The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) and the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) are embroiled in a battle of words over the safety and security of more than one million Sri Lankan workers, mainly housemaids, who go to the Middle East and other countries to work as domestic aides or do other jobs. Both sides are trading what they see as valid arguments, but we believe that ultimately the welfare and wellbeing of the Lankan workers need to be given top priority.
As the job agencies and business circles may put it crudely, the export of housemaids and other workers has become Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign exchange earner. Officially they remit at least six billion dollars annually, and unofficially another billion rupees or more may be coming in. Most independent economists believe Sri Lanka’s economy, which is on a freefall, is being saved from total collapse by the remittances that come in from the blood, sweat and tears of these poor housemaids and other workers. The politicians who plunder or abuse this money to maintain their extravagant lifestyle are deceitful and desperately wicked.
Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera and SLBFE General Manager Harishchandra Bategoda say the new regulations or safety measures will include a national vocational qualification test for females taking up jobs in the Meddle East and other countries. In terms of this, SLBFE officials attached to the respective District Secretariats will visit the homes of prospective female domestic aides to assess their ground situation including their family status and who will be the guardian of their children, if any when the mother leaves the country. Therefore the domestic aide, before going foe a job in the Meddle East or elsewhere, will require certificates of approval from the area’s Grama Sevaka Niladhari, the District Secretarial and the Police.
On the face of it and in humanitarian terms, the new move is good. But with bribery and corruption reaching their worst levels, and with the bureaucratic redtape having red lights flashing all over, most of the housemaids may have to go here, there and eventually nowhere after paying bribes.
At present most of the housemaids are known to be borrowing or legging for money to pay as much as Rs. 300,000/- to unscrupulous job agents. If they are now forced to pay more as bribes to other officials, they may not be able to repay their loans with high interest rates even after toiling like slaves in the Middle East for about two years.
ALFEA spokesman Faizer Maickeen says the new measures will push the prospective foreign job seekers into a muddle of bureaucratic redtape and Sri Lanka will lose forign exchange earnings. But independent economists and human rights activists belive most of the job agencies are ridded with corruption or kickbacks with innocent village girds or mothers being seen as export cargo without a human face.
But the SLBFE and Minister Perera say they are determined to go ahead with the new measures though hundreds of job ageney bosses and their staff staged a big demonstration outside the SLBFE headquarters last week, with some of them shouting, ‘Dilan go home’. A few days later the Minister responded by saying he would indeed he going home in the evening, but he would not allow job agency racketeers to get their pound of human flesh.
Where all these arguments will end up is not clear, but what is clear is the long-term solution which is poverty eleviation. Thousands of girls, mothers and others are risking so much in going abroad for hard labour because they are struggling for survival below the poverty line. The Rajapaksa regime must bring about social justice with a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth and resources. Two vital steps to achieve this goal would be effective measures to curb corruption by politicians and officials and to insist that political leaders must give up their vulgar luxuries and set an example to the country by entering into a simple and humble lifestyle. Pope Francis is setting an example to world leaders and turning the capitalist world upside down through his commitment to a simple lifestyle and social justice. This is a mission where all people of all races and religions could come together to build not only a just and fair world but also unity in diversity.
IF THE ARGUMENTS (AND STATISTICS ) PRESENTED BY THE CBSL ARE TRUE AND ACCURATE ABOUT OUR ECONOMY (SUCH AS PER CAPITA INCOME OF ABOUT 2800 USD ETC) THEN WHY SO MUCH OF PEOPLE (PARTICULARLY WOMEN) ARE TRYING HARD TO a) MIGRATE IN TO OTHER COUNTRIES (BY ILLEGAL METHODS ) AND b). FIND OUT LOW GRADE JOBS IN THE MIDDLE EAST ?
tharaka Sunday, 11 August 2013 11:27 AM
the politicos & the elite will never even think of a simple & humble life style...these aides r worst being treated in the ME & our Embassies in the ME is also highly corrupted and is no use at all to help these poor people.
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