With 2 million Sri Lankans overseas, we must lay down what the obligations are of the state that is Sri Lanka towards them under different circumstances and where they seek help, how we deal with them.
Firstly it is the people who remit money back to Sri Lanka who have single handedly kept this economy afloat for the past 10 years. It is sad when the Sri Lankan Govt. takes credit for this when it is the sweat toil and suffering of Sri Lankans that have singularly lead to the strong economic growth over this period despite the war in the earlier period which was itself paid for by these foreign remittances. The estimated amount remitted to Sri Lanka during this period is a staggering US$60B.
Take an example of a case that happened just this week. A maid in Oman claimed she had been raped by her sponsor. (her employer I presume) She sought refuge in the Sri Lankan Embassy in Muscat, and was sent to a safe house that the Embassy uses. I don’t know if rape is a crime in Oman, of if it is only a crime if the perpetrator is NOT Omani. Further to be fair to all, if she had consensual sex with her employer, because the employer promised some pecuniary benefit and later reneged we don’t know. She could therefore to save face, or save her marriage back home have therefore claimed rape!
In any instant unless there is a hearing, and a legal process the truth will not even have a chance of being known.
What actually happened is that the staff member of the Bureau of Foreign Employment at the Embassy, responsible to Minister Dilan Perera, and NOT the Foreign Minister to whom the Ambassador reports to and is answerable to, got in contact with the sponsor and arranged for the maid to have an abortion. (I don’t know if any money passed between the sponsor and the labor officer as an inducement over and above the cost of the abortion procedure) The maid balked, Ambassador held an internal inquiry, the maid’s husband demanded that the maid be sent back, and Ambassador Ashoka Girihagama was promptly recalled (permanently) back to base, before his term expired.
Put yourself in the shoes of Ambassador Girihagama, what are his responsibilities? Was he out of his remit to initiate an inquiry? Why was he recalled? At whose behest was he recalled? Was it to save face by resolving the issue by making sure the maid has an abortion in Oman, and the responsibility falling to the Foreign Employment Bureau. Was there pressure exerted through a politician, by the husband of the victim?
These are all questions that remain unanswered, and cleverly not even addressed by the Sunday Times article, as our journalism is restricted to reportage and NOT investigative of facts behind the case!
DO our Citizens understand the dangers inherent in their trek to unknown lands? to find succor for their own, when their own Govt. fails to solve their basic needs, whilst lining their pockets out of the fruits of their excruciating labor!
Should we warn our people seeking employment overseas of the dangers they must face and the options open to them if they are victimized, and that they may not be the same as that available to them in Sri Lanka?
It is the DUTY of the GOSL to address these very real issues, as this source of income is crucial to their survival, and if they have a survival instinct they would do well to have this matter amicably resolved. Whilst we need good diplomatic relations with the Governments that we send our unsuspecting citizens, we must do our utmost to protect their interests, in countries where they are MOST vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.