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Government informs EU of PTA review progress

  • Foreign Minister assures apparel industry of intention to retain GSP+

 

The Foreign Ministry on 25 June had informed the European Union (EU) of action underway to revisit provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, No 48 of 1979 (PTA), with the study of existing legislation, past practice, and international best practices, the Ministry announced yesterday (1).

In a press release, the Ministry said that the EU was informed of the decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers on 21 June to appoint a Cabinet Sub-committee, and an Officials Committee to assist the Cabinet Sub-Committee, to review the PTA and submit a report to the Cabinet within three months. 

“Toward this end, the Officials Committee was appointed on 24 June, with senior representation from the Ministries of Justice, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Public Security; and the Attorney General’s Department, the Legal Draftsman’s Department, the Sri Lanka Police, and the Office of Chief of National Intelligence,” it said.

It added that the EU was further informed of the granting of pardon by the President, exercising his powers in terms of Article 34 of the Constitution, to 16 former LTTE cadres convicted and serving sentences under the PTA, on 24 June.  The organisation was also apprised of the process that has been set in motion to release detainees who have been in judicial custody for a prolonged period under the PTA, it said.

With reference to progress in ongoing reconciliation mechanisms, the Government has informed the EU of the release of Rs. 79 million to the Office of Reparations in June to settle 1,230 processed claims for reparation.  An additional Rs. 80 million was released on 29 June to settle a further 1,451 processed claims, out of a total 3,389 processed claims.

“The Government of Sri Lanka maintains a regular, cordial, and multifaceted dialogue with the EU. This includes the constructive co-operation existing between Sri Lanka and the European Commission on the review of the country’s EU Generalised Scheme/System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) compliance with the 27 core International Conventions. In this regard, the Third Cycle of Review of Sri Lanka in the GSP+ Monitoring Process for 2020-2021 is ongoing. As part of this process, the Foreign Ministry has provided to the European Commission, through diplomatic channels, the comprehensive response of the Government of Sri Lanka to the list of follow-up questions on the current GSP+ monitoring cycle, in adherence to the agreed timeline. The response was compiled by the Foreign Ministry in consultation with 26 line ministries, state ministries, agencies, and commissions. A GSP+ Monitoring Mission for the Third Cycle is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on mutually convenient dates in September/ October 2021,” the Ministry said.

As per the regular engagement between Sri Lanka and the EU, plans are underway to convene the Working Group on Governance, Democracy, Human Rights, and Rule of Law on mutually agreed dates in the fourth quarter of this year. The Foreign Ministry said it looks forward to convening, in consultation with the EU, the 24th session of the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission in the first quarter of 2022 to review all aspects of bilateral co-operation.

The EU Parliament earlier this month called on the GoSL to repeal the PTA, and for the EU Commission to consider the temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ trade concessions to Sri Lanka, if it is not done.

However, while announcing the Government’s intention to review the PTA, Justice Minister Ali Sabry PC stated that the decision by the Government to consider changes to the PTA is not a result of the EU Resolution on it.

“This decision is not because we are afraid of losing the GSP+ but because legal reforms must happen as time goes on,” stressed Ali Sabry PC.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage have also met senior representatives of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) Sri Lanka, the Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL), and trade unions, and reassured them of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the EU GSP+ would continue to remain beneficial to the country, the Foreign Ministry stated. Meetings with the relevant Chambers of Commerce are scheduled with a view to updating them on the Government’s engagement with the EU, it added.