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BRC urges caution on sanctions in Sri Lanka

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that the withdrawal of tax-free arrangements for low-cost clothing imported from Sri Lanka could hit flourishing businesses and jobs in the country and put up customer prices.

It would also affect UK manufacturers such as Marks & Spencer and Next, which manufacture out of the country.

The EU has asked the Sri Lankan Government to respond to charges of human rights abuses during the country’s civil war earlier this year. If human rights complaints are upheld by a Commission investigation, Sri Lanka could lose its special trade access to EU markets, meaning that manufacturing in the country may become too expensive for UK retailers.

Alastair Gray of the BRC said: “Whatever the human rights concerns, any response has to be balanced. Otherwise, if the preferential access deal is withdrawn by the Commission, business in Sri Lanka could close.

“Sri Lanka has many very good textile factories, but profit margins are small, and if they lose their current import arrangements, there are textiles manufacturers in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Thailand who will be ready to compete hard.”

An EU Commission spokesman said: “Questions remain over the degree of effective implementation of certain UN human rights conventions in the country.”

One supplier who has worked in Sri Lanka said: “I find the EU’s stance inconceivable considering that at the moment to my knowledge there is no certain proof of war crimes or crimes against humanity as mentioned. It’s easy to persecute a tiny Island like Sri Lanka whilst China and others like Burma are apparently invisible.”

Marks & Spencer confirmed that it sources lingerie and some other fabrics from Sri Lanka but a spokeswoman stressed that it was “one of over 70 countries we source from internationally”.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Readers please do not think it in business terms or financial terms. Because Srilanka is the country in the world committing most number of human rights abuses, extra judicial killings, journalists being abducted or killed, sexual abuses, etc. UN says Srilanka has detained its employees in the prison like camps in war torn town. Human rights agencies, international medias and non governmental organizations don't have access to the camps, which is more likely to be a modern day concentration camps. 300 000 peoples are being kept in a jungle without any medication, food, sanitation, clothings.
    If the country really cares about its own people in the camps and people who working in the cloth factories, why should not it allows free access to the camps and release those internees ?
    All we ask is release the people in the camps and they will find their way out..Isn't it that easy???
    British people never asides with injustice and human rights abusers!!

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  • Channel 4 released video evidence on Sri Lanka's war crimes
    http://www.nowpublic.com/world/channel-4-released-video-evidence-sri-lankas-war-crimes
    "The man is young, naked, bound and blindfolded; a corpse lying across his legs. A soldier approaches him in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform and shoots him at point-blank range, apparently amused at the death. “It’s like he jumped,” he says.

    Chintaka Aluthgamage: They don't care what the West does
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/chintaka-aluthgamage-they-dont-care-what-the-west-does-1786153.html

    Damilvany Gnanakumar witnessed Sri Lanka's bloody conflict from a Tamil hospital - then spent months detained in a camp. She tells Gethin Chamberlain her story
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/15/sri-lanka-war-on-tamil-tigers
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/sep/16/sri-lanka-tamil
    Atrocity Vacations in Sri Lanka
    http://humanitarianrelief.change.org/blog/view/atrocity_vacations_in_sri_lanka

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  • Tamils have been oppressed for six decades. Their socio-economic-environmental fabric is nearly pulped. Tourists to the South do no even know that there has been any war. But those who dare to go to the Northeast have spoken of the difference in the two areas very sharply.
    If journlaists have bee prevented from the Northeast in the last four years and previously in several periods the businessmen should beable to guess that the government is trying to hide something.
    For the Tamils it's life or death or toture of many forms.
    Consumers in the developed country should be responsible.
    Humanitarian aid agencies have been denied free access to the camps where people are suffering immensely. Is it human to prevent someone helping another/
    ICRC has been asked to scale down its work and they have closed down offices in the East where Tamil IDPs are dumped in jungles. Media should be allowed to check these.
    International community has been blind to the state-spmsored pogroms of 50s/60s/70s even before the Tigers were born.
    While the Tigers were active the Tamils have been crushed by draconian PTA. Now after the Tigers have been crushed the Tamils are languishing in camps and the whole of Northeast is cut odff from the rest of the country and journalists have been barred. What does that tell anyone?

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  • Please look at the reports by UN, International Commission of Jurists, International Bar Association, Amnesty International and other organisations of the last forty years.
    Don't the consumers care if tens of thousands of Tamils disappear in custody of police and army?
    It has been reported by some researchers and journalists that nobody will drink tea from Sri Lanka if they go and see the living conditions of the tea pluckers who are Tamils..
    Why do we have millions of unemployed in the EU? Just to live on dole?

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  • Is it a matter of profits for the business or human rights for all? Cheap things have flooded the EU and environmental decay and economic decay do not bother the businessmen?
    No matter what happens to the oppressed ethnic minorities in the developing world? Even tsunami aid did not reach the Northeast. On top of the lack of economic investment by the government in the Northeast in the last five decades - economic oppression of ethnic minorities.
    Many intrastate conflicts in developing world are exacerbated by conflict-insensitive aid.
    Even if you cannot help them please don't hinder them.
    Businessmen should go and see the Northeast and the camps and then decide. Please please please.

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  • I have been to Sri Lanka- for an interview to work for one of the Biggest Lingerie manufacturers in the Country.
    The offices and Factories are modern and clean, and for those employed there life is probably good.
    It is shocking that elsewhere in this beautiful country that there is so much wrong.
    I declined the position when offered, as I did not want to work the 10 hour days and Saturdays, which were the norm, Consumers have to get a conscience,we cannot carry on buying cheap clothing at the expense of the well being of millions of far eastern/3rd world people.
    We will eventually run out of countries to exploit- as their own industry/wealth grows they too become consumers and the slavery moves elsewhere- Maybe the UK will become slaves for the increasingly powerful China , etc..

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  • Alastair Gray of the British Retail Consortium said in a recent interview, of EU investigations in to Sri Lanka's human rights violations:

    "Whatever the human rights concerns, any response has to be balanced".

    What an ignorant fool!

    These are just blinkered lobbyist for British retailers, of the ilk of Marks & Spencer's and Tesco's.

    Their only concern - losing out on the mass cheap goods, irrelevant of the export country's human rights record!

    Gray harps on about Sri Lankan textile workers losing out on jobs, and adds the veiled threat of substitute outlets in Vietnam or Bangladesh. This is just a calculated ploy to thwart a likely ban on GSP+

    He knows nothing (hears no evil) of Sri Lanka's crimes against humanity, the incarceration of innocent civilians in detention camps and the gross extra-judicial killings. If he cares to dig a little deeper in to the gravity of the EU's investigations, he will weep and curse his own comments!

    Shame on you BRC!

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  • The British people should stop supporting the Sri Lankan regime which is committing untold misery to over 300,000 Tamil people by keeping them in barbed wired concentration camps surrounded by armed men with orders to shoot on site those trying to escape these camps. This is no different to the Nazi camps which the Jewish people endured. Marks and Spencer cannot be part of this trade link with a clear conscience.

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  • claiming civilised nations can start from civil society's response to such kind of responsibilities. we need to ignore Srilankan products , not just becosit discriminated and murdered its own people but lets stand together to fight these kinds of state terrorism If we stand with them today, the world will stand with justice forever.
    Its glad there is such an initiative is taken. It gives me hope that better world is possible.

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