Karu Jayasuriya Appeals on behalf of UNP to European Union to Reconsider position on GSP ,Tariff Concession
Sri Lankas chief opposition United National Party has appealed to the European Union requesting the EU to reconsider its position on GSP and tariff concessions for Sri Lanka. The full text of the appeal issued by UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya is reproduced below:
We are greatly disturbed by reports indicating that Sri Lanka’s deteriorating human rights record may lead to the country losing its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus concessions granted by the European Union, following the release of the preliminary investigations report on the country.
As opposition members of parliament, although we share the concerns regarding the rapid erosion of democracy and the blatant violation of the fundamental rights of citizens, we also firmly believe that collective punishment would not be in the interests of those of us and our friends in the world who wish to see a better day for our beloved country and all its people.
The GSP Plus tariff concession scheme granted by the European Union has been a lifeline to the Apparel and Garment Industry in Sri Lanka, which directly employs over 270,000 persons and nearly a million persons indirectly. It is the largest export commodity from Sri Lanka and the GSP + has ensured that Europe is now the number one export market for Sri Lankan apparel. Exports to Europe now represents 52% of the apparel market contributing 3.4 Billion dollars and 9% of GDP. These concessions have enabled Sri Lankan enterprises to compete with other nations which have the advantage of cheaper infrastructure and labour costs. Withdrawal of this concession would most definitely be a death blow to the Apparel industry with devastating repercussions for the whole economy that would no doubt affect many, especially in the rural sector. Several other products such as Fisheries, Gems and Jewellery, and rubber products will also suffer.
Although we realize the EU investigations have its due procedures and reporting methods, we appeal to all member states to understand that the withdrawal of the concession scheme would only hurt the people of Sri Lanka and that the regime would be largely unaffected. Hundreds of thousands of workers and their dependents would most likely lose their livelihood if Sri Lanka is to lose this trade concession.
The silencing of the free media in Sri Lanka which was carried out by a systematic campaign of intimidation that included the brutal killing of journalists has ensured that the Government holds sway over most of the conduits of information to the people. In the event of the GSP Plus scheme being discontinued, there is little doubt that the authorities would swing the focus of our predicament and sell it to the innocent citizens as a grand conspiracy.
The United National Party shares the concerns of the civilized world over the deteriorating state of freedom and democracy in Sri Lanka. As the country’s main opposition, we have continuously called on the government to take necessary measures to release the quarter million Tamil civilians currently being held behind the barb-wired fences of internment camps as soon as possible. The UNP has implored the powers to stop the intimidation of the free media which has seen editors brutally killed in broad daylight, others assaulted, and publishing houses shut down.
The battle to restore democracy and freedom in Sri Lanka is a cause we are duty bound to espouse and fight for. We implore the European Union to consider the repercussions of withdrawing the GSP + concession to Sri Lanka since it would be the poorest of our people who would suffer the most by such an action. Collective punishment of a whole community would not serve the cause of freeing Sri Lanka from the threat to democracy. We respectfully request therefore that the EU reconsiders its position and refrains from withdrawing this important trade concession granted to Sri Lanka.
Deputy Leader United Naitonal Party