In this era of neo-colonialism, invaders do not land brandishing blood stained sabres and dreadful muskets. They approach their targets, flashing saccharin smiles and flaunting cheque books. Musketeers and swordsmen have given way to Economic Hit Men who facilitate the use of aid as an effective weapon. In the days of colonialism, courageous nations that rebelled against colonial plunderers were put to the sword straight away but today the countries that antagonise neo-colonial forces are put to a slow death through a process of economic strangulation.
Sri Lanka`s experience with the western powers is a case in point. When she rose against the British in Wellassa in 1817-18, she lost over 30,000 people including all male children, lush paddy fields and all fruit bearing trees at the hands of a marauding colonial army. Her defiance of the EU and the US in battling terror has provoked the West into adopting different methods to penalise her. The US stooped to the level of blocking an IMF stand-by facility she had applied for. The UK and the rest of the EU unleashed their Human Rights minutemen and media oprichniki in what had all the trappings of a fox hunt to tame Sri Lanka. The EU also decided to use GSP Plus as a weapon against her let loose some NGOs on Sri Lanka got them to question her eligibility for that trade concession and then suspended it on some flimsy pretext.
Now, we have Head of EU Delegation in Colombo Bernard Savage saying that the suspension of GSP Plus is not a punishment! Sri Lanka will not melt in the Indian Ocean simply because of the GSP suspension/withdrawal but it was doubtlessly by way of punitive action that the EU decided to suspend that concession. Savage`s claim is devoid of any logic.
If the suspension of GSP Plus does not amount to punishment, then one may argue that hanging a man is also not tantamount to penalty. You drag someone to the gallows, cover his face, put the hangman`s noose around his neck and pull the lever. He dangles with his eyes bulging and his tongue lolling. While he is pushing up the daisies, you call what you have done to him not punishment but `ENGAGEMENT`. What a way to `engage` people! Fanatics who burnt people at the stake also claimed that they did so with very good intentions!
True, Sri Lanka cannot demand the renewal of GSP Plus as of right like the rude mendicants of Colombo who bang on the windows of flashy vehicles that stop at colour lights, asking for money. But, by using the GSP Plus as a weapon, the EU has made a mockery of its civility. It has laid bare its true face as a bloc which does not hesitate to resort to discrimination whenever the need arises for it to force its will on the developing world. If it is Sri Lanka`s human rights record that has really led to the GSP Plus suspension, then how come the EU continues to grant the same concession to some Latin American countries like Colombia? Are human rights better protected in those countries?
In this post-war period, Sri Lanka is faced with the daunting task of rehabilitation, rebuilding and demilitarisation and if the EU is really desirous of helping strengthen her democracy battered by a protracted war, it should desist from slapping politico-economic obstacles on her path.
If the EU and its panjandrums think they could camouflage their sinister attempts to make Sri Lanka`s economy scream, with euphemistic Newspeak, and pull the wool over the eyes of the discerning public here, they are sadly mistaken.