COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s duty-free access to the European Union is under threat after the country’s president replaced the elected Prime Minister with a nationalist who was previously accused of war crimes. Loss of access to the EU would represent a severe blow to the country’s garment industry, one of its top three export sectors.
The European Union is said to be concerned that the installation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister could impact progress made towards national reconciliation following a war which killed many ethnic minority Tamil separatists during the final stages under his watch as president.
”The government got GSP on the basis of certain commitments, if these commitments are not met, then we would consider withdrawal,” EU ambassador to Sri Lanka, Tung-Lai Margue, told Reuters on Thursday.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena recently sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, dissolved the cabinet, and suspended parliament.
The president then appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new PM. Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka between 2005 and 2015 and oversaw the end of the country’s brutal decades-long civil war.
However, members of his inner circle were accused of corruption, war crimes and saddling the country with billions of dollars of debt.