|Tamils Plead EU to Stop Sri Lanka Subsidy|
Tamils from the United States have urged the European Union to reconsider its trade arrangements with Sri Lanka in an effort to scrutinize the country’s military and human rights activities.
A group called Tamils for Obama released an open letter accusing the Sri Lankan government of inciting civil war and overdeveloping its military, PR Web reports.
Sri Lanka currently benefits from a trade subsidy offered by the EU, known as Generalised Systems of Preferences, which allows the country to export its products into member states with generously minimal tax. This arrangement reportedly amounts to eight billion US dollars.
Tamils for Obama claims that these funds are used by the Sri Lankan government to expand its already oversized army. A spokesman from the group said: “This is a concession by which Sri Lanka pockets billions of dollars which it would not otherwise have. And we know that they are spending a large part of it on their armed forces.”
The group asserts that the Sri Lankan government is orchestrating another civil war. As the letter states: “They are building up their armed forces, we believe, because they expect that their treatment of Tamils is going to provoke another rebellion, and they want to be ready for it.”
The letter also implicates Sri Lanka of deliberately provoking Tamils so they may have an opportunity to eliminate them. “Colombo’s goal is to drive the Tamils out of Sri Lanka as fast as they can,” the group writes. “The best was to do this is to restart civil war and kill as many Tamils as they can... Kill and scare as many away as possible, as fast as possible.”
The letter concludes with a request for the EU to abandon the financial subsidy that they believe is helping to fund the country’s military activities. It states: “We urge the EU to end the tax-free bonus to Sri Lankan goods. This serves mostly to support the Sri Lankan armed forces.”
The plea follows an article published by the The Japan Times, in which the Sri Lankan government was criticised for its questionable military and human rights record. It claims that “the Sri Lankan military already has more troops than that of Britain or Israel. The planned further expansion would make their military larger than those from major powers like France, Japan and Germany... [the government] seems determined to keep hyper-militarized Sri Lanka in something of a war footing.”
Sri Lanka is allegedly able to fund its military activities courtesy of the EU’s Generalised Systems of Preferences. According to the European Commission website, GSP is a trade arrangement that offers substantial export subsidies to developing countries who wish to trade with member states.
Sri Lanka receives further benefits as part of GSP Plus, an extension of the programme designed to provide additional support for vulnerable countries. The programme was created “to contribute to the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development and good governance.” The Tamils are questioning the implications of this arrangement to the internal conflicts in Sri Lanka.
Tamils are an ethnic minority group from northeast Sri Lanka and southern India. PR Web reports that they have suffered from a sustained conflict with the Sri Lankan government, who they believe is guilty of genocide. According to the United Nations, the recent civil war has resulted into approximately 30,000 Tamil deaths in 2009. One-third of the Tamil population have already fled from the country and formed a significant global diaspora. Some of those who settled in the US formed Tamils for Obama.
Tamils for Obama is a group of Tamil activists living in the US. They support President Obama and have actively campaigned on his behalf during the elections. They hope that his international policies will help resolve conflicts in Sri Lanka. Their website states: “There are many problems in the world that will demand President Obama’s attention... We trust that Sri Lanka’s civil war will be among them... Peace would allow both ethnic groups (Singhalese and Tamils) a better chance to improve their lives... This is one important change we can believe in.”