The European Union is currently reviewing the suspension of GSP+ granted to Sri Lanka in 2017.
In this respect, one has to consider the unacceptable state of accountability, justice and rule of law in Sri Lanka and how far they have been respected and observed by Sri Lanka as a member of HRC and UN.
In this respect, the following omissions and commissions of Sri Lankan government justify the suspension of GSP+ or even full withdrawal of it due to Sri Lanka’s defiant denigration and disrespect of human rights and good governance:-
1). The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 which is the main arbitrary weapon of government is enthusiastically enforced against opposition figures, human rights activists, and critical journalists including Members of Parliament like Rishard Badiuddin.
2). A token release of sixteen(16) political prisoners was enacted with much publicity to appease the HRC, UN, and International Community while more than hundred(100) Tamil political prisoners are still languishing in jails for several years awaiting the dawn of justice.
3). Convicted and jailed war criminals are released from jails encouraging the commission of crimes like Duminda de Silva an accused murderer of a Member of Parliament Bharatha Laksman Premachchandra in 2011 and sentenced to death in 2016. Please see the link “b” below:-
4). Human Rights are nonchalantly trampled by the government of Sri Lanka and its security forces.
5). The arrest of Mr. Gajendran, Member of Parliament on September 03, 2021 in Jaffna trying to commemorate at a memorial function of a fast unto death Tamil youth and the attempt to shoot two Tamil prisoners of war on September 12, 2021 in Anuradhapura jail by a State Minister Lohan Ratwatte have been enacted in public and openly.
6). The Presidential Committee set up on the recommendation of the Political Victimization Commission set up on January 28 th 2021, has recommended the exemption of prosecutions and withdrawals of pending cases against security personnel and the state officials involved in alleged war crimes etc is a grave assault on human rights, accountability and justice which needs the urgent response from the Human Rights Committee of the EU and other International Human Rights orgs.
7). The sweeping statements of government ministers that the more than 65,000 enforced disappeared Tamil persons are dead and gone, are nothing but a lethal blow to the relatives and loved ones of the disappeared who are continuing a fasting campaign for more than 1500 days, besides making the provisions of its own Enforced Involuntary Disappearances Act 2016 nugatory.
8). The HRC Resolutions right from 2015 calling for implementations of several Recommendations remain intact except the setting up of a limping Office of Missing Persons and Ratification of UN Enforced Disappearances Convention which largely are of bereft of provisions to uphold accountability against the security forces who are alleged to have committed war crimes etc.
The Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris’s statement on September 14, 2021 completely rejecting all allegations made by HRC against Sri Lanka is the final nail in the coffin and the lid to close accountability and justice from the authoritarian Sri Lankan government. The statement of the EU Ambassador on October 05, 2021, which calls for “Effective implementation of International commitments forms the basis of Sri Lanka’s privileged access to EU market ”is timely and appropriate.
UNHRC’s Resolution on October 07, 2021, on Afghanistan on human rights situation establishing a Special Rapporteur is a timely one and it is hoped that HRC will sooner or later adopt a similar Resolution on Sri Lanka which has been the subject of several HRC Resolutions since 2012 but still continuing to discard them and denying the due accountability and justice for the Tamil war victims of Sri Lanka. It is our firm hope that the European Union will continue the suspension and
even consider the complete withdrawal of GSP+ until Sri Lanka respects, complies and implements all the Recommendations of HRC Resolutions passed since 2015.
It is to be noted that the recent disturbing incidents appear to signal the resumption of acts of state terrorism. The ongoing witch hunt of searching, arresting and detaining Tamil youths who are leading peaceful civil lives could signal the return of dictatorial military rule. The recent killing of Mr. Manikkam Jeyakumar, Development Officer, Kopay who was abducted on September 28, 2021 and his body found on September 30, 2021 from a well in another village, suspected to be by the government military intelligence unit has sent shudders to the thousands of other Tamil youths who are leading peaceful lives as ordinary civil citizens.
Reference link below:-
In conclusion, the recent statement of President Gothapaya in the UN pledging “meaningful solution for the underlying problems” is only an opportunistic one not seriously intended for implementation as happened earlier on several occasions since 2015 not to mention the various promises made by Sri Lankan governments since independence in 1948.
It is an indisputable fact that unless and until punitive measures are taken against Sri Lanka human rights, justice and accountability will continue suffocated and trampled with impunity.
It has to be stated that Sri Lanka rarely acts on its own to remedy the grievances of Tamils, but it does so whenever a third party or another country intervenes and involves as happened before when Sri Lanka signed the Indo-Sri Lanka accord 1987 due to India’s intervention and very recently when the Sri Lankan government agreed to hold the much delayed Provincial Council elections in the North and East of Sri Lanka due to pressure exerted by the Indian Foreign Minister Subramaniam Jayasankar, when he visited Sri Lanka recently. As such, we earnestly hope and request the European Union to play a similar role to remedy the long standing grievances of the victimized Tamils.
Thambu Kanagasabai – LLM – London, and former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo.