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GSP+: The symbolic connection in condoning of Sri Lanka's violation of governance and human rights norms

by Col R Hariharan

If the EU goes by the adverse report Sri Lanka on its conformity with EU norms, the country is unlikely to get the extension of GSP+ tariff concessions for a further period from 2009 to 11. The EU report had condemned Sri Lanka armed forces for ?perverting the evidence and silencing witnesses, rather than conducting any real investigations on human rights issues. Unless there is some political horsetrading the chances of its extension appear bleak. If that happens, it would be a very big blow to Sri Lanka which is in an economic logjam after the war, as its exports particularly apparels, destined for EU markets would be priced out. To avoid this, Sri Lankan government's foreign and commerce ministers were in a last minute scramble to persuade the EU to extend concessions up to 2011.

The concession under which Sri Lanka (among 16 other countries) enjoys duty free export of 7500 items to EU was extended after the tsunami hit the country in 2005. It had expired early this year; however the EU had given one year grace period for Sri Lanka to meet the basic norms set by EU.

The EU norms require the beneficiary to effectively implement 27 specified international conventions in the fields of human rights, good governance, labour standards, and sustainable development.

The issue had been in media focus for sometime now; as it is not all about export business but also showcasing how Sri Lanka responds to international concerns.

The EU had drawn the attention to Sri Lanka's poor record on adherence to GSP norms, well before the concession was set to expire. However, Sri Lanka, presumably in the euphoria of waging a winning war, appeared confident of handling the issue politically. But when that failed, Sri Lanka appears to consider the report an affront to its dignity rather than tackling the issues raised in it.

Sri Lanka has shown the same hypersensitivity in handling a number of other issues and accusations raised by all and sundry. The slanging match it entered with the British TV Channel 4 which showed a video of alleged Sri Lankan army execution of Tamil militants in custody was typical. The government condemned it as a part of pro-LTTE smear campaign unwittingly achieving the propaganda the pro-LTTE segments wanted to gain from the show.

Worse than all this was the raising of the sordid Monica Lewinsky episode by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka while taking the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to task for including Sri Lanka among countries where women were raped during war. It was absolutely unwarranted and in bad taste. Is it going to help Sri Lanka in any way on any issue? No way; it is probably going to make things a little more difficult for Sri Lanka in dealing with the US.

It is clear that the issue of EU's extension of GSP+ has now acquired a symbolic connection to condoning of Sri Lanka's violation of governance and human rights norms. EU cannot ignore the strong public opinion gathering momentum against Sri Lanka's overall conduct on human rights and humanitarian issues particularly on the resettlement of 250,000 people held in camps against their will for the past five months or so.

Sri Lanka has no choice but to address all the connected issues. Its knee jerk action to ease international pressure as it builds up is not enough. So when it says the screening of approximately 160,000 persons had been completed and would reduce the number of camp inmates to 100,000 by October it has to demonstrate it. It has to come out with a list of LTTE cadres and camp followers in custody so that there is a record of who is where lest further accusations of executions in custody pile up. These are basic norms of good governance and Sri Lanka is expected to adhere to them. These issues are gathering adverse international momentum and nothing convinces international community as visible results.

The US is in consultation with India on this subject as is evident from the recent meeting of the U.S. Ambassador to India Tim Roemer with Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to discuss the IDP situation. The ambassador's statement after the meeting that the US had invested close to USD 80 million in 2008 and 2009 to make sure that the process continued in a quick, expeditious humane and just fashion, is significant. The Government of India is also coming under increasing pressure to act from Tamil Nadu in this regard and time is running out for Sri Lanka to respond positively.

9 Comments

Everyone knows this war could not have been won without HR violations...

FOR THAT MATTER...NOT A SINGLE WAR IN THE HISTORY OF HUMAN CONFLICT HAS BEEN WON WITHOUT HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS....


the very Nature of War itself IS the direct violations of HUMAN RIGHTS.... in addition to this, the ENEMY we were fighting did not adhere to any Internationally accepted standards of Combat...in essence the LTTE could and would do anything within their imagination to win... When faced with an ENEMY that does not adhere to any rules of combat or Engagement then we as a Nation are NOT OBLIGED to fight with one hand tied behind our backs. WAR IS A FIGHT TO THE DEATH... if the Enemy has no decorum or restraint, then neither shall we... ITS THAT SIMPLE ....

The GSP+ concession being approved is not an endorsement of HR violations by the EU as the good Colonel tries to point out, but more so an endorsement of Good Triumphing over Evil. No Tears are Shed for the LTTE' demise.... except maybe in Bitter Tamil Diaspora circles in the EU... but the rest of the world is relieved and Glad to be rid of this menace... Instead of adhering to Dogmatic Rules and Pointless Red Tape... The EU should consider the fact that there is no point penalizing Sri Lanka now that the war is over... They are certainly not Teaching Sri Lanka a lesson by doing this, they are only hurting a particular industry and affecting the lives of approx 250,000 Innocent Sri Lankans and a numerous number of European businesses by this action... In both instances a Pointless exercise and Futile to say the least. In Addition, do they think they are gaining any friends in South East Asia by doing this? It would not be strategically sound to infuriate Sri Lanka by trying to dictate the Norms of Human Rights Standards using their primitive Carrot and Stick techniques... We are not here to be treated like a COLONIAL LAPDOGS. They only people trying to push Economic Hardships onto Sri Lanka are our Enemies ... most of them being TAMIL SEPARATISTS who's sole aim is to Hurt the country that dealt their leadership a 6 of the BEST, TROUSERS DOWN, ASS WHOOPING.... and at the end of the day,... who cares about those INSIGNIFICANT LOSERS anyway???

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | October 7, 2009 01:19 PM

These are valid comments but will be lost on the Sri Lankan Government, since we have such stupid people occupying the top most positions. The comments by our good for nothing Prime Minister on President Clinton are quite unwarranted since he went through the legal process and paid the price for his misadventure. Then too it was not a case of rape as made out by our ignorant man, maybe he has no experience in such activities.

In my view these fools are being pampered by India and the International community to the detriment of ordinary people who are suffering under the financial mismanagement and dictatorial policies of this regime. High time they were put in their place, otherwise this charade is going to last another decade.

Posted by: Gamarala | October 7, 2009 07:50 PM

It is interesting that the Sri Lankan government is advised by who have failed in smaller , yet situations. I know for certain that some British Tamils of the BTF are doing their utmost to influence the decision re. GSP+. If this was done by legitimate means, I would have no grouse, but I have listened to absolute untruths,
eg. 1.50 Tasmils are dying everyday in the casmps, are then burned ouside the camps, and that the BTF has satellite evidence of this,
2.A non-Tamil American "doctor" who was denied entry to India, claiming that a Smallpox epidemic was occurring in the camps.
This shows how much damage these racists terror supporters have done to the good name of Sri Lanka.

Posted by: Ram2009 | October 8, 2009 03:10 AM

I am astounded that Prime Minister of a country is being reminded of the necessity wear the strait jacket of good taste in the face of accusations of such gravity.

Should Sri Lanka stoop down and talk evry time in very diplomatic language every time a person from a metropolitan country makes a most irritating faux pas keeping in mind the rules of old world chivalry.

No Sir,most esteemed Colonel, those days are gone. Today media circuit is very savvy and journalists are trained to manipulate sentences, photographs, films even when one behaves with perfect decorum and no evidence exists. Whatever the parliamentarians say in Sri Lanka be assured that it will be misreported.

Whale hunting in Norway and Japan rarely receive the publicity of a baby elephant being trained for Temple work.

Mahinda a most gentle of the souls was reported as a hawk in the British press and his rival Ranils Batalanda episodes are now forgotten

It is the presence of a multipolar world ready to provide substance and meaning to the claims of one world and the more educated general public that saved oil rich Equitorial New Gunea, and most well endowed Sri Lanka from the clutches of Western adventurers, not the good manners of the rulers or the support from the Western powers.

Posted by: Tissa Wije | October 8, 2009 06:02 AM

If the comment by Devinda reflects the mindset of patriotic Sri Lankan then we are in for further trouble. It is true that we have won the war against a formidable enemy and we have done a great service to humanity by eliminating a ruthless terrorist organization but how long are we going to live in the past beating the drum of triumphalism and continue to expect the International community to accept our human rights violations to our own citizens?

Now that the war is won and normalcy is returned to the country with due respect to reasonable security concern, should we not be mindful of good governance? After winning the war the spotlight is now on us and the world is watching how we handle the human rights issues in the post war situation even though they may be prepared to ignore the violations committed during the war. Do we still need PTA to prosecute journalists? (There is also a weird application of this law to different people. Former translators of LTTE were allowed to go on bail but a journalist who wrote few favourable articles about LTTE for few thousands rupees is imprisoned for 20 years). Do we need to detain hundreds of thousands women and children until the last LTTE fighter has been screened out? Do we need to operate clandestine forces to apprehend the offenders of civil law?

These are some questions that we should ask ourselves: not to appease EU or USA but to clear our own conscience. We may lose the GSP concessions from EU or fail to defend our human rights records in the UN but worst still is the deterioration of human values in our society in the aftermath of this war. The treatment of Tamil IDP will haunt the future relationship among the communities in Sri Lanka. 300,000 of our own citizens are made to feel that they are prisoners of war and are denied of their basic democratic rights in this country. A special administrative territory has been created in the North under the control of armed forces.

The current situation appears to be worse than the communal riots in 1983 that gave life line to LTTE which was demanding Tamil Eelam. As we continue to be unmindful of the legitimate concerns of the international community regarding the minorities by brushing aside their criticism as bullying tactics, we may be playing ourselves into the hands of those who advocate federal state for the minority Tamils. If this situation continues for another 6 months the whole world is going to realize that the Tamils in this country is an oppressed minority and a federal state for them is a necessity; this International consensus is something that LTTE had failed to achieve through 30 years of violent campaign.

Posted by: Nakeeb M Issadeen | October 8, 2009 06:38 AM

Nakeeb , you are right. People like Devinda are helping to form Tamil Elam. In the end, he and his likes will be the INSIGNIFICANT LOSERS with trousers down. ha ha ha ha.......

Posted by: Veda R | October 8, 2009 10:17 PM

Dear Mr. Devinda Fernando

You are one of the Rajapakse's family. I can see your points and inhumanity. You can write whatever you want, but before you write think many times ( I do this).
Like you people don't want to resolve sri lanka's problem. May be for you, there is no problem in Sri Lanka.
Rahu

Posted by: Rahu | October 9, 2009 07:53 AM

*** Nakeeb , you are right. People like Devinda are helping to form Tamil Elam. ***

Well then Veda R, you should be THANKING ME for helping you and your ETHNIC GROUP and other PHONY SRI LANKANS achieve what they have in their Hearts...

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | October 13, 2009 11:00 PM

Nakeeb, you are making a Mountain out of a Molehill.

Our Human Rights standards can be fixed without PUNITIVE MEASURES by the WEST... treating us like some "Infant" country and exhibiting this "Higher Than Though" Paternalistic attitude is no the way the West should be behaving towards us,.. and if you are a Sri Lankan worth your weight in Salt, I can't see how you can condone such a CONDESCENDING TONE by other countries towards us. If you want to fix the HR standards do it from within, don't open our country to the Politicking and Hidden Agendas of other Countries who are PRETENDING to care about us under the Guise of Human Rights standards... Stop being a COLONIAL LACKEY.

Tamils don't need a Federal State, they are not Entitled one... Whether you disagree with me on that does not warrant Punitive measures by outside countries... this is merely a disagreement in Philosophical and Political Ideology... Tamils being deprived a Tamil Only State is not a LEGITIMATE GRIEVANCE, nor is it a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION, nor GENOCIDE, nor any of the Other VILE LIES spread about the Sri Lankan State by TAMIL TERRORISTS and their SYMPATHIZERS...

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | October 13, 2009 11:09 PM

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