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Tuesday May 21st, 2024

EU raises concern over new anti-terrorism draft ahead of trade pact renewal 

ECONOMYNEXT – The European Union has raised concerns over Sri Lanka’s new anti-terrorism draft, its Colombo envoy said, as the new legislation is the key in the bloc’s decision to renew a lucrative trade deal that has helped boost the island nation’s exports.

The Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) is to be renewed next year, but Sri Lanka has failed to fulfil some of the 27 conventions under the broader themes of environmental protection, good governance, human rights, and labour rights it agreed in 2017 when the existing deal was discussed.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has come up with a draft for a new anti-terrorism law which will replace the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The authorities started to work on the new law under the previous president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“It is too early now to make a definitive assessment,” Denis Chaibi, the EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, told Economy Next in an interview at the EU consulate in Colombo on March 28.

“But we can see that there are some difficulties regarding the definition of terrorism or the prison detention powers to declare some organisations terrorist.”

He said the EU also designates organisations as terrorist outfits, but it is done according to “a process that is based on public information that is reviewable by Justice, that is submitted to two different checks and balances”.

“The possibility for one president to decide that the [individual] is a terrorist that should be put in jail is quite a very strong power that exists at the moment. But it seems that it remains so or perhaps we have to wait till we analyse the text, since that is a source of concern.”

Open to Misuse

The proposed draft also has some improvement from the existing PTA, including the removal of a provision pursuant to which a detainee’s confession to a police officer without the presence of the detained person’s lawyer is admissible and the requirement for the arresting officer to issue a document notifying the arrest to the next of kin of the accused immediately or at least within 24 hours.

It also has suggested to employ women police officers to arrest/question and search women, provide guaranteed access to translation in a language of the accused’s choice of information relating to the arrest, and an obligation to bring the detainee before a magistrate every 14 days when the person is detained without a Detention Order (DO).

International rights bodies have also raised concerns over the newly proposed anti-terrorism legislation saying that if adopted as currently formulated, it would give rise to a panoply of human rights violations and, much as the existing PTA,  is open to misuse.

The EU envoy’s comment comes as Sri Lanka is preparing to apply for renewal of the GSP+ later this year. The EU has repeatedly warned that Sri Lanka’s human rights violations could cost the over $500 million worth trade concession.

The island nation’s lost the GSP+ deal in 2009 when former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government refused to address human rights as it fought the final battle in a near three-decade civil war.

Facing an unprecedented economic crisis, Sri Lanka is in the process of speeding up long resisted reforms to secure more investments and grants. Wickremesinghe government’s move to replace PTA comes as a move to ensure the extension of the GSP+.

“Nobody forced Sri Lanka to apply for GSP plus,” Chaibi, the three-decade career diplomat said.

“It’s a choice for Sri Lankans. It is for Sri Lankans to see if there are economic benefits. Our experience as Europeans, is that the four areas where you have conventions that are required for the implementation of GSP plus, indeed, bring economic benefits, perhaps not directly, but certainly indirectly.” (Colombo/April03/2023)

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Sri Lanka declares May 21 as National Mourning day over Iranian President’s death

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka declared a national mourning day on Tuesday, May 21 in view of expressing its solidarity with Iran after sudden death of Iran President Ebrahim Raisi following a helicopter crash.

President Raisi and eight others including Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian were killed in the crash when the helicopter had a “hard landing” reportedly due to adverse weather conditions with heavy fog. However, President’s two convoy helicopters reached the destination safely.

“The Sri Lankan government has declared a national mourning day on tomorrow (May 21) on behalf of the sudden death of Iranian president Mr. Ebrahim Raisi,” the Department of Government Information said in a statement.

It also urged all the state institutions have to hoist the national flag half mast.

Raisi was in Sri Lanka on April 24 to launch the Uma Oya dam on a one-day official visit amid tight security. His helicopter crashed when he was returning to Iran after launching a dam in the Azerbaijan border.

President Raisi is seen as a hardliner and a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said the island nation will deal with Iran for investments and trade without being caught into the United States-led sanctions.

Sri Lanka was unable to receive $450 million from Iran for a recently opened Uma Oya multipurpose project started before the sanctions.

Sri Lanka now exports tea to Iran for no dollar payment. Instead, Sri Lanka tea producers are paid by the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) in rupees for the pending crude oil import payments for Iran.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed his condolences on the tragic incident.

“Sri Lanka is deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian and other senior Irani official,” he said in his official X-platform.

“I express my deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to the bereaved families, the government and the people of Iran.”

Raisi, a Muslim jurist, served as the eighth president of Iran from 2021 until his death. (Colombo/May 20/2024)

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Sri Lanka helps launch Global Blended Finance Alliance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has joined a group of nations led by Indonesia which aims to mobilise capital to achieve carbon neutrality, Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Jeevan Thondaman said.

The Global Blended Finance Alliance mooted by Indonesia in 2018, was formally launched at the World Water Forum in Bali today.

Among the other founding members are Fiji, France, UAE, Kenya, Luxembourg and Canada.

“Through our collective efforts, the Global Blended Finance Alliance aims to mobilise both public and private capital to help nations achieve carbon neutrality and the SDGs,” Thondaman said on social media platform X (twitter).

“The world has a USD 2.5 trillion funding gap to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030,” he said.

Blended finance is the strategic use of development finance, such as public and/or philanthropic funds, for the mobilisation of additional commercial finance towards sustainable development in developing countries. (Colombo/May20/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes slightly stronger at 299.60/75 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee appreciated slightly to close at 299.60/75 to the US dollar on Friday, from 299.70/80 the previous week, dealers said. Bond yields were up.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed up at 10.15/35 percent from 10.05/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed up at 10.45/55 percent from 10.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 10.80/90 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2030 closed at 11.70/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed up at 11.90/12.05 percent from 11.85/12.00 percent. (Colombo/May20/2024)

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