Defiant Sirisena claims 75% popular support as EU threatens trade sanctions
Posted on October 30th, 2018

Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, October 30 ( At the meeting between Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and foreign envoys here on Monday,  the European Union (EU) Ambassador  Tung-Lai Margue warned that if democratic norms and constitutional provisions are not observed in handling  the on-going political crisis in Sri Lanka, the EU may consider withdrawing  the trade concessions the island nations enjoys under the General System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus).

According to the International Trade Centre, in 2009, a year before the EU withdrew  GSP Plus concessions from Sri Lanka on human rights issues,  Lanka’s exports to EU were worth US$ 2.3 billion. Despite the withdrawal of GSP Plus, exports expanded thereafter to reach US$ 2.4 billion by 2015.

Defiant Sirisena claims 75% popular support as EU threatens trade sanctions

But the rate of increase had declined in comparison with other countries including Bangladesh and Pakistan.

And between 2010 and 2017, when the GSP Plus was not there, Sri Lanka lost up to LKR 250 billion (US$ 1.45 billion) in export earnings from the EU.

But as in the case of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010, Sirisena was unfazed by the EU threat on Monday.

In 2010, Rajapaksa had dismissed the withdrawal as a matter of no great consequence, when seen against the benefit of fighting the Tamil Tiger rebels to the finish.

In fact, Sri Lanka’s exports to EU increased, albeit marginally during the ban.

On the perceived unpopularity or unacceptability of his act of removing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the way he did,  Sirisena reportedly said that the Western envoys appeared to be unaware of the pulse of the people”.

The President suggested that the foreign missions  get surveys done to ascertain the common man’s thinking, and added the surveys would reveal that 70 to75%” of the people are with him.

EU Statement

The EU had issued a statement saying that the sudden deterioration of the situation in Sri Lanka over the weekend had put the country at risk of instability and unrest.

Along with other key international partners of Sri Lanka, the Ambassador of the European Union met with the President of Sri Lanka to express our expectation that a solution respectful of the country’s constitution would be found quickly.”

To this end, it is important that the President allows the immediate reconvening of the Parliament so that the elected representatives of the Sri Lankan people can fulfill their duties,” the EU statement said.

In the current context of tensions and uncertainties, it is of utmost importance that violence and provocation are avoided and that law enforcement agencies act with restraint.”

The EU expects Sri Lanka to pursue its positive path towards reconciliation and democracy for the full benefit of the Sri Lankan people, the statement added.

This was the refrain of the other envoys from the developed world also. The envoys of non-White countries merely listened to the exchanges between the White block and the President.

President Sirisena told the envoys that it is best to leave the governance of Sri Lanka to Sri Lankans. The government and the people of Sri Lanka know best what is good for them, he added.

On the criticism that the ethnic reconciliation process will suffer as a result of the on-going political turmoil and instability, Sirisena said that he is committed to reconciliation  and has initiated many steps to bring it about.

In his presentation lasting more than an hour, the President explained why he could not work with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and why he had hand over the reins to Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sirisena said that he is confident that the constitution has provisions which allow him to sack the Prime Minister. A paper written on this written by his lawyer Manohara de Silva was circulated which justified the President’s steps from the legal and constitutional point of view.

Sirisena also said that he is going to swear-in a new cabinet after the meeting, leaving the foreign envoys with no doubt that Sirisena is determined the tread the path he had chosen on the  issue of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

(The featured image at the top shows Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena meeting foreign envoys on Oct 29, 2018. Photo. Presidents Media Division)

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