Disappointed with reform promises

A delegation of the European Parliament currently visiting Sri Lanka has welcomed a number of positive developments that have taken place since their last official visit, however expressed concern that the progress achieved has been slower than originally hoped.

The European Parliamentary Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia is paying an official visit to Sri Lanka from 1-3 November 2017.

The delegation is comprised of the Chair Ms Jean Lambert (UK), Vice-Chair Mr Richard Corbett (UK), Ms Ulrike Mueller (Germany) and Mr Wajid Khan (UK).

Issuing a statement today (2), the delegation of the European Parliament welcomed the number of positive developments that have taken place since their last official visit, such as the decision to readmit Sri Lanka to its preferential trade programme GSP+ and the lifting of the ban on Sri Lanka’s fisheries exports to the EU market.

“These measures will create more job opportunities and foster bilateral trade.”

However, the MEPs have underlined during their discussions that GSP+ was granted as an incentive for the reform process that the Government of Sri Lanka has embarked on.

MEPs also clarified that a condition for the European Parliament not to oppose the granting of GSP+ was to follow closely the implementation of the 27 international conventions on human rights, good governance, labour rights and environment.

The MEPs expressed concern that the progress achieved has been slower than originally hoped, but that the foundations for that progress were now mostly in place.

The Chair encouraged the Government of Sri Lankan to pursue their deliberations on constitutional reform with a view to further strengthening the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and, of course, the process of national reconciliation.

It was noted that a number of important issues remain pending, in particular the revision of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on which the Prime Minister and other senior figures had given their personal assurances, the statement said.

The MEPs regretted that the release of land in the North has been slower than expected and that compensation had not yet been paid for land that the authorities intend to retain.

MEPs also welcomed the establishment of the Office on Missing Persons, but were concerned that more progress had not been achieved on national reconciliation and accountability and encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to step up efforts to achieve the ambitious goals to which it has committed.

The MEPs reiterated their view that the European Union should remain engaged and look to further strengthen its relations with Sri Lanka at this critical juncture.

The visit provided Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) with an opportunity to inform themselves on developments since their last official visit in 2016 and to discuss issues of common interest with the Sri Lankan authorities.

The delegation visited the Northern Province on 1 November and met with the Governor and civil society representatives. They also visited an EU funded resettlement site and held discussions with some of those who have resettled. ( TELO)

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