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Monday, 16 October 2017
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We should not provide ammunition for "Eelamists" Dr. Kumar Rupasinghe PDF Print E-mail

Dr. Kumar Rupasinghe is an academic actively involved in social issues like Human Rights, Globalization, Conflict Resolution, Peace Building and Peaceful Co-habitation among all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.

 

Dr Rupasinghe is a controversial personality in the political arena of Sri Lanka and his views are challenged by many.

Sri Lanka Watch pubshes the English translation of an Interview given by Dr. Rupasinghe to the Sinhala Weekend Tabloid “Ravaya” on the 29th Oct. 2009.

Q: It seems that we will lose the GSP concession. Do you think the government has been enthusiastic enough to protect it?

A: I was always of the view that the government should establish a dialogue with the EU regarding this. The concession is a trade agreement and the special privileges can only be obtained within the policies ascribed to it. The concession is based on the observance of human rights and employee rights contained in the ILO of the UN. They demand an investigation to claim the concession and therefore to obtain it the investigation is imperative. That is a condition that applies to any transaction. The stand taken by Minister G.L. Peris on the issue is completely in error. The government was misled by his statement that the investigation is a threat to our sovereignty and hence we would not face it. The Minister did not discuss the issue with any of the trade unions in the Free Trade Zone or the garment industry. We proposed that all parties involved discuss this on a democratic platform. We added that we could send a joint letter to the Commission with all our signatures. The trade unions wanted a discussion with the employees on the benefits of the concession so that their welfare could be discussed. This was totally rejected. The Minister ignored this totally. His opinion was that with the mediation of the employers and propaganda alone the concession could be clinched.

We discussed the issue with the Minister for Human Rights Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe because one aspect of the GSP issue was human rights. The special correspondent of the UN on harassment and torture had submitted a proposal for Sri Lanka. We tried to persuade Mr. Samarasinghe to form a committee to look into the proposal. This was not because of the proposal alone but because it was related to human rights in the country. It was rejected. What we saw was that there was a big competition among these Ministers. One did not like to work with the other and all cherished the hope of becoming the next Foreign Minister. When the specialized report on GSP arrived a reply had to be made.
We had to face a massive war. The LTTE was a very cruel organization that violated human rights at will. They kept 300,000 people as hostages in a manner unexpected by many. These factors could have been pointed out and a very good case made but nothing was done. The President appointed a committee of 4 Ministers to study this and they appear not to have done anything.

Q: The popular argument has been that agreeing to GSP conditions was an affront to our sovereignty and independence. Will agreement to human rights conditions affect our sovereignty?

A: Sri Lanka has signed UN agreements since 1950. All UN countries are subject to the laws of the UN. All governments have the responsibility to adhere to the basic laws of the UN. What we have is a relative sovereignty. The sovereignty of all countries is limited to the boundaries of the UN regulations. If it is not possible to agree to these regulations the GSP privilege has to be forfeited and other problems have to be faced in the future. Zimbabwe's Mugabe is maintaining a government that badly violates human rights on the grounds of sovereignty. The value of its currency has dropped by 100,000%. The people are starving and what is the use of sovereignty to the people? Bur can we compare Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe? We adopted the non aligned policy and maintained relationships with the West, India and China. In 1960 we nationalized oil from Western companies but we did not foster enmity. There is a big tussle between China and the US but the statesmanship between the two countries at a very unique level. Even though Cuba has a conflict of opinions with America they maintain a good relationship.
The Sri Lankan economy is linked to the West therefore the trade should be preserved.

Q: Even though there are predictions that the GSP concession will be very harmful to the country the government says that the economy is strong enough to minimize the impact?

A: If this is lost we have to pay a tax of 150 -200 billion. This cannot be done because if this is done there will be issues arising on the concessions in world export market. There are 7200 fields of export involved and this means hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Q: When the relationships with foreign countries have to be cemented during the post war period it is seen that even the leaders of the country are creating antagonism in certain countries. Where will the results take us?

A: The situation in this regard is very complex. When foreign policy is drafted the unique relative situation of the country should be taken into consideration. There 4 million Sri Lankans living abroad. 40% are Sinhalese while the rest are Tamils. While the war with the LTTE was on there are instances when the government had to disregard western advice. Some wanted further dialogue with the LTTE and some wanted permission given to the Tigers to leave to other countries. When Miliband and Kushner made requests they did not consider the situation in which the country faced. The use of 300,000 as human hostages can happen again in the future. The Western world studied it wrong. They had tremendous pressure from the Tamils living in those countries. The other countries that are at war have no such problems. There is no Diaspora for Iraq or Afghanistan. This is the main problem we have. We should not provide ammunition for "Eelamists". We are not engaged in genocide but if we keep 300,000 people in camps restricting their right of movement for a protracted period they can cry foul.

During the war the government had to conflict with the West. The government thought the war must be ended somehow. The foreign policy should be wise enough to engage in a dialogue with those countries after the war. We failed to make use of many such opportunities in history. We missed a great one after the Tsunami. After the war we missed another one.

After the war I told the President that I was of the opinion that this problem should be solved peacefully but that I lost that argument. I told the President that his argument won. I told him however that now the issue is to win peace. I told him to work towards that. My research tells me that a civil war ends after 30 years either by war or peace. In an ethnic war one side looses and the wins. However when one side wins a new plan has to be set out for the people. 850,000 died in the American civil war. After the war Abraham Lincoln said "Let’s forget our differences. Let us free the black people and accept them as citizens of the country. Let us make a new constitution for the freedom of all." He made a united country and the present result is Obama.


 

 
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