The European Union announced today it is restoring a preferential tax concession for goods imported from heavily-indebted Sri Lanka that it withdrew seven years ago over alleged human rights abuses.
Tung-Lai Margue, ambassador to the delegation of EU to Sri Lanka told reporters that the change would take effect on Friday. Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign exchnage earner is not exports, but migrant remittances that exceed US$7 billion. Margue said the tax concession, known as the Generalized System of Preferences, is being restored as an incentive to make further progress on human rights. It also recognizes efforts the government has made so far, though some issues remain.
Margue said torture and the prevalence of a draconian anti-terror law are among problems needing attention and the EU will monitor Sri Lanka’s progress under the regime of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena. “It is true that the government, in order to get GSP plus has made a lot of effort. But it may not be enough,” Margue said. “It’s not that we are complacent, that we find everything marvelous…”
Sri Lanka’s military has been long accused of serious human rights violations, especially during a decades-long war against Tamil terrorists who were supported by India and the diaspora in Europe and North America. The fighting ended in 2009 but there are continued allegations against the government military and police of using torture.
“It’s clear that there is an ongoing problem,” said Paul Godfrey the EU missions head of the mission’s political, trade and communications section, of allegations of torture against the Sri Lankan government. “But it is important to recognize that this government is the first government to recognize that there was a serious problem with the issue. The first step in addressing a problem is to recognize that you do actually have a problem. I think these are very important signs,” he said. (AP)