Senior Catholic figures, including the Archbishop of Colombo, are in Europe to lobby in favour of Sri Lankan Government. Their joint goal is to retain GSP+.
The statement released below is a direct rebutal of the actions of these religious elites. Written by priests from several denominations and including several Sinhalese, their words provide the more authentic voice of what real Christians who are close to those who are suffering have to say.
Clergy Campaign for GSP+ in Sri Lanka
We the undersigned a group of clergymen from Sri Lanka of the Catholic, Anglican and Methodist Churches would like to present before you our views on the issue of the GSP+ and the involvement of the clergymen in the same.
It is reported that a group of Sri Lankan senior clergymen is touring the major cities in Europe in support of their government’s request for the extension of GSP+ facility. Obviously the facility if denied could cause immense economic hardships to the people here.
The warning of withdrawal was given to the government on the ground of serious violations of human rights for which the government is directly responsible. It is well known that the respect for human rights is one of the essential aspects agreed upon between the two countries when the GSP+ contract was signed.
But, the occurrence of human rights violations every day in Sri Lanka is a fact. The most recent incident was the attack by a police constable, on some flimsy reason, on a mentally retarded youth, beaten by a pole while in the sea until he drowned.
The violations that have taken place among the Tamils in the North particularly among the 250000 IDPS are already well known. Incidents of human rights violations such as disappearances, abductions and death threats happen not only in the North but also in the South. There are series incidents of journalists being attacked or gunned down. Many have left the country for fear of death. Most of these crimes are either not investigated or are subjected to cursory probes from statutory authorities. Such violations could not occur in a country where good governance prevails.
Those working in the garment sector will be among those worst affected by withdrawal of GSP+ but even now those workers in the garment sector do not receive a living wage and they are made to do overtime against their wish. The living conditions of these workers are appalling.
Despite numerous labour issues affecting their freedom, the workers are not being allowed the right to organize unions.
Strangely the clergymen who intervene to defend the human rights record of the government, have done almost nothing to defend the rights of the victims who suffer from the failures of this present government.
Therefore it is responsibility of the Church both in Sri Lanka and outside to bring influence on the government of Sri Lanka to guarantee respect for human rights, protection and security to all people.
Sadly the Church in Sri Lanka has been quite silent on such issues of crucial importance in terms of security to human life, but it has rushed quickly to the aid of the government. It is difficult to understand what their agenda can be? We hope you’ll take the opportunity of the visit of these faith leaders to Europe to ask them what they are doing to promote and implement Sri Lanka’s obligations under the various international conventions on civil and political rights which the Government here only honours in the breach.
We call for honest and supportive trade between nations allowing us all to live a decent standard of living but this should not be at the expense of our human rights. GSP+ has brought us neither!