The European Commission (EC) decision to suspend GSP Plus trade concession to Sri Lanka has come as no surprise. That the EU/EC would time such action for the presidential election here was a foregone conclusion.
The EU is still smarting from its failure to have the Vanni military offensive halted before the decimation of the LTTE leadership last May. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband frantically rushed here, as if to prevent a nuclear cataclysm, to save Prabhakaran et al but the duo had to return home humbled, disappointed and piqued.
Head of EU mission in Sri Lanka Bernard Savage is reported to have said that the EU has no favourites as such in the presidential race and its stand on Sri Lanka will remain the same whatever the outcome of Jan. 26 election may be.
Ambassadorial pronouncements are to be taken with a pinch of salt. But, that the on-going human rights witch-hunt against Sri Lanka, to which the EU is a party, is aimed at effecting a regime change here by way of retaliation is only too well known. It is against this background that the suspension of GSP Plus for Sri Lanka at this particular juncture should be viewed.
JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, upon his return from a tour of Europe, claimed the other day that some high ranking EU officials he met there had confided to him that the EU would soften its hostile stand on Sri Lanka`s GSP Plus in case of a political change here. Whether any top EU politician or bureaucrat considered it worth his or her while to lend an ear to Somawansa is in doubt but his utterances are indicative of an effort to capitalise on the GSP Plus issue.
The announcement of the EC decision came exactly on the eve of the submission of nominations for the presidential election! And the EU member states are scheduled to decide on the matter within two months.
It is not that Sri Lanka`s economy is going to crash because of the suspension of GSP Plus, which has today become more a bonus than a dire necessity. Sri Lanka would have lost it anyway sooner or later. But, the EC decision will serve as grist for the mill of the political forces here subservient to the western bloc.
Thus, the EU has ensured that the presidential candidate whose interests dovetail with its own will be able to make some political capital out of the GSP Plus suspension by offering to get it back, if he becomes President.
Opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka`s allegation that he was informed that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered General Officer Commanding Maj. Gen. Shavindra Silva to kill surrendering LTTE leaders has given a turbo boost to the human rights witch-hunt against Sri Lanka. The timing of his remark couldn`t have been unintentional in that it came in time for the EC decision. It has also made a contribution to a UN investigation into Sri Lanka s alleged human rights violations.
State Department Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley told the media on Tuesday in response to Fonseka`s allegation that a report had been submitted to the UN. He said the US was fully supportive of the UN investigation. He made a vain attempt at obfuscation when his allegation at issue boomeranged on him with a devastating political effect, but it has already done irreparable damage to the image of the army and the country. Regrettably, within a few days of his entry into politics, Fonseka has ruined his reputation as a professional soldier.
The EC decision in question has all the trappings of a resumption of the EU`s diplomatic war against Sri Lanka. The EU is ably assisted in that task by the same forces that went all out to scuttle the country`s war on terror.
However, a hostile international campaign against Sri Lanka at this hour is likely to prove counterproductive to its architects because it is bound to provide a rallying point to the nationalist forces that President Mahinda Rajapaksa banks on to win elections.