The Government today defended the decision to regain the GSP plus trade concession from the European Union (EU).
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera noted that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a statement titled ‘Government should not create unrealistic expectations about GSP Plus’ had said that that obtaining the GSP Plus facility is trivial, since Sri Lanka is very close to passing the threshold of an upper middle income country.
“He conveniently hides a fundamental issue. A country has to be classified as “upper middle income” by the World Bank for three consecutive years in order to be no longer eligible for the GSP Plus. Even if Sri Lanka were to reach that threshold tomorrow, we would still have access to the advantages of GSP Plus for three years, and for one additional year after the decision is taken to withdraw the benefit. This shows that Mr. Rajapaksa is clearly trying to distort facts because he can’t acknowledge the fact that the National Unity Government has in fact managed to obtain a formidable boost to Sri Lanka’s economy, in application of Article 4(1) of the GSP Regulation of 2012, for at least four years,” Samaraweera said.
Samaraweera also said that the idea that GSP Plus puts Sri Lanka “under the supervision” of the EU is simply absurd.
“By committing to a number of universal human rights principles, we do nothing that was not already recommended by Sri Lankan people who came before the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to give their input and views. Protecting every citizen from torture is not an alien imposition. It is a sovereign decision from a humanistic nation, towards its own citizens, inspired by the most sacred human values and principles. How ironic that Mr. Rajapaksa who claims to be not just a follower but a guardian of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, does not advocate granting the very basic human rights principles and rights and freedoms to the citizens of this country! Don’t our citizens deserve the highest standards of protection? Don’t our citizens deserve the highest standards of human rights and freedoms? It was incompetence and arrogance of Mr. Rajapaksa and his advisors, and their determination to deny the people of this country their rights that resulted in Mr. Rajapaksa failing to retain the GSP Plus facility,” Samaraweera added.
Samaraweera said that for this Government, the GSP Plus system is a partnership that helps the nation and people regain their due place once again on the international stage as a respected nation and a respected people standing shoulder to shoulder with the international community, shedding the pariah tatters that the former Government chose to put the nation and people. (Colombo Gazette)