Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris briefing the Colombo-based diplomatic community on Wednesday, October 13, sought assistance for post-pandemic economic activity and ongoing domestic processes in addressing past human rights violations.
He also emphasised the importance of the Generalized System Preferences Plus (GSP+), a European Union trade concession worth over 500 million US dollars.
In his first meeting with all diplomats in one sitting, the minister said that the COVID-19 situation in the country had improved following the vaccination efforts.
The meeting also comes at a time when Sri Lanka is facing unprecedented economic challenges including risk of sovereign debt default in the face of depleted foreign currency reserves and the pandemic.
“The minister sought the cooperation of the diplomatic community in the resumption of tourism and economic activity,” the ministry said in the statement.
The minister also outlined Sri Lanka’s ongoing cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as well as progress purportedly made on reconciliation and human rights through domestic institutions.
Sri Lanka is facing a UN probe into its past allegations of human rights violations and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government has been accused of using the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the country’s controversial anti-terror law, to suppress minorities.
The international community has also raised concerns over the government’s commitment towards justice after the judiciary under the current government acquitted many alleged wrongdoers, even as some convicted criminals received presidential pardons.
On Wednesday, the Attorney General informed the Appeal Court that charges against former Navy Commander Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda over the abduction of 11 ethnic minority Tamil youth will not be proceeded with, local media reported.
This abduction case has drawn international attention as Karannagoda was the Navy chief when Sri Lankan won the 26-year war against Tamil Tiger separatists while current president Rajapaksa was Defence Ministry secretary.
The ministry statement quoted Peiris as saying that Sri Lanka is open in acknowledging the challenges faced and will engage in candid discussions with regard to the domestic process in addressing alleged past human rights abuses, both domestically with civil society representation and as well as with international partners including the UN.
“However, Sri Lanka rejects the establishment of an external mechanism when domestic processes were ongoing (sp),” the ministry said.
The minister also referred to the recent visits from the EU, in the context of the Joint Commission as well as to review the implementation of GSP plus.
“The minister expressed satisfaction that the discussions were held in a cordial manner and that officials have taken note of outstanding matters,” the ministry said.
The minister recalled that the continuation of GSP plus is vital for the Sri Lankan economy, not only in the apparel sector, but also in other areas of bilateral trade.