For Sri Lankans, Rizana was more than a mere blurry black and white picture of a girl in a hijab. Having been forced to spend eight years behind bars in an unknown land, for a crime which could when taken out of context of the Saudi Law, be called an accident, she symbolised abject poverty, tragedy and despair.
Sri Lanka was under no illusion that rigid Saudi Laws could bend. There were continual assurances given by the diplomatic sources and the state institutions that kept the hope flickering. Hoping against hope, an entire nation was anticipating Rizana’s return.
All pardon pleas fell on deaf ears when Rizana Nafeek was beheaded in Dawadamy, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Rizana’s death is not about a poor family being rendered poorer by the heart-breaking execution; it also exposes Sri Lanka’s monetary and diplomatic poverty as a nation. True enough, no financially secured country would send its mothers, sisters and daughters as housemaids to the Middle East. The subsequent question would be whether the government would continue to send Sri Lankan women to Saudi Arabia despite the horrendous accounts of the housemaids who were relatively lucky to be alive to tell their tales.
A total ban on sending housemaids abroad is not what the situation demands. Rather, the tragedy should be an eye-opener for the authorities to change its criteria for Sri Lankan women seeking foreign employment. Before counting the money they send home or spend lavishly on their dream projects, the high heads need to assure the safety of these women and strengthen the channels through which they could seek support in the hour of need. In August last year, Nepal, following persistent reports of harassment against the Nepali housemaids in Saudi Arabia declared that no woman under the age of thirty should seek employment thither.
Does money matter to the isle more than the lives of its women that it cannot follow the Nepali example?
The situation also questions whether the frequent trips made by the government officials to Saudi Arabia in the guise of seeking clemency for Rizana were mere joy rides. The initial lethargy shown by the Sri Lankan government would have been pardoned had not those who at last presented Rizana’s case failed to highlight fact that she was a minor at the time the death in question took place.
The milk had been choked on and now it is spilt. Rizana cannot be called back from the dead.
The pressing question would be how many Rizanas it would take for the government to realise that we can no longer take pride in the earnings these women send home, all the while holding their lives at stake.
It is not only justice that has failed Rizana, perhaps in a greater degree, her own country too.
Sorry is not the word!
I have been advocating for years to stop our women being sent to countries such as Saudi Arabia. At least now, let this be a lesson to get down all the women who are already there and NEVER ever send anyone else to KSA. A few years ago I was at a conference in their capital city Riyadh, I could not wait to get out of the place, its stifling for a normal person, the amount of restrictions and taboos enforced in KSA. I loathe to think someone really wants to work in that country. They need to have their brains examined.
Chaminda Tilakumara Thursday, 10 January 2013 10:32 PM
Now that Rizana has finally been executed, has the SL authorities charged a single person for sending her to Saudi illegally on false documents? We have 50 odd ministers for every subject kept in absolute luxury at the tax payers expense – has anyone of them paid any attention to how Rizana was sent to Saudi in the first place and assisted in bringing the culprits to justice. What is the point in blaming the Saudi’s when the real failing is very clear to be on our side
Lion Thursday, 10 January 2013 11:55 PM
Several politicans enjoyed foreign tours and staying in top hotels on the account of this poor girl.
Sri Lankan...... Friday, 11 January 2013 02:55 AM
Well said. Given the Deterioration of quality the bureaucracy and its inability to respond to situations like this strategically and tactically, we as a nation will run back. I waited just over 30years for the war to finish. Another 10 till the goons go home will be very long time...
Abdul Friday, 11 January 2013 05:18 AM
This is a big social issue for the families from which these maids have been sent, the government should be ashamed to see the economic side of the matter, rather than the social side
Confused Friday, 11 January 2013 06:02 AM
Rizana went even against the wishes of her parents because of abject poverty. If the family which is so poor could have existed otherwise would she have gone?I don't think so.Who is responsible for this state of affairs. What the authorities could now do is at least give some financial assistance to her family which is what in her small way she tried to do. At least all the money spent on foreign trips by our officials would have covered more than ten times over what Rizana tried to earn.This is the reality. May her soul rest in peace and may God accept her to heaven.
observer Friday, 11 January 2013 07:29 AM
My displeasure is, there was in immediate protest hue and cry by all women activists inclusive of opposition women politicians for the Indian rape victim but no sound of any nature for this Sri Lankan girl who was beheaded, Not even a vigil by any Sri Lankans This shows the extent of curreption of our society which only reacts if an incident could gain political milage. Rizana's matter cannot be politicised so no female activist is interested. What a sad situation.
mfh Friday, 11 January 2013 10:59 AM
being in K.S.A. since 2006 to date and heard and seen many abused SL women at the doors of it's consulate my humble request to MR.RAJAPAKSA is please stop exporting slave girls to the GCC. especially this country of K.S.A. also i plead you to hang those culprits who are responsible in sending this girl to this strange land instead of school. my dear president aren't you ashamed that our passport is no more a legitimate document due to being exposed ????
faraz shauketaly Friday, 11 January 2013 12:15 PM
It is absolutely disgusting that the Sri Lanka embassy could not use modern technology and pay for it - like DNA sampling - to prove Rizana's age. At least she may have been spared her life and the Saudi government may have given her a life sentence instead of applying the sharia law to its full severe end. On the other hand the sharia law places the onus on forgiveness and accepting blood money on the victims' family. They clearly exercised the option not to accept compensation. The danger of travelling worldwide is that one has to respect and be aware of the ramificationsof other nations' laws - however barbaric they may appear in comparison to others'. The bottom line is that. Travel apart from broadening horizons is also fraught with danger.
Gamarala Friday, 11 January 2013 12:57 PM
Well on hind sight one can come up with explanations, objections, and suggestions. The fact remains families should limit the number of children they have. If they cannot afford to give the children a decent start in life, then they should limit the number of children they have. More children breeds poverty. Birth control is the answer. In rich countries people do not have large families. That for a start is the problem over here.
Hamlet Friday, 11 January 2013 01:28 PM
What happened to Family Planning?
Sam Saturday, 12 January 2013 01:27 AM
If Rizan has a British or American passport she would be living today ,, this is the so Called Sharia law in Saudi and other middle east countries,, they exploit Islam for their own greed and benefit,, Saudi today practice more Wahabism which was born out of blood shed and greed ,, they dont practice true Islam
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