Rizana – Another Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Failure
By Shenali Waduge
Rizana Nafeek a Sri Lankan national from Muttur was beheaded according to Saudi Arabian law on 9 January 2013 having been found guilty of killing a 4 month baby while serving as a domestic in Saudi Arabia in 2005. The appeals for her release were many – from both local and international. Yet, it is the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry and its Mission in Saudi Arabia that must be held accountable and an inquiry must take place to review where the mistakes took place and how best these can be addressed to avoid such incidents from taking place in the future.
Where did Rizana go wrong?
For starters Rizana came from a poor Muslim family. She wanted to chip in to do her bit for the family. Did that really necessitate to forge documents and travel abroad? Doctoring public documents is a criminal offence. That she altered her age to read as 21 when she was only 17 at the time of departure cannot constitute blame on the Saudi Arabian Government. Human Rights organizations can object in view of her real age but Saudi Government cannot be faulted because her passport gave her age as 21. Rizana, her parents and the Muslim agent who doctored her documents are to blame.
Moreover, she did not go through the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau. Could she not have begun helping her family by becoming employed as a domestic in a home in Colombo? Are domestics now not paid more than Rs.10,000 exclusive of food, lodging and clothing given? Moreover, one is able to at least see one’s children, attend a funeral or even run home for any emergency – one cannot do any of the kind when living as a domestic overseas!
Rizana was just one among 1.8m Sri Lankans working overseas – of this 45% are females. She was not the first to be beheaded and is unlikely to be the last also. If we do not want to see such incidents take place – we need to seriously address this issue and problems always have solutions so long as there is passion to solve it.
The stories of Sri Lanka’s imported women being battered, raped, abused, tortured, humiliated and even put to death has never reduced the number of women desiring to go abroad or made officials to reconsider other avenues of generating income as the social implications of a mother’s departure overseas has resulted in too many shocking news affecting Sri Lanka. Why do we knowingly want to send our women to be physically and mentally abused and treated as slaves? There is little point in blaming the other country because we are knowingly continuing to send women to be treated this way. The welfare of these women should matter more than the billions of remittances that these housemaids send home. We had plenty of time as a country since open economy to create skilled workers for overseas assignments rather than depend on labor remittances and have to deal with women who return home in coffins or without arms and limbs and then to deal with children being raped by their fathers.
Be that as it may the crime committed by Rizana was in 2005. We are all well aware of the Saudi Sharia Laws – we know how rigid they are and we know the consequences and how infidels (non-Muslims) are treated according to Sharia laws. Therefore, Saudi laws remain internal and nothing that Saudi will agree to change and nothing that can be changed. Having said that we are also aware that the killing of a baby constituted a crime categorized under Qisas: Eye-for-an-eye retaliatory punishments – the family of the baby could choose between demanding death or granting clemency in return for diyya or blood money by the perpetrator. The family had however refused blood money. However, there are plenty of cases of blood money being accepted.
Now, we come to the question of how many trips have the foreign minister and other officials being making since 2005 for Rizana’s release spending millions and not one of them cared to visit the parents of the “murdered” child in whose sole hands laid the decision of whether Rizana could live or die?
When it was well aware that ONLY the parents of the child could reverse the decision why did the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry not explore this avenue further?
When we have a mission in Saudi Arabia well aware of how Sharia laws take place and the likelihoods of punishment why did not a single official have the brainwave to meet the parents and do a little PR on them and explain the poverty of Rizana’s family – certainly not to have told the mother that according to Sharia she should be breast feeding her baby and not giving the bottle! A visit or two to the home of the baby may have at least helped far more than the tamasha’s, statements and trips which have been of little use and another burden to the tax payer. Did it need to be given executive orders for foreign ministry officials to think of these simple tactics they could have adopted IF they were serious about doing something to get Rizana released.
Then we move on to the family of Rizana. She left to go overseas to change the economic status quo of her family living in a hut. That was in 2005. In 2013 as media hurried to interview the grieving parents – they remain in the same hut. Rizana’s case hit global news as far back as in 2007. When mosques are coming up all over Sri Lanka like mushrooms, when money is thrown to somehow push for Sharia laws to be implemented in Sri Lanka, when rigid extremism of Islam is appearing to signal danger signs for the country – could they not hand a few lakhs to make a home for these people? Why did fellow Muslims fail to look after their own? Similarly when all took to the streets simply because of a film that no one had seen was said to insult Islam… why did they not protest against Rizana’s beheading… a lot of hypocrisies all round.
However, coming down to the Foreign Ministry – it behoved this external affairs line Ministry to have handled the situation far better than mere talk which has become the hallmark of its role. It has left the Saudi’s angered by the negative media coverage and for all we know the Ministry may end up compromising Sri Lanka to make up for their gaffes. We were surprised at the quick reaction by Sri Lanka to the execution by recalling the Sri Lankan envoy in Saudi but it didn’t take 2 days to be told that a new envoy is being sent – are we to laugh or cry!
It is welcome to have academics who can speak intellectually and quote history etc.. but what good is that if there is no action, if there is no change and if there are no significant results for the country. It is time to seriously revamp the Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs – the root of all the present ills the country faced did lead to its head!
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bullshit….this is nt government fall….it is barbarian act in ISLAM….who forged her age….by bogus Muslim travel agent…and who asked/forced to kill her…..Muslim cruel woman who was asking blood to blood….and finally stupid “sharia”….killed her………u mad…….even Saudi (not humankind)king…….cnt prevent…..then what about our government……Ms. Shenali…this time you wrong………………
I am not blaming Saudi Govt or the Agent: the reason for this as follows:
1. Rizana’s Father labour work was effected by Tsunami – Govt no action has been taken
2. Agent made submitted all forged documents, Govt issued Passport – therefore Govt has to take the blame (rather than issuing passport, Govt should arrest the agent at that moment)
3. Rizana case was begin year 2005 and the death panelty was issued in 2007, Govt or Riyadh -Sri Lanka embassy did not take in to consider this matter
4. Rizana went to work as a MAID, basic jobs are house cleaning, NOT as Baby sitter – Baby sitter is a professional job another way could call like house Nurse (between Main and Baby sitter two different job task) is Govt or Sri Lanka embassy consider
5. Saudi Govt given the chance to Lanka Govt 2 years time to proof between 2005 – 2007 no action has been taken, after only Saudi issued the death panelty
6. Saudi Govt has tried their best from the infant parents to forgive but they did not – After issued death panelty Saudi Govt no power to pardon (that is the reason Sri Lanka Govt failed to take action before the panelty year 2007)
7. Sri Lanka Govt failing to appoint qualified embassy staff in any Embassy’s belong to Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan people suffering a lot due to un-qualfied staff in Lanka Embassye’s)
It is very sad & shame to Sri Lanka Govt, Leaders, Sri Lanka Embassy in Riyadh
Shenali, youre correct, I wrote a comment once before regarding the Foreign Ministry, the foreign Ministry is pro WEST. They have made many blunders, also at the last UN resolution in which Sri Lanka failed. The President should change the whole Foreign Ministry, before it gets too late. To Corniche’s comments, Sri Lanka has good Ambassadors, but the problem is they have to dance to the music of the Foreign Ministry.
SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: The AHRC writes to the UN and Sri Lankan President
January 15, 2013 More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebookShare on myspaceShare on googleShare on twitter(Note: We reproduce below the text of the letter written to the UN High Commissioner and the President of Sri Lanka requesting to cause an inquiry into the verdict and the execution of Rizana Nafeek who was executed in Saudi Arabia on January 9.) The AHRC requests all concerned persons to write to the UN High Commissioner and the President of Sri Lanka in support of this request.
The text of the letter:
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing this letter both to your goodself and to His Excellency, The President of Sri Lanka, to strongly urge an inquiry into the execution of Ms. Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan citizen in Saudi Arabia. The Government of Saudi Arabia executed Rizana at 11:48 am on January 9.
The matters that we request your office to urge for an investigation are the following:
a. What is the evidence upon which the court in Saudi Arabia sentenced Rizana for capital punishment?
b. It is reported that the only evidence relied upon by the court is a confession statement, allegedly made by Rizana. If that is the case, we urge Your Excellency to request the Government of Saudi Arabia to inquire the circumstances under which Rizana made this statement.
c. Under what circumstances was Rizana’s age (she being a minor) ignored? The Government of Saudi Arabia now claims that Rizana was 21 years of age based on the passport, despite the contrary evidence placed before the court. Your Excellency has also confirmed that Rizana is a minor vide Your Excellency’s letter to His Royal Highness, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The AHRC is certain that you are aware that Rizana’s execution has led to an international outrage against the trial and the sentence. For a period of five years, the world protested against the unjustness of the death sentence. It is widely held, and the facts reported so far strongly suggests that the case charged against Rizana does not meet the requirements of a charge against murder. It is also globally reported that when Rizana was handed over to the Saudi police, she had been subjected to duress and there was no translator to assist her.
The AHRC has confirmed that Rizana spoke only Tamil and the inquiry conducted by the Saudi police was in Arabic. The AHRC also has information that the letter allegedly signed by Rizana is written in Arabic, a language that Rizana does not speak, read or write. In these circumstances, Rizana could not have made the confession. There is a report that the translator provided to Rizana, at some stage of her trial or investigation, is a person from Karnataka, India, who speaks only Kannada and not Tamil. Furthermore, at trial Rizana did not receive any legal assistance.
All these factors were brought to the notice of the Saudi court that heard the appeal against conviction, and to the Government of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the Government of Saudi Arabia denies none of the above.
The global outrage in this case is justified since Rizana’s execution is nothing less than murder. Under these circumstances, it would not suffice only to condemn Rizana’s execution. What is required is a thorough investigation in this case.
The AHRC therefore requests you to initiate a process with the cooperation of the Government of Saudi Arabia, so that an international expert is appointed to inquire into the case. The expert should visit Saudi Arabia and be allowed to examine all records concerning the case, from the time the complaint against Rizana was made to her execution in Saudi Arabia.
The AHRC calls upon you to demand this inquiry, since in this case as the rights of young girl, a subject of Sri Lanka, were violated in Saudi Arabia. The mere payment of money by a Saudi citizen to Rizana’s family is not a substitute for a proper inquiry.
In this context, the AHRC also wishes to state that the statement by the official Saudi press as reported by the CNN that: “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its affairs or in the provisions of its judiciary under any justification”, is unacceptable and amounts to Saudi Arabia’s rejection of its obligation under international law to respect the universal human rights norms and standards. All responsible governments are under obligation to be accountable to the verdicts of the death sentence pronounced by courts under their jurisdiction.
The issues arising out of Rizana’s case are known worldwide. Not to seek clarity on the case thus would amount to complicity. Furthermore, such an inquiry could provide an opportunity for your office, as well as the international community, to ensure that similar violations would not occur in the future.
Additionally this is a duty that the United Nations owes to Razina and her family, to clear her name. Rizana’s honor must be restored.
Interim Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission
The AHRC dossier on Rizana Nafeek may be found here.
Document Type :Open LetterDocument ID :AHRC-OLT-001-2013Countries :Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka Campaigns :Save Rizana Nafeek Issues :Child rights, Death penalty, Extrajudicial killings, Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Rule of law
the Sri Lankan government and the Foreign Ministry has not upto date issued a statement denouncying the killing of this innocent child who had been a minor in 2005, and they failed to enlighten the Saudi Law enforcement authorities that the recruitment agent in Sri Lanka had prepared a false travel documents dipicting a false age for her to leave the country and to work in that country.
This is the shit cruelty of the sharia f****ng law. This incident shows how Arabia muslims care Sri lankans on the other extreme it shows that the silence of the international human rights protecting organizations and their imitations. In the war period of sri lanka they appear against the president and the government of sri lanka.But now they are very silence and vote to middle east sharia and the other all the cruelty with the view of having favor of oil. Muslim community should know that how they are treated by their forefathers in their native countries. This incident make us to think about several directions. The government and the officials should learn good lessons for the future get blessings of such this things.
You are absolutely correct. All employees of Sri Lankan Missions all over the world are political appointees. They know nothing, but they know how to fillup their pockets.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Why hasn’t anything been done abt the agnecy ??? How many others have been sent using this agnecy? I’ve personaly met housmaids in the Middle-East who have entered using neighbour’s birth-certificates.
Why wasn’t this girl trained accordingly for the required job (nanny/maid) ? Isn’t that part of the job of the agnecy?
Our whole system seems to be screwed-up. No wonder the Phillipino girls do a much better job at everything & are trained.
Agency is business people, they do business whichever way they could find, even a small gap is enough for them to enter. However, in Govt department, people are go for bribe, they take the money and do all possible to earn money “IN SHORT CUT” / Govet officers does not bothered who going to face challenge in future as far as they got their money on wrong manner.
If every individual should respect country law, policy, procedures, follow the system, unfortunetaly we do not have those kind of leadership in the nation. Which political leader is honest since 1977????
It is really very sad & disappointed the way our political system in place. We are living in multi cultural environemtn, the people try their best to do, but the political leaders never allowing positive system in place, that is the reason we all paying the price.
Honestly I have no faith with current political leaders or leadership in the nation, all are selfish. Sri Lnak is superb nation, the people are easy to adopt with any culture, very friendly understand people, but the political leaders, Govt officers make the mess for our people & nation.