Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What have we learned from the Rizana experience?

The Nation suffered a collective shock and grief when one of the least protected and most disadvantaged citizens, a 24 year old female, who has been in prison in Saudi Arabia for the past 7½ years on death row finally was beheaded in public.

I believe we should look at the consequences step by step and do our utmost to prevent recurrence of this in future with action plans in place to react without delay

I believe the Govt. due to the poor management of matters of State DID NOT manage the case properly from the beginning. If it had, I am sure this girl will be with her parents today. Every aspect of their handling of this case, a duty as it pertains to the largest source of foreign exchange to the economy, was done badly.

The moment the Embassy in Saudi caught wind of a murder case, she should have been given the protection of the law. If that was done at that stage, she would not have been accused of murder, and if accused would have been acquitted. Even since that stage, the conviction could have been questioned, international pressure put and the necessary appeals made. It is foolish of people merely to say that every one’s hands are tied, and it is merely at the option of the parents of the deceased that pardon could be given. If the matter was properly addressed the fact that the Saudi law was violated from the start from this girl arriving in SA, as Sharia Law prevents an unaccompanied female from travelling in the first, place, Sharia Law could have been used to shame the Saudis into washing their hands off the whole affair, if we had played our cards correctly. They  have NO special privileges.

There are a host of other points at which we could have intervened to influence the parents, who due to having another child who requires medical attention, would be all the more unwilling to grant a pardon, and who due to the particular circumstances they found themselves in, even the Saudi’s would not wish to hold them responsible, as I believe guilt lies as much or more with the mother of the child than with Rizana.

I would like the flow of information in the 48hrs preceding her execution be examined, as we can learn a lot from the misinformation that appears to have been passed and the disgraceful political mileage our politicians got out of that at that stage without a care for the welfare of Rizana.

Further I abhor the spreading of the execution tape on the internet, which has given a ghoulish fascination for people to watch and shed crocodile tears, and worse the misuse of the Islam religion by Muttur Imams to influence the parents or so it seems to me to accept the fate as Allah’s wish that befell their daughter. For them (parents of Rizana) to accept so blindly that there was nothing mortals could do is simply wrong, and I believe a sinister attempt of the Saudis through their Wahabi network of proselytizers to insinuate that to question the verdict and punishment as somehow wrong was to go against the religion. Them, influencing how Sri Lankan muslims should believe is regrettable and local laws must be enforced or amended to prevent the spread of fundamentalism which leads to divisive and explosive religious extremism. For the Saudis in a press release to say that she willfully murdered, within weeks of arrival is simply preposterous to say the least.

The misuse of Sharia law or the incorrect interpretation in parts by the Saudis to suit them is also regrettable, as the law must be applied in the whole and not in part as Islam is a forgiving religion and not as rigid as it seems. However as it is their law and it is for the world bodies to ensure compliance with international laws, I reserve my judgment, except in saying that we should not expose our citizens to countries where we as a Country, and Government disagree with local laws as it pertains to the practice of one’s religion and interpretation of laws.


1 We must tighten the rules of who we permit into countries where we have limited access to their systems of justice, and that those who go, do so knowing that their rights in Sri Lanka will not be respected in their host country.

2 We raise the age at which we send females to 25 with a 5 year window where we determine NOT to send any women as housemaids to the middle eastern countries. We should also stop sending mothers with children under 10.

3 We have strict and swift penalties imposed on job agents that break these rules, to deter any bending of the rules, and hold them responsible for ensuring the rules and age limits are enforced.
4 We have a 2month training program before we send anyone for employment paying any wage below $1000 a month on what to expect and what their duties and laws they may be faced with.

5 We have bi-lateral agreements with ALL countries that we send workers to safeguard their basic rights in keeping with International Basic Law, and to have minimum wage and working condition rules, including holidays.

In Conclusion if it is any comfort, I trust that Rizana's case has highlighted the need for safeguards to be in place to protect our citizens in Foreign Countries, and by doing so save many lives in the future and reduce the 500 deaths every year in the Middle East of our citizens, with many occurring under very suspicious circumstances.

Most of all let us wish that this Country re establishes the rule of law, currently under strain, so that when we point the finger at other countries where we disagree with their administration of justice, we cannot be guilty of the same, and be held to a higher standard than any of the countries we point to.

1 comment:

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