investigating signatories to
statement on Sara
controversy surrounding the possibility of Sri Lanka
losing the GSP+ facility from the EU even resulted in
state investigation units inquiring into a statement
condemning the death threats received by Executive
Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dr.
Following is the statement, which was signed by
concerned citizens, intellectuals and civil society
“Statement Condemning Death Threat Against Dr. P.
concerned citizens and members of civil society
organisations committed to the protection and defence of
human rights and democracy in Sri Lanka, we are gravely
disturbed at the most recent attempt to intimidate Dr.
Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Director, Centre for Policy
Alternatives through a death threat by letter posted to
his home. We condemn it unreservedly.
August 20th, 2009 Dr. Saravanamuttu received a letter
threatening him with death for allegedly passing
information to the European Union which the letter
claims will result in the GSP + plus facility being
denied to Sri Lanka.
Saravanamuttu, and the organisation he heads, the Centre
for Policy Alternatives, is involved in contributing to
public policy making and implementation processes to
ensure good governance, proposing constructive policy
alternatives aimed at strengthening and safeguarding
democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, human rights and
social justice, and drawing attention to the social and
political consequences of development. At a time when
space for dissent has been restricted he has been one of
the outspoken critics showing exemplary courage in
a well respected scholar and is invited to speak and
write not only on Sri Lanka but on broader issues of
democracy, governance and social justice issues at a
global level, by many institutions and organisations
around the world.
past years, Dr. Saravanamuttu and the CPA have engaged
in a range of actions aimed at ensuring that the Sri
Lankan government honours its obligations under Sri
Lankan law and international conventions that it has
ratified. This work has often been in collaboration with
other Sri Lankan organisations concerned with the
promotion and protection of human rights in accordance
with the right of association and expression guaranteed
in the Constitution.
campaign to call for the Government of Sri Lanka to
comply with its obligations under the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and a
host of other international agreements that Sri Lanka
has ratified has been an ongoing one by CPA and other
organisations working to ensure human rights
The engagement of these groups with the discussions on
the extension of the GSP+ facility to Sri Lanka is part
of this wider process. As reiterated by the CPA, its
position is that GSP Plus benefits must be renewed, and
should use the opportunity to also strengthen its human
rights protection framework by complying with
international and national law.
deplore the intimidation levelled at Dr. Saravanamuttu
and call upon the state to take all necessary measures
to investigate and bring to justice those responsible
for making these threats. We also extend our solidarity
and support to Dr. Saravanamuttu and to all at the
Centre for Policy Alternatives at this time, and call on
the authorities to ensure that all steps necessary are
taken to guarantee the safety and security of Dr.
Saravanamuttu, his family and his staff.
However, the CID eventually questioned many of the
signatories of this statement.
Sepali Kottegoda, Women and Media Collective:
asked me whether I knew Sara and how I found out about
the petition. They asked where I had seen the death
threat, and I told them that I had seen it on the Center
for Policy Alternatives website. They were very polite,
and said that headquarters had sent them. They made it
clear that they were only doing what they were asked to
do. The investigation didn’t frighten me at all — in
fact, the Women and Media Collective is currently
drafting a similar statement about death threats to
activists in other parts of the country.”
petition was circulated independently of me. If the CID
was questioning the signatories to find out how they
found out about the death threat, that’s fine. But it
carries the implication that people are being
intimidated by signing the petition. In a functioning
democracy, that should be completely impossible. It has
a chilling effect on civil society. As far as the
investigation is concerned, I made a statement to the
local police, two statements to the Colombo Crime
Division, and a 12-page written statement to the CID. I
pointed out to the CID that the government has been
using violent language against me. The Defense Ministry
and the government propaganda machine has been vilifying
me during the actual investigation.”
Signatory who wished to remain anonymous:
asked to come to my office for the interview. They asked
me whether the death threat was serious or not, and I
said that was for them to decide. I found the CID a
little incompetent. They didn’t seem too keen to know
what was going on. It was more about trying to discredit
the signatories of the petition. It was interesting to
see how the government reported it. The President
basically put the Channel 4 incident, the UNP, the UN,
and this statement in one box, saying that this is all a
conspiracy against the country. To me, this is a crazy
argument. It’s just like after 9/11 in America — nobody
is allowed to challenge the government. The whole
investigation wouldn’t have happened if the petition
didn’t coincide with the visit from the UN.”
exports too will be affected
from apparels, other major exports to the European Union
(EU) countries under the GSP+ duty free concession
include leather products, fish, vegetables and fruits,
rubber products, gems and jewellery,
Financial Controller, Jafferjee Brothers Exports (Pvt)
Ltd, V. Balasurendra told The Sunday Leader that in the
event the country loses the GSP+ concession exporters to
the EU would have to reduce their prices in order to
retain their buyers.
do not reduce our prices then the EU buyers would
certainly turn to other importers and eventually we
would lose our buyers. We are at the mercy of the buyers
and all depends on the rate of duty we have to pay in
the event of losing the GSP+ concession,” Balasurendra
According to Balasurendra, Jafferjee Brothers export 60%
of their rubber products to the USA and Canada and 40%
to Sweden and UK.
However when asked whether they would find an
alternative market to export their products in order to
avert any losses, Balasurendra said they depend on the
According to jewellery exporters, Tropical Findings,
losing the zero rate duty concession would badly impact
the local export business but added that Tropical
Findings would not find it so difficult as their major
markets were the USA and Far Eastern countries.
had the privilege over most of the other countries to
get the EU concession but in the event if the country
loses the concession it would certainly affect the
export industry. In our business the major markets are
the USA and the Far Eastern countries so as a result it
would not affect us that much but will to a certain
extent,” General Manager, Tropical Findings, Dammika
Fernando told The Sunday Leader.
of GSP+ will have huge impact
garment industry has warned that the possible loss of
the GSP+ trade concession would have an adverse impact
on the sector.
According to Secretary General, Joint Apparel
Association Forum (JAAF) Rohan Masakorale the apparel
industry would have to pay an additional 10% in the
event the country is denied the GSP+ facility, which was
enjoyed over the past several years.
additional payments differ from one product to another
and when talking about the apparel industry the buyer
would have to pay an additional 10% in which case the
buyer would decide whether to go for our higher priced
product or find an alternative. This cost difference
would badly impact the industry,” Masakorale told The
asked as to whether the JAAF has found any other
alternative market in the event the country loses the
European Union (EU) market, Masakorale said that even if
the country loses the GSP+ facility the export sector
could survive in the EU market.
major buyers are the 15 EU countries and the USA that
have the buying power and are going for new fashions.
Our products would be exported even if we lose the GSP+
concession but it is up to the buyers to decide whether
they would go for our products which would cost more or
whether they should buy from any other country which
would cost them less,” added Masakorale.
asked as to how many apparel sector employees have lost
their jobs over the past year due to the world recession
Masakorale said that the JAAF has not obtained the
statistics for the past year but added that it could be
around 10,000 – 15,000.
JAAF is yet to get the statistics but we believe that
around 10,000 to 15,000 have lost jobs while 50
factories have either been closed or are only partly
engaging in their business,” Masakorale said.
possibility of getting GSP+
Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dr.
Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu who has received death threats
for allegedly passing information to the EU, which is
said would result in the withdrawal of the GSP+ trade
concession, said there was still a high possibility that
Sri Lanka would be granted the European Union (EU) GSP
Plus concessions, despite reports to the contrary.
don’t think EU is as determined to penalise
Sri Lanka as
is made out,” Saravanamuttu said. He confirmed that the
Defence Ministry website as well as various “conspiracy
theorists” implicated him in contributing material which
led the EU to consider refusing the trade concession due
to human rights violations. Saravanamuttu strongly
refuted the allegations. He said that three Europeans
had been chosen by the EU to compile an interim report.
chose to compile the report based on the implementation
of the International Covenant of Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and
the Child Rights Convention (CRC) in Sri Lanka.
Saravanamuttu earlier insisted that contrary to reports,
he supported the EU granting the GSP Plus concession.
Saravanamuttu added that he had been questioned both by
the police and CID, with regards to the anonymous death
threat he recently received.
Executive Director observed that if EU decided not to
grant the concession, there would be job losses in the
apparel industry. He agreed that there was a possibility
that Sri Lankan exports would be less competitive due to