The government yesterday (20), expressed its `deep disillusionment with several developments` it had encountered while lobbying to secure the continuity of GSP plus facility as some officials of the European Commission had attempted to use the facility as a `weapon` against Sri Lanka s sovereignty.
Minister Prof. Peiris replying a special statement made by Chief Opposition Whip on September 24 on the GSP+ issue, said: `We must confess our deep disillusionment with several developments we have encountered in respect of the decision making process. We find particularly disconcerting attitudes directly linked to subjective views, expressed in formal discussions with surprising lack of restraint, by officials of the Commission with regard to a wide range of issues within Sri Lanka s sovereign competence including the acceptability of military action in the country.`
`It is fundamentally wrong, and in any event demonstrably incompatible with the conceptual framework to use GSP+ as a weapon to coerce the government of Sri Lanka into making departures from core national policies which have been formulated and are being implemented, with the overwhelming support of our people. Indeed we have reasons to protest vehemently against the threatened use of GSP+ as `a powerful weapon` against our country for any purpose whatsover.`
He said that the Government was currently engaged in a series of discussions with several countries explaining Sri Lanka s position with clarity.
The GSP+ concessions, which Sri Lanka enjoys at present, serve as a powerful lever for attaining social equity and in particular, women s empowerment. While the competitiveness of a large number of industries have been strengthened by this arrangement, the principal beneficiary is the garment sector. The significant majority of employees in garment factories, many of which are located in the rural heartland of Sri Lanka, are women who are breadwinners for their families and are today major contributors to the upliftment of social and economic conditions in the remoter regions of the Island.
We have no doubt that the States of the European Union share our conviction that the future of these persons who richly deserve empathy, should be one of promise and fulfilment, especially as we enter upon an exciting new phase in the contemporary history of our country.
The need of the hour clearly, is to use all the energy at our command to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable segments of the Sri Lankan community.
This has to be done with perception and sensitivity. It is surely reasonable to try to relegate, at least in this particular context and for the time being, the pursuit of narrow political objectives in the domestic sphere. We believe that all citizens of goodwill, irrespective of political affiliation, will find themselves in agreement with this point of view.
It has to be remembered that the decision making process with regard to GSP+ for Sri Lanka, has not reached finality. The culmination of this process is a determination by the Council of States of the European Union. This determination has yet to be made.
The Government will continue its engagement with the relevant authorities in a spirit of commitment and dedication in accordance with the principles I have explained, he said.