(Text of Editorial Appearing in the “Daily Mirror” of January 11th 2013)
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!COURTESY:DAILY MIRROR