanka using cheap $$$ printed in the trillions under the Covid-19 CARES Act that was drafted a year before Covid-19 appeared!.
    After all, the US Secretary for SouthAsia once called the island “valuable real estate” in the Indian Ocean. After the natives are shot up with Pfizer vaccines (and de-populated like Chagos islands?) China’s port city would be history?!

  • 2
    1

    “… … … he said that he would be the president of all Sri Lankans, including those who did not vote for him.”
    That assertion by itself does not mean anything at all! The question is, what are the precise implications of that statement as there can be both positive and negative interpretations. Even the best political analysts and commentators seem unable to analyze and interpret this cryptic observation by the President and elaborate on it!

  • 4
    2

    Sri Lanka had how many commissions and reports since 2009?
    This sub committee, commissions are time buying mechanisms since 2009 by Rajapaksas and Ranils.
    Can the President order to send the murders back to jail?
    Can he reorder all the court cases removed from Courts of Rajapaksa family?
    If there is a will and honesty, you don’t need to convince EU, you should convince affected people by PTA and other unlawful actions.

    • 2
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      C.M,
      “he said that he would be the president of all Sri Lankans, including those who did not vote for him.”
      That speech was probably written by his speech-writer. This arrogant moron hasn’t got the brains to understand the concept.

  • 2
    2

    Dr. JP: You remember only what he said: “….I would be the President of all Sri Lankans”. Why did you forget the “Amended” version GR said: ” I am a Buddhist and the President of the Sinhala Buddhists”?

    Do you honestly believe, these “International Organizations” are going to “Believe” and “Trust” such a “Double-Tongued” liar “Wolf” in “Sheep’s Clothes” in the company of such qualitative operatives placed at key positions such as the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and many more?

  • 3
    2

    Jehan Perera,
    “On the other hand, if Sri Lanka become truly a country that treats all its communities equally, …”
    —-
    From this statement what you are implying is Sri Lanka is a country that do not treat all its communities equally. Please give few examples to support your statement.

  • 3
    2

    Jehan Perera,
    “On the other hand, if Sri Lanka become truly a country that treats all its communities equally, …”
    —-
    Tamil politicians also keep on telling that minorities in Sri Lanka are not treated equally and they are discriminated but those politicians who keep on telling these nonsense live in Colombo amongst Sinhalayo with their families. If minorities are not treated equally one has to ask why more and more Tamils from North East come to South and live in Sinhala areas.
    The truth is Sri Lanka treats all its communities equally but Tamil and Muslim communities do not treat their own people equally. Dumbos in Foreign Ministry have miserably failed to tell this to the International Community. People like you who talk a lot about human rights also do not talk about discrimination, human rights violations and oppression prevailing among minority communities.

    • 2
      3

      Eagle,
      Sinhalayo don’t treat even low-caste Sinhalayo equally, let alone Para Demalu.
      When a Kinnaraya becomes a Mahanayaka, you can talk about equality. Till then keep your Canadian trap shut.

      • 2
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        Dear OC,
        .
        you are spot on. Basil ballige P would continue it from where he was stopped by 2015.
        :
        Now the very same so called SINHALALYO make every effort to kneel down before TAMIL DIASPORA community…… Just listen what that ALLE BALUWANSE has been upto
        .
        Yes, Kinnarayas and Rodiyas are filled in the leadership of POHOTTUWA… that is why almost everything is turning upside down.
        :
        Next days, it is very likely, THAT the leadership will meet with the fate of Haitian president who is gunned down by an unknown person. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAIa36v4XBY

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