Sunday, July 27, 2014

How must we protect our own in foreign lands?

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.

I just picked on one incident so as to illustrate the problems faced, and these are NOT easily resolvable, solvable and an understanding between the host government and Sri Lanka also needs to be in place to amicably sort out a resolution. Are there procedures to deal with issues like this or is it Ad Hoc!!

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.




Anonymous said...

The Sri Lanka Government is schizophrenic. It does not have proper policies in anything.

The foreign service struggles to survive with the majority of ambassadorial positions with political appointees who have NO idea in diplomacy.

Further with staff seconded from different ministries, it makes foreign missions ungovernable.

After all the defense attache is a plant of the Defense Ministry, looking for non existent LTTE terrorists, and treats all Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil origin in these countries as potential LTTErs.

Then you have the FEBU staff a law unto themselves, abusing the SL workers in those countries, as they have to deal with low educated women, who really need help and NOT harrasment.

Then you have the Commercial attache from the Ministry of Commerce who really works for a private company in Sri Lanka scouting for business for that rather than enriching the B2B business between the two countries.

Then you have a the second secretary a child of a cabinet minister, who is using political clout to harrass foreign service staff above him or her! but who is just looking at a way to obtain residency in that country, and doing some deals, and finding places to plant the ill gotten gains of the father.


We are now told that Jaliya Wickremasuriya a relative of the President and ex Ambassador in USA swindled Rs 50M in the US of SL Govt. funds his way, and has not been prosecuted.


Anonymous said...

Anon above

I trust you mean there are a few bad apples in our Foreign Missions, and the vast majority of career diplomats are forced to do their job under very trying conditions.

for a start they lack proper training on diplomacy and the ethics of diplomacy, and are thus handicapped.

the language skills required are not properly administered and the appropriate people are NOT assigned to the appropriate missions to perform at peak efficiency.

the benefits given to some staff are NOT managed well and do the country a disservice, as in Country and out of Country payments are vastly different due to living costs in some countries.

We are opening missions in areas we should NOT and NOT in areas we SHOULD, so this wastes limited resources.

there is NO real foreign policy, and is made as we go along, so it is difficult to present a coherent strategy to the host country.

the arrival of thugs as ministers using us to be bag carriers undermines are very position, and reduces the mission to a status of enabling govt. officials to get tickets and free passes to events and parties!

So please give some credit to the staff in missions who are unnecessarily harassed and pressurized by poor administration and management from Colombo.

Anonymous said...

Developing the quality of education ,employabilty ,ethics need to be given priority. Sri lankan university students and teachers are interested in politics than academic achievments