Rizana tragedy comment :”This must be banned! 100%”




In the case of Rizana and the beheading I have been trying so hard through almost 20 years now to seek the indulgence of the SL Embassy in Riyadh to convince the Foreign Ministry back home to ban the housemaid exit to ME nations. They just wont hear me out. I also wrote a white paper on it which I have with me with stats etc.

FazliThe issue here is the laws that prevail in these lands are those that they believe are Divine and they choose to interpret them as they think fit. Very little common sense is used in arriving at conclusions and they go by what they perceive from the letter of the text within the scripture.

First and foremost, Islam does not permit the travel of a female, by herself, without a male guardian accompanying her, on a journey that lasts for such long periods. Islam also forbids a single woman living within a household where there are non related men who are marriageable to her without the presence of her male Guardian (father, husband, son, brother). So the very concept of hiring single female maids from overseas to work in their homes is grossly flouting their own Divine laws and scripture.

Secondly, execution is not the punishment for accidental death. It is only applied when a planned murder is committed which can be proved beyond any reasonable doubts. Rape and drugs abuse also requires the same death penalty to be applied.

We have,maybe 400,000+ maids in Saudi Arabia from Sri Lanka. Each earns about US$ 100 per month. If they remit 50% of that money back home then the nation earns around SL Rs 20 million per month which amounts to almost SR Rs 500 million per year (half A BILLION). We need to see how we could try and earn this using other possible means.

The Philippines and Kerala send thousands of nurses to work in the hospitals here. Teachers are welcome. Why cant we train our girls to take up some of these jobs where they wont be exposed to the abuse that maids have to undergo?

It is time the Government back home thinks about the human factor before the revenue.

This must be banned! 100%

Rizana tragedy comment : “Saudi Arabia is spitting in our faces”




suthamieYet another….!

I remember living in Kuwait and I loved visiting my dad at work. BUT, the entire basement of the Sri Lankan Embassy was a housing area for maids and drivers who ran away from their ‘masters,’ because of beatings, lack of payments, rape etc. They had no where else to go. They were of all ethnicities, sex, ages. They were there to make a better life for their families. They were there legally but their passports were often taken away so they could not leave the country.

The attitude towards the value of certain lives needs to change; not just in countries in the Mid-east but in Sri Lanka and India (rape of women). But it will never change if we do not continue to pressure.

According to reports – Rizana Nafeek was 17 when she was accused of killing a child, whom she was there to look after. Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bars the execution of offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crime.

Amnesty says Saudi Arabia executed at least 79 people in 2012. Of those, 27 were non-Saudis — and most of the foreigners executed in recent years were migrant workers from developing countries, the group said.

Saudi Arabia is spitting in our faces. This should not be forgotten and the countries who pushed not to have the execution should continue to do so. In addition, to push for the safe treatment of a Sri Lankan, you have to do the same in Sri Lanka, to have any credibility. Otherwise I can imagine how that conversation goes.

There are few countries I never want to visit…actually none. I just added one to the list until it starts treating humans like humans.

Rizana: So what now?

Gaya Fernando

I remember transiting at the Abu Dhabi airport on Etihad Airlines in 2004 en route to Sri Lanka from Brussels. I was dozing in the departure area, which is hardly a lounge, in jeans, tee shirt and beloved camper shoes that I always wear when I travel.

Miss, Miss, Miss ge Agency eka mokakdha? (Miss, what’s your agency?)”

Forced back into reality, I made out a few curious girlish faces peering at me eager to make conversation with a new recruit.

Ah? Mokakdha? ( What?)” And I realised with a laugh that I had been mistaken for a housemaid by my countrymaid companions going home on vacation.

Giggles and social systemic failure

I tried to explain that I was in transit from Belgium and that I had gone to Brussels for studies …. what studies? what is Belgium ? :… As a lawyer I wanted to do a higher degree I had explained. Blank looks. It turned out that they had never really known Colombo folk nor Colombo at all. From their village they had been driven through to the Airport and onwards and upwards to Foreign Exchange earning countries in the Middle East. Who would want to go abroad if they were lawyers and had good jobs? They couldn’t make me out at all and so I made them tell me of their lives, villages and stuff to ease the boredom of transit.

The stories were told with giggles of debts that parents had run up mortgaging properties, houses in order to marry off other siblings, debts run up for other reasons resulting in the young girl being sent off with parental consent to find some extra cash to be a housemaid in the Middle East.

Forged passports were common. One girl on the flight sitting behind me had only her passport in her hand. No luggage. An escapee from a bad situation she had fled to the Embassy and was now going home with no money, no payment, nothing but her passport and the clothes on her body.

Oyaa kohomadha den gedera yanne? (How are you going home from the Airport?)” I persisted wondering if I could give her the bus fare or pay for a space in a van which she would share with others. Oh don’t worry Miss, she said with a big grin, “me aiyala akkala maawa bala gani bessama ( These brothers and sisters will look after me when I arrive at the airport…)” She was confident that they would see her home safely to her village.

These little naiiveties displayed by both sides makes me realise to what extent we are ignorant of the ways of our people who subscribe to diverse social norms. “Hmm…”I was not entirely convinced but she seemed quite relaxed and was snoring in minutes. I turned back with a feeling that this is all very unsatisfactory somehow, got home and told my story to my family though my mother was not amused that I had been mistaken for a housemaid. She was always a little snobbish, bless her !!

I would not have entrusted my baby to a Rizana

After the grim news of the beheading on 9 January, I thought back to that little encounter now 8 years ago. A forged passport sent a minor to a situation that she had no expertise nor training to handle. She was employed by those who did not care that she had no expertise.

I, having brought my own children up from the day they were born single-handedly overseas, have never let even a Ceylinco Babycare Nurse (who helped out on Sri Lankan vacations and research trips when I travelled alone with my children) venture beyond  preparing meals, laundry and babysitting to actually care for them under the age of 2. Many a fight and argument have I had with Ceylinco nannies on vacation that they need to be left to do the job and in this case they were trained to some extent but that minimal standard fell far below mine. I would have felt entirely to blame had my infant choked in their care regardless of the reason.

Rizana is alleged to have smothered a baby she was caring for, to death, following an argument with the mother. Later she retracted and said that the baby had died in a choking accident while bottle-fed. No doubt, the medical evidence can point to the cause of the death.  From then onwards she was a subject of the processes of that nation which we may criticise and condemn, but which after all are beyond our control.


Is it their problem or our failure ?

However, there are other atrocities happening in these countries as well as systemic flaws and rackets in Sri Lanka that send housemaids with no training and minors at that into nations where their lives are worth little. At the root of the social problem, parents and families of these girls too are not entirely blame-free. Given that there is an unemployment problem and the cost of living is rising alarmingly, the all too familiar phenomenon of low-income families borrowing money from money-lenders and paying exorbitant interest rates is one of the reasons that children are sent to work as housemaids and earn enough to pay off these debts and save the family. This may not be the case of Rizana’s family of course but it is the case of others, sadly.

Women and Media Collective have released a statement that points the finger at the Government’s lack of will to bring Rizana home. On the other hand, accounts say that the President had appealed just 2 days before the execution and has released a statement of condolence on the execution. Another writing Who failed Rizana? does point out that delegations who went to Saudi Arabia may have done her more harm as they had implied that a settlement was on the horizon which could have worsened her case by misleading the public and harming the negotiations with the family’s tribe. Malinda Aiya wrote a good piece in 2010 which asks if we should be judged by our peers and in it includes:

We must acknowledge that many employment agencies are not just run by racketeers but crooks enjoying political patronage and therefore protection.  We know that the system is full of loopholes where a crackdown on errant agencies just results in the same crooks setting up office elsewhere under a different name for a paltry sum of money so they can carry on from where they stopped.


An infant is dead due to the easy entrusting into the care of an unknown young girl of a precious vulnerable life and a young girl is dead due to her actions in a context in which she did not belong.

Inter-State diplomacy has not saved the life of Rizana Nafeek. However, what’s going on in our country is our problem, what can be done about it?

Is it time to take a different policy stance on whether we admit that we are exporting carers to other countries and enforce policies, standards, training and put in place good negotiation mechanisms and active co operation policies in the diplomatic delegations to these countries as the Philippines do?