By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
The visiting European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) said that they are not ‘satisfied’ with the Kandy riots that erupted recently even when there was adequate Police protection being provided to those attacked. They thus urged the Government to ensure that there is no impunity from prosecution of the perpetrators, whoever they may be.
At the press conference held yesterday (5) at the European Union Colombo office, Standing Rapporteur, European Conservatives and Reformists Sajjad Karim, from the United Kingdom, said that the only way to reinstate good community relations is to reach out and ensure cohesion between all the communities. “We demand nothing from Sri Lanka as many factions of the people have projected us as being, but want to see a ‘tolerant, vibrant and open’ Sri Lanka which its people want too.”
He also noted that a vibrant country that is stable and predictable is very important for foreign investors.
He added that having discussed with the Speaker of the House Karu Jayasuriya and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem, both were of the view that impunity will not play out this time around’ and assured the European Parliament delegation that they can expect to see the proper prosecution of the persons who carried out those heinous acts in Digana, in the Kandy Administrative District.
The delegation, headed by Jan Zahradil and comprising six INTA Members, including Karim, believes that the Government needs to keep the country on the path to reform. They stressed that the opportunity to address the remaining issues should not be missed and highlighted the need to make further progress in implementing the international human rights conventions relevant to the Generalized System/Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and further improve labour conditions.
The team, which came to Sri Lanka to follow up on the country’s commitments, made in exchange for access to the European Union (EU) market, further noted that they don’t want to see the country ‘lose’ the GSP+ again because the Government is showing major progress and improvement.
“If you could only go on this journey, as it is now showing keenness on improving and implementing some of the international conventions for the GSP+ fully, on the rights and labour issues, to mention few, that is the progress we want to see, noted Chair of the EU Parliament’s INTA Zahradil.
He added that the GSP+ is of major importance for the Sri Lankan economy. The INTA delegation was pleased to note that trade between the EU and Sri Lanka is on an upward trajectory following the entry into force of the GSP+ last summer, making the EU, Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner.
Karim said that they were informed that the reformed Prevention of Terrorism Act will soon be before the Parliament and that the Constitutional requirements in the legislation will be adhered to and that they are looking forward to seeing the completion of that legislation.
Stating that the No-Confidence Motion, that was brought against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament and the Government defending its stance, purely demonstrated that a vibrant democracy now exists in Sri Lanka.
“This is the opportunity for the Government to work on the progress and the opportunity to continue its commitment it made on the GSP+. There is certain progress being made in labour laws and the human rights records which is “generally positive,” noted Zahradil.
Karim said that they did not come to monitor the progress on the GSP+ but to be partners in the journey where Sri Lanka will achieve what it wants for its people. He noted that the GSP+ is progressing well as of now.
During the three-day visit, the INTA delegation met the Prime Minister and key Parliamentarians including the Speaker, the Opposition Leader, the Minister of Law and Order, the Minister of Trade and Development, the Minister of Labour, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. The visit also included discussions with civil society activists, trade unionists, and representatives of the International Labour Organization and the United Nations, as well as a field visit to the Export Processing Zone in Katunayake.