“GSP+ GENERALIZED SYSTEM OF PREFERANCE – IS IT ARMS TWISTING A PRIVILAGE HUMAN RIGHT VIOLATION OR A MATTER TO BE AMICABLY RESOLVED “
Posted on February 8th, 2010

Sarath Wijesinghe Senior Solicitor and Attorney-At-Law- former Chairman Consumer Affairs Authority

GSP+- the background

 GSP+ is a system introduced by USA and EU to conditional help and encourages trade industries and production in selected and identified countries by adjusting tariff and other facilities for a given period. European Union and the member countries intensified the scheme during and aftermath of Tsunami Disaster for Sri Lanka.  Before the introduction of this facility managed our affairs without this concession and we should have known that this is not a permanent facility and should have been ready to be without at some stage in life.

 In fact as President Rajapaksa and the Governor Central Bank has reiterated we can be without this facility if it comes to that, yet it is good to settle mattes in friendly atmosphere based on mutual trust and respect based on accepted international and legal norms and practices. In 2008 alone European   imported apparel worth 1.24 billion thereby the income to Sri Lanka has exceeded to75 million Euro This procedure is regularised by European Community Law and in 1993 Justice Bagwathie- one time Chief Justice of India- has advised EU on the procedure and implementation on the countries awaiting for the facility which is a privilege and favour and not a right. It is internationally accepted and recognized that once a right or a privilege is enjoyed withdrawal too should be based on a just cause and should not be arbitrary.

 Arbitrary withdrawal is not only illegal but is crude and immoral.  The threat of withdrawal GSP+ facility from Sri Lanka has raised serious concerns on the international community, especially at a time when Sri Lanka has helped the world community by militarily crushing the most ruthless and feared terrorist outfit which has terrified and terrorised the entire world.

In fact this is the time the international community should enhance the aid in the interest of the regional security and international security The EU alleges that Sri Lanka has not adhered to the Convention on Human Rights, International Convenient of Civil and political rights, Convention against torture and Convention on rights of Child for which Sri Lanka has agreed to adhere to.

This is an unfair and unrealistic expectation of Sri Lanka on international standards, when in Iraqi, Afghanistan and other war torn countries controlled by EU and USA are far below the expected standards on human rights and war related issues. EU was unreasonable to expect unattainable and difficult tasks of full implementation of 27 Conventions which is an ideological and unrealistic and impossible goal which no country could fulfil.

Conduct discipline and behaviour of the forces in these counties are sub standard and wide publicity is given in world media on gross violations and atrocities on forces civilians’ violation of laws of wars and international humanitarian law in the broad daylight. Termination of trade concessions such as GSP is not a mere mechanical process that come down arbitrarily but one that should be cognized upon its associated possible economic ramifications.

These are processes to support vulnerable developing countries and not a mode of punishment and taking revenge of being independent and fearless of international terrorism. Thanks to President Rajapaksa we are no longer a vulnerable Nation, yet we need the backing and support of our friends aiming at a better and prosperous world. After all UK is still struggling to come to terms of recession and we are victoriously out of it “”…” Our aim is a  Suba Anathiak for the world community! Not to few privileged Nations.

 International political issues

 Then why and what is this indifference to us at this stage, when we are rated the best destination for tourism, stock market reaching the peak, when attempts are being to redefined and re demarcating our foreign policy based on non alignment and respect to each other and each others views and integrity how ever small and powerful the member states are. Steps are being taken to mend the patches of misunderstanding orchestrated by powerful INGO’s and some diplomats, who acted as individuals for some unknown reasons. President Obama has spoken of our long history of friendships and pledge to continue friendship when USA Senate and Senators say that they can not afford to loose Sri Lanka based on petty and minute matters.

Ambassador Robert O’Blake has acted the role of “Dixtith” and could compare to Johe D’Oly in 1809 in taking over Sri Lanka ending the fight over hundreds of years from invaders! His interference on international matters raised eyebrows of the international community and Sri Lankan in general. Presiden Rajapaksa’s relations with China, Russia, Middle East, and African Sub Continent are per excellence and now it is time to turn to the West and EU using his charm and goodwill.

In that context and such a situation GSP+ will be a minute matter for President Rajapaksa to bring about a settlement. We need the West and West needs us in the current political and economic climate of co-operation and friendly relations based on mutual respect. Our Education, Economy, Governance, Legal System, Link Language is a part of the great Western Culture growing in the breeding ground of great Asian culture blended with great religions acting in harmony and absorbing the great concepts of democracy and human rights the Sri Lankan Nation is adhered to.

Surely Sri Lanka should not be pushed towards another power block out of sheer necessity. Whatever happens President Rajapaksa will no deviate from the non aligned policy adoped based on his personality and the vision which has proved to be successful. He is an emerging world leader heading number of regional bodies representing billions of world citizens today! We are ever grateful to USSR and the emerging world and economic power China for saving and bailing us out in danger of being questioned by the world body during the most difficult era of crushing the LTTE the most feared and powerful terrorist organisation in the globe! Still we are independent and non aligned and president Rajapaksa has reiterated so in his policy statement on the day of our independence after gaining independent from terror regime relieving the entire world of LTTE terror.

 EU-NGO’s and International Relations

 West expected Sri Lanka to listen to them and conduct our war on their terms conditions and agenda. They never expected the war to be won militarily and advised us to  settle our matters  which has made our haven hell for the last three decades based on solutions proposed by INGO’s and some interested parties and embassies.

 It was not to their liking that President Rajapaksa crushed terror regime which has been a threat to world and regional peace and a threat to the entire peace loving world. Decision of European Union to suspend the EU’s preferential trade status to Sri Lanka is not a surprise, but a short sighted decision based on incorrect and incomplete information which needs careful scrutiny in the interest of the friendly relations of member countries and give a correct assessment to the Human Right standards in an atmosphere of threat of terror regimes.

Obama vows to continue long lasting relations with Sri Lanka and said that our relations run back to 1789. USA Senate warned that they can not afford to loose Sri Lanka and drift it to the other block. They little realise that Sri Lanka has been a leader of the non alignment and not foolish to align to a super power which we have realise and our history has proved we are a real non aligned country matured politically and experienced the advantages of being non aligned nation committed to the principles of Non alignment, Non violence and Gandian “Pancha Seela”.

On the other hand Sri Lanka has bypassed the difficult period and now we can afford to go through difficulties and the trend is that the people too will be prepared to gulf the difficulties with the new found freedom and the national pride as a result of winning the unwinnable war.

 Conventions and International Instruments

 Convention on Human Right is a non binding instrument to which we have become a signatory. Our Human right mechanism is if not the best one of the best in the world. We have the Human Rights commission which is effective and has teeth. Fundamental jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is cheap, accessible and less cumbersome. Non governmental organisations in the Human Rights area in Sri Lanka are very powerful.  Civil society and the media too are powerful and vigilant in Sri Lanka unlike in the United Kingdom which is complicated in practice and less effective. Sri Lankan NGO’s are funded heavily and they are interested in internal politics than protecting human rights which is worrying.

They misuse our kindness and good natured treatment to outsiders as a weakness and make use of anti national forces and politicians rejected by the masses to achieve their political and financial goals.  EU is not happy the way we conducted the war on terror successfully though the mechanism adopted by the EU and allies in Iraqi and Afghanistan is a miserable failure. Casualties in Iraqi and Afghanistan are fast rising and allegation of human right violations and abuses are fast growing with growing resentment from their own citizens.

The main allegations in addition to the other issues on Sri Lanka are the treatment of Tamil Civilians, Killing of Aid workers and summery executions orchestrated in the channel 4 video issue. Aid workers were definitely killed by LTTE though FAT CAT NGO’s have accuse Sri Lanka forces  considered to be the most disciplined and professional force in the Globe. Treatment of displaces civilians by Sri Lanka is exemplarily and transparent and it is sorry that EU have not considered how the civilians living  under the clutches of terror regime in jungles subjected to starvation and degrading treatment frequently subjected to summary executions and severe punishments from Kangaroo Courts.

Now they are free and proud citizens having exercised franchise after 30 years and gradually gaining complete economic and political freedom. Road network in the North is now excellent and the villager and farmers are enjoying the past glory and ethnic integration. President Rajapaksa has pledged equal rights to all nationalities having declared the their will be no minorities any longer and only the two groups in existence will be those who love the country and do not.

 European Commission

 December 16th the European Commission will discuss this matter and the pleasant news is that the dissenting views are fast growing and there is strong possibility that they will reconsider the decisions already taken in the interest of world peace and proper economic balance of the world family.

Now Sri Lanka can be proud of an Independent Judiciary without the politician turned and most controversial and disgraced former Chief Justice Silva who has pollicised the judiciary and has engaged in active politicise with the disgraced army commander   who too has pollicised the army by contesting the Commander in chief who appointed him when he was about to be retired. Fonseka as well as Silva has been ungrateful to those who extended the helping hand. These issues too had an ripple effect on the decision making as treatment of IDP’s and the Judicial activism and rule of law have been taken as contributory factors in decision making of the EU saga on GSP+.

 What next and way forward

 What next and what are next steps are being watched by the international brotherhood in decision making of our future developments. We can amicable settle this matter and should not be considered as arms twisting and a violation of human rights or discrimination.

We are in a new era of reconciliation and eradication of party and other differences after successfully eradication terror regime. We are gradually reaching the golden era on international relations by redefining and reintroducing our foreign policy based on the aspirations and the needs of Sri Lnkans and the vision of the visionary Mahinda Rajapaksa who now will concentrate on the combat against bribery corruption and mending broken fences of international relations with the west with his thinking and inherent charm and good will which is proved attractive to the Sri Lankan village fork and the international community.

Most probably Mahinda Rajapaks’ next exploration would be the west as he has already conquered the UN and other parts of the world personally and politically. It is the duty of the civil society, professionals, expatriates and all civilizes to strengthen the hands of President Rajapaks in the interest of the Nation waiting for a bright future- Suba Anagathiyak!

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