European Union ambassadors met with Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa this week to discuss economic policies following the COVID-19 crisis, despite his records of human rights abuses.
President Rajapaksa, formerly Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, oversaw a military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils during the final phases of the armed conflict and has several war crime allegations against him.
Despite the serious human rights abuses committed by the Rajapaksa administration, the EU ambassadors stated “pleased to meet President Rajapaksa to discuss Sri Lanka’s development trajectory and relaxation of import restrictions in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis”.
Discussions took place regarding the easing of import restrictions, trade, and renewable energy, with Rajapaksa reportedly also stating that “Sri Lanka would benefit from a debt moratorium”.
Following the meeting Rajapaksa tweeted, “Lanka looks forward to attracting investments in sectors of Renewable Energy, Food and Agriculture, Technology, and Education from the EU.”
The president also claimed that he is reluctant to seek further loans, and instead hopes that Sri Lanka can make new investments with the aid of EU countries. He further stated that economic growth in Sri Lanka is currently low, and that the administration will pay focus to developing domestic industries such as agriculture.
Although multiple initiatives to move towards renewable energy were also discussed with the EU ambassadors, pressing issues such as land grabs and militarisation in the North-East, which are severely affecting the economic situation of the Tamil people, were not discussed.
Further to this, Sri Lanka’s highly militaristic response to the COVID-19 situation was not questioned by the ambassadors. Instead the EU “responded positively to President Gotabaya and discussed at length a number of ways their respective countries may be able to engage with Sri Lanka in these areas,” according to an official press release.