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Saturday, 26 June 2010

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GSP and State sovereignty

The European Union has set down a series of conditions that the Government must accept and implement in order to receive the GSP Plus facility in the country’s trade with the EU.

In doing so it has violated one of their own policies which call for de-linking trade from politics for most of these conditions do not relate to trade or even manufacturing of the goods traded.

The behaviour of the EU in dictating terms to Sri Lanka displays the hegemony of colonial mentality that still remains in the thinking of Western powers.

The United Nations of which Sri Lanka as well as EU countries are members “is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members” (Article 2 of the UN Charter).

It is this Article that the EU has violated in dictating terms to Sri Lanka. The EU is not only flouting the UN Charter at will, it is also working in collusion with certain other member States and officials of the UN who are bent on a witch hunt against Sri Lanka over the conduct of the last phase of the humanitarian operation against the LTTE a year ago.

The conditions that the EU wishes us to obey include Amendment of the Constitution on issues that affect the security and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka such as repeal of Emergency Regulations, repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The whole question is these are matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. They have been established to meet domestic situations. Repealing or retaining them is a matter for the people of this country and nobody else.

The fact that these requests are made at a time when the defeated LTTE ‘s worldwide sympathizers are desperately trying to stitch together a so-called transitional government abroad raises the valid question whether these efforts are a ploy to strengthen the former’s hands and resurrect the LTTE.

These conditions go as far as requesting the Government of Sri Lanka to release all persons under detention even before investigations are complete and their bona fides checked. Some other conditions refer to measures to be undertaken by Sri Lanka under the ICCPR and its Optional Protocols. While on the one hand, imposing conditions on Sri Lanka, the EU on the other, is happily dealing with countries that have not even attested the ICCPR and its Optional Protocols.

No self-respecting Government and a country could accept such conditions. The Government is quite right in rejecting them with contempt they deserve. All Sri Lankans irrespective of their political affiliations and other identities such as ethnic or class should support the Government in preserving the dignity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

The GSP Plus was a concession given to Sri Lanka in the wake of the devastating tsunami that struck our shores in December 2004. From the outset it was destined to be temporary. Now that its end is within sight the Government and the garment industry should switch on to alternative sources to bridge the temporary loss that would accrue to the industry and its workers.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. It would be blessing in disguise, if the withdrawal of the concession would spur our industry to enhance its technological level to ensure higher productivity and better competitiveness as well as seek alternative markets for its products.

Measures should also be taken to reduce the import content in the final product by producing locally most of the raw material including minor accessories.


Welcome news

There is welcome news across the ocean. Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in Islamabad after a lapse of over two years to begin a new process of negotiations. Though there was nothing sensational or substantial by way of binding decisions the fact that the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere itself is an achievement. As both Foreign Secretaries emphasized at the joint press conference following the talks their job was to concentrate on ways and means of building trust and confidence among the two estranged neighbours.

They explained that negotiations would be a long process and no one expects quick results. However, both sides would be looking for doable actions in the interim.

The outstanding issues would, meanwhile, need comprehensive, sustained and meaningful dialogue.

Since the resolution of these issues would help not only India and Pakistan but South Asia as a whole this new beginning needs to be preserved and pursued to the benefit of the people of South Asia in particular and of the world in general.

World anti-drugs day and our own Mathata Thita

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the principal arm of the UN in the global fight against drugs. The UNODC with its Narcotics Laboratory and the scientific research division along with its training and enforcement divisions is logistically and scientifically equipped to lead the global fight against this scourge of narcotic drugs.

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I do not understand image but I am glad others do

I have never really understood ‘visuals’. I realized this most acutely when I started working as a part time copywriter at Phoenix Ogilvy. I could put word to image but could never imagine appropriate visual for text. Years ago, when I was working in the Sunday Island, Nihal Fernando, Lanka-lover who saw, worked, loved, respected and was through and of lens, suggested in his self-effacing and charming way that we work together on a project.

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A pincer move of oppression

The road to the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake from the Colombo-Negombo Road is named Canada-Ceylon Friendship Road; a gesture of gratitude to Canada for stepping in to complete construction of the country’s only international airport, when the United States of America stopped all aid to then Ceylon, following nationalization of the petroleum bunkering and distribution business of three oil companies Shell, Caltex and Mobil, in 1962, when Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was Prime Minister.

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