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Sunday, 27 February 2011

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EU decision, an eye-opener

The European Union (EU) took a bold decision last week by including the LTTE again in its list of terrorist groups. The EU took this decision after a comprehensive review and the announcement was made through the Council Implementing Regulation on January 31 and published in the official journal of the EU.

The LTTE has been re-listed among 26 Groups and Entities as it has been involved in terrorist acts within the meaning of Article 1(2) and (3) of the Council Common Position 2001/931/CFSP of December 27, 2001 on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism.

The announcement published in the official journal of the EU states that "The Council has carried out a complete review of the list of persons, groups and entities to which Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 applies, as required by Article 2(3) of that Regulation. When doing so it took into account the observations submitted to the Council by those concerned".

Sri Lanka is fast recovering having eradicated LTTE terrorism on May 18, 2009 and the EU's decision would indisputably shatter even the wildest dreams of Tiger sympathisers. At a time when Sri Lanka is bouncing back with a significant economic boom to regain its lost prestige due to three decades of LTTE terror, it is incumbent on the international community, especially those who strongly campaign against international terror, to extend their wholehearted support.

Hence, the EU's decision amply demonstrates its sincere commitment to eliminate international terrorism. The LTTE has time and again attempted to pull wool over the eyes of the EU. Even LTTE front organisations had resorted to various stratagems to mislead the EU with distorted versions and wrong data. As a result, even the EU took certain decisions and issued statements which were unfavourable to Sri Lanka.

Having failed miserably in its campaigns to exert international pressure to cease the humanitarian operation, the LTTE's propaganda mill is now making another subtle attempt to level war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka. The LTTE goons, along with some invertebrate Opposition politicians had projected a dismal picture on the human rights situation before the international community. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe jumped on the bandwagon and made several tours to Europe to issue concocted statements detrimental to Sri Lanka. Consequently, the EU ceased the GSP Plus trade facility which Sri Lanka enjoyed over a period of time.

Nevertheless, Sri Lanka has shown its resilience notwithstanding the ups and downs. The local garment industry has again proved its competitiveness in the international markets despite adverse external conditions sans any preferential treatment or concessions such as the GSP Plus to European markets. Export figures for 2010 released recently have shown a marginal growth in export to the main EU and US markets.

The growth in the export of garments to the EU, in a situation where GSP Plus tax concessions had been withdrawn, is undoubtedly an encouragement and the industry is progressing in its forward march.

The total value of Sri Lanka's garment exports during the past year was USD 3,359.3 million, a 6.4 percent growth compared to USD 3,157.6 million in 2009. Exports to the EU market were USD 1,702.2 million, a 3.4 percent increase compared to USD 1,646.8 million in 2009. There had been a 34.4 percent increase in total exports during December 2010 compared to the corresponding period in 2009. Exports to the US and EU markets had increased by 35 and 32.8 percent during the month.

Apart from the withdrawal of the GSP Plus trade concession to the EU, the garment industry had to encounter the negative impact of the global financial crisis in the first and second quarters of the year. Sri Lanka's export revenue would have been definitely higher, had the GSP Plus concessions been in place. Sri Lanka had lost an added advantage due to the LTTE sympathisers and Sri Lanka's opportunist Opposition politicians.

In this scenario, the EU has taken a praiseworthy decision by re-listing the LTTE as a terror outfit. It is an open secret how the LTTE disrupted normal life and was hell-bent on inflicting misery on millions of people, killing thousands of innocent civilians and destroying public property indiscriminately.

Sri Lanka had not only eliminated the LTTE to rescue over half a million people held as a human shield by Tiger terrorists, but also set an example to the rest of the world by reintegrating ex-terrorists in society. When LTTE terror was vanquished in May 2009, over 11,000 child soldiers and other terrorists surrendered to the Security Forces. The Government set in motion a special rehabilitation program to reintegrate them into the society.

The rapid pace at which the rehabilitation and reintegration process of ex-LTTE combatants took place during the past one-and-a-half years is an eye-opener to other countries that face a similar fate. Many ex-LTTE cadre have been reintegrated into civilian life and are now exploiting the vocational training they received to uplift their living conditions.

The Government with the assistance of foreign organisations has spent a colossal sum of money to develop and restore normal civilian life in those areas affected by LTTE terror. Moreover, roads and other infrastructure have been rebuilt and social development programs are in place with more in the pipeline. Most of the people displaced due to terrorism have returned to their original homes as the country now focuses on healing and reconciliation.

The Government has spared no pains to restore most of the things that were lost due to the LTTE's inhuman acts and barbaric terrorism. Whatever said and done, it is sad but true that the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and social leaders assassinated by the LTTE could never be restored. The Government is making a concerted effort to provide a secure future with better infrastructure facilities for those who have been displaced and for those living in the North and the East.

President Rajapaksa and the UPFA Government have won successive elections with a thumping majority and the masses have pledged their utmost support to the President in no uncertain terms to take Sri Lanka towards new economic horizons. The continued support of the international community including the EU would enable Sri Lanka to reach that goal sooner rather than later.

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