The Sri Lankan mother sentenced to death by stoning in Saudi Arabia is in regular touch with her children who are completely unaware that their mother faces this cruel end.
The Sri Lankan government is trying to get her sentence lifted or reduced, retaining a lawyer at a cost of Saudi riyal 10,000 (Rs. 350,000) to plead her case, the Minister of Foreign Employment Thalatha Atukorale, said.
“We are trying to get her sentence reduced and, if that is not possible, to have a lenient sentence,” she said.
The housemaid, who has children in Sri Lanka, was convicted of adultery with a Sri Lankan man who is also employed in Saudi Arabia.
The woman pleaded guilty when her case was taken up in court in Riyadh. She was sentenced to be stoned to death while the man was given 100 lashes as punishment.
Officials at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) said they had been informed about the case several weeks ago. The ministry had filed an appeal on November 5.
“The family of the housemaid is not aware of her crime or the punishment. She threatened to kill herself if her identity is made public and we are respecting her wishes,” an SLBFE official said, explaining why the person is not named.
He said the housemaid has continued to contact her family while awaiting her final verdict in her prison cell.
She had been working in Saudi Arabia for nearly three years. She went through a 21-day training course by the SLBFE before going to Saudi Arabia through a registered agency.
It is not known when the woman was arrested but officials at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Riyadh first met her on October 28 to provide her with consular assistance.
‘Embassy officials are constantly meeting her to give updates of what the government is doing to help her,” the SLBFE official said.
“Apart from this, there is nothing much we can do but wait for the appeal process to take place. We were not informed how long that would take,” Acting Director-General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Public Communications Division Satya Rodrigo said.
The government would await the result of court process before taking further action, he said.
The President of Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies, Faizer Mackeen, points out that according to sharia law, under which the woman and the man were sentenced, there should be at least four witnesses to charge a person with adultery.
The government, he said, should intervene and see if there had been a sufficient number of witnesses on which the charge should have been based; it was the embassy’s duty to gather necessary information to help the housemaid, he said.
“It is sad that Sri Lanka is continuing to send people to work in these countries amidst such strict laws that only apply to poor Asian people,” the Deputy Minister
of Social Empowerment and Welfare, Ranjan Ramanayake, said.
He said countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India are shying away from sending their women to work in Saudi Arabia but Sri Lanka keeps encouraging them to go.
According to the ministry this is because the country is dependent on the $US7 billion income brought into Sri Lanka by housemaids.
“There is still time for the Sri Lankan government to work and save this woman. But that will not stop similar cases from happening,” said Mr. Ramanayake, who has long campaigned for the rights of migrant workers.
Seventeen-year-old housemaid Rizana Nafeek was beheaded in 2013 for allegedly killing a four-year-old boy under her care. The Sri Lankan government made all attempts to save Rizana from her untimely death but to no avail.
In August, three Sri Lankan men were beheaded in Saudi Arabia for killing a Saudi national eight years ago. Relatives of the convicted and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to get the punishment reduced but failed when the Saudi Arabian Court refused the plea to pay blood money for their release.
Statistics from the Foreign Employment Bureau shows that more than 80,000 Sri Lankans, including nearly 42,000 women, were employed in Saudi Arabia last year. This year, from January to October the number was more than 61,400.
The minimum monthly salary earned by a foreign worker in Saudi Arabia is 900 riyal, nearly Rs. 34,000.
In total, around 219,000 Sri Lankans were employed in foreign countries in the period January-October 2015. Last year the number was around 300,400.
|9 others face executionNine other Sri Lankans are in overseas jails, sentenced to death. Five of them are in Dubai, two in Abu Dhabi, one in Saudi Arabia and another in Lebanon.
They were jailed for murder, possession of marijuana and alleged misbehaviour. Six of them are registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.
The bureau says nearly 250 Sri Lankans, including 125 women, are serving jail terms in Saudi Arabia. In addition, about 150 are in police stations or camps after being accused of crimes.
Nearly 140 other Sri Lankans, including 56 women, in Middle East countries are awaiting verdicts for complaints made against them.
Courtesy of www.sundaytimes.lk