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
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
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.
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.