Sri Lanka dismisses EU withdrawal of trade concessions

July 6, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka on Tuesday shrugged off a European Union decision to withdraw tariff concessions over the island’s failure to guarantee an improvement in its human rights record. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Colombo had already arranged relief to export businesses that would be affected by Sri Lanka no longer receiving preferential access to European Union markets.

“We are not accepting EU conditions. Our position is very clear,” Rambukwella said. “We have already made alternate arrangements to help the exporters who may be affected by this.”

The minister previously dismissed the EU conditions as “insulting to every Sri Lankan” and vowed the government would not back down.

Sri Lanka’s hawkish government faced widespread criticism for many years over its war against Tamil Tiger separatist rebels, who were finally defeated in May 2009.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has also rejected calls for an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict.

The EU announced on Monday that Sri Lanka would lose its preferential access from August 15 after it missed a July 1 deadline to deliver written pledges on improving human rights.