He is responding to a statement issued by Rajapaksa ‘Government should not create unrealistic expectations about GSP Plus’ that says that obtaining the GSP Plus facility is trivial, since Sri Lanka is very close to passing the threshold of an upper middle income country.
Minister Samaraweera says, “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.
This period of, at the very least four years, comes just when the European economy starts to show signals of growth recovery. With less unemployment and more consumer demand, this is the moment to join in enhanced partnership with the European Union!
But let me add a point. Mr. Rajapaksa’s reasoning that we shouldn’t aspire to a better deal, because some time in the future the economy will grow is callous and insensitive to the workers of our country and their families. It reflects a complete lack of concern for our workers who expect progress in the immediate present, and they deserve progress in the immediate present. So what if Sri Lanka, thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of its entrepreneurs and workers looks poised to cross a certain threshold of average income?
Does it mean that we, as a government, should sit on our hands without giving them the opportunity for a better deal that they deserve now in the present?
Shouldn’t we help them to reach our national goals sooner rather than later?
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 advisers, and their determination to deny the people of this country their rights that resulted in Mr. Rajapaksa failing to retain the GSP Plus facility. It was ill-advised to not implement the 2011 recommendations of the LLRC, a Commission which he himself appointed, to protect citizens from torture, criminalize disappearances, and fully investigate cases of human rights violations. In fact it was an injustice caused to the law abiding soldiers of this country as well. Having failed himself, and the people of our country, now in 2017, it is simply invidious to criticize a successful measure that the Government seeks to implement for the benefit of the people of our country.
We know very well how Mr. Rajapaksa and his advisers tried until the last minute to retain the GSP Plus facility in 2010, and lost. Licking their wounds, they then sought to lie to the people by saying that he decided to not pursue the facility, to avoid damage to the country’s political, legal and institutional framework. He probably still can’t get over those lies. So he keeps repeating them in different formulations and words even seven years later in 2017. For this government, the GSP Plus system is a partnership that helps our nation and our 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 on our nation and our people. Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan people deserve the best in the world. Sri Lanka is a proud nation and the Sri Lankan people are a proud people with the self-confidence to speak and act as equals with every country or group of countries in the world. We don’t need to hide from global dialogue in order to feel better. On the contrary, we feel stronger when our laws reflect the best of global humanism, when our citizens benefit from the best law enforcement, when our workers and entrepreneurs see the ports of the world open to the fruit of their efforts.”