By Sugeeswara Senadhira/Ceylon Today
Colombo, November 23: As the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government completed its first year, the hostile West commenced its attacks on Sri Lanka with renewed vehemence.
Recent reports reflect the ardent desire of the West to find fault with every step taken by the Sri Lankan Government. The moment, a decision to curtail imports were announced with the intention of saving much-needed foreign exchange and also to increase domestic production and exports, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners of European Union countries came up with a joint statement opposing the move.
The EU said it had bought more than a billion Euros worth of goods (220 billion rupees) creating a trade surplus in favor of Sri Lanka. “Trade, however, is not a one-way street. The current import restrictions are having a negative impact on Sri Lankan and European businesses, and on Foreign Direct Investment,” it said.
Banning duty-free luxury vehicle imports
Sri Lanka has every right to restrict imports and the EU statement is blatant interference in the right to regulate trade, which is an internal affair. EU envoys were persuaded to issue the statement by the German Ambassador and a few others, who were in turn influenced by multi-rich agents of luxurious motor cars in Sri Lanka. Luxury car imports were reduced to save valuable foreign exchange. It was a pragmatic move. Furthermore, most of the luxury cars were imported under duty free permits and the country did not get any tax revenue from these imports.
Stabilizing the dollar
The EU’s call came after the government presented the 2021 budget.It maintained that import restrictions must remain in place to stabilize the Rupee. The local currency had depreciated by over 9 per cent by early April against the Dollar. It was 196.75 rupees to the dollar and now remains stabilized around 185. This was mainly due to the banning of vehicle imports. GDP growth had reduced to 1.6 per cent year-on-year in the first-quarter of 2020, following a 2 per cent growth in the last-quarter of 2019, the Central Bank had previously said.
The EU also referred to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, but failed to recognize that WTO member countries have the authority to impose trade restrictions on several grounds. Any country can impose duty even up to 200 per cent for luxury items.
Violators of democratic rights
Another attack came from former Irish President Mary Robinson who picked Sri Lanka from nowhere to list it as one of the violators of democratic rights. In news report published in The Independent in UK under the title: “Former Irish President compares Trump’s refusal to concede US Election with ’volatile and undemocratic situations’ in SL”, she made erroneous and misleading comments.
The former Irish President is the latest ‘democratic champion’ who was gullible enough to swallow hook, line and sinker all the fabricated stories spun by the separatist Tamil Diaspora and their paid NGO lobby.
‘Mary Mary quite contrary’
Robinson, representing a group called ‘The Elders’ says US President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede US Election is similar to the volatile and undemocratic situation in Sri Lanka. God only knows why she thought fit to drag Sri Lanka into Trump’s refusal to concede defeat. Either ‘The Elders’ have become senile or those who briefed Robinson deliberately twisted the facts about Sri Lanka’s rich democratic tradition of peaceful transfer of power at every election since independence.
Neither the Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka nor the Presidents of Sri Lanka tried to forcefully stay in power. The moment they faced electoral defeat, they conceded publicly and handed over power peacefully. In fact, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to know that he was trailing behind opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the 2015 Presidential Election, he conceded defeat even before the final result was declared and not only quit office, but also handed over the official residence and returned to his ancestral home in Medamulana. The principle of respect to the democratic transition of power was displayed by every Prime Minister and every President of Sri Lanka. Mary Robinson’s allegation is an absolute canard.
POAC delists LTTE
If these instances were not enough to understand the agenda of the West and its relentless efforts to discredit the Sri Lankan government at every given opportunity, one should look at the wicked campaign to resurrect the separatist, terrorist outfit, the LTTE. In the United Kingdom, in Octoobe 2020, the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission (POAC) had delisted the LTTE. The POAC stated that it had found the UK Home Office decision to keep the LTTE proscribed as a terrorist organization was “flawed and unlawful”.
the appeal was filed by unnamed members of a group that is believed to be a front for the LTTE called the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam’ (TGTE). It was filed against the UK Home Secretary’s refusal on March 8, 2019 to lift the ban on LTTE under the Terrorism Act 2000. TGTE, which is banned by Sri Lanka, is a Government-in-exile for the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora which continues to pursue the aim of establishing a separate country for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The UK had listed the LTTE as a terror outfit in 2000 and it continues to be banned in 32 countries including India. The final decision of lifting the ban will be taken by the British Home Secretary.
Demanding a separate Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, the LTTE ran a military campaign for nearly 30 years before its defeat in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabakaran.
Sri Lanka had appealed against the judgment saying it has “sufficient evidence to prove the remnants of the LTTE and groups aligned with its terrorist ideology are active in foreign countries, working to incite violence and destabilize the country”.
India continues LTTE ban
The Indian Government also urged UK not to lift the ban on LTTE. India has reportedly shared information on the LTTE to press for the continuation of the ban on the organization. On 13 May 2019, the Indian Government extended the ban for another five years on the LTTE.
At the 43rd Session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of resolution 40/1 and the basis for doing so. He also pointed out a number of aspects of the resolution that were undeliverable as they were not in line with the constitution of Sri Lanka.
Minister Gunawardena, however, assured the government’s continuing commitment to achieving accountability and human rights despite withdrawing from the UN resolutions. Despite such cooperation from Sri Lanka, it is sad that the UNHRC continues its biased policy towards this country. Sri Lanka will have to be extremely vigilant to defeat the designs of the West to undermine its sovereign rights under dubious pretexts.
(The picture at the top shows Mary Robinson, former Irish Prime Minister)