From left: Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry, Deshal de Mel
Pic by Damith Wickramasinghe
- Says govt. against re-introduction of death penalty; to announce stance shortly
- SL exported 2.8bn Euros worth goods to the EU in 2018 dominated by apparels
- EU suspended SL’s GSP Plus status in 2010 on alleged human rights violations
By Nishel Fernando
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday expressed concerns over the possibility of the European Union (EU) pulling out the GSP Plus concessionary scheme given to Sri Lanka as the country moves to reinstate death penalty.
During a meeting with the heads of media organizations, President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday said he signed death sentences for four people convicted of drug-related offences.
“I have already signed the death penalty for four (convicts). It will be implemented soon and we have already decided the date as well,” President Sirisena said without giving further details.
In 2010, the EU suspended Sri Lanka’s GSP Plus status based on a report on identified shortcomings in the implementation of three UN human rights conventions which includes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
However, after successful negotiations by the current government, the EU reinstated the GSP Plus facility to Sri Lanka with effect from May 19, 2017.
Minister Samaraweera during a press conference held yesterday in Colombo stressed that the government is against the re-introduction of death penalty and said that the government will formally announce its stance shortly.
Sri Lanka exported 2.8 billion Euros worth of goods to the EU in 2018 dominated by apparel and textile products.
Under GSP Plus, 66 percent of tariff lines covering products including fisheries and textile are completely removed.
Meanwhile, Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry Deshal de Mel who also addressed the press conference said the government may not completely revise the budget 2019 following the Easter Sunday setback, which adversely impacted the revenue streams.
“There may not necessarily be a complete revision to the budget itself,” de Mel said.
In the immediate aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks, State Finance Minister Eran Wickramaratne said that the government was to revise budget 2019 due to the significant impact on revenue streams.
Currently the Finance Ministry officials are in the process of reviewing the budget 2019 in order to realign expenditure priorities to meet envisaged fiscal targets for the year, de Mel said.
“There has been some degree of impact on revenue. During the first half of the year, there has been a decline on the import side, particularly regarding imports. We will make necessary adjustments to ensure that we maintain fiscal targets,” he stressed.
The government was targeting to contain the fiscal deficit at 4.2 percent of GDP this year at the time they presented the budget 2019 to Parliament in March.
EU says monitoring implementation of conventions relating to GSP Plus
The European Union yesterday issuing a statement said it unequivocally opposes the death penalty as it is cruel, inhuman and a degrading punishment.
The statement pointed out that the move to reinstate death penalty after a moratorium of 43 years, would directly contradict Sri Lanka’s commitment taken at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in December 2018 to maintain the moratorium.
“Resuming the death penalty would also send a wrong signal to the international community, investors and partners of the country,” the statement noted.
The EU said it will continue to monitor Sri Lanka’s effective implementation of the 27 international conventions relating to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus commitment, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Since the end of the internal conflict, Sri Lanka has achieved major progress to consolidate the basis for a resilient, democratic and inclusive society.
The European Union, as a partner and friend of Sri Lanka, expects the authorities to make every effort to preserve these achievements, and to uphold the country’s international commitments,” the statement said.