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 Post subject: Sri Lanka fire ambassador to Saudi Arabia
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:54 pm 
Sri Lankan Envoy Feels Bitter About Being Recalled Home

According to sources in the Sri Lankan Embassy, there are currently over 300 runaway domestic housemaids living in a four-room safe house located beneath the embassy.

Sarah Abdullah, Arab News
Copyright: Arab News © 2003

JEDDAH, 8 August 2007 — Sri Lankan Ambassador A.M.J. Sadiq, who last month was asked by his government to return to Colombo, is set to leave on Friday.

Local media had reported earlier that the ambassador drew the anger of the Sri Lankan government after failing to secure appointments for the visit to Saudi Arabia by Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila, his delegation and the parents of Rizana Nafeek, the teenage Sri Lankan maid on death row for murdering a four-month-old Saudi boy in her care.

Sadiq denied reports that he was being recalled because of his incompetence in dealing with the Nafeek case. “I received the letter from Bhaila asking for me to fix an appointment for his visit on July 12, a Thursday and non-working day in Saudi Arabia, which left me with no choice but to wait until Saturday, July 14, for Saudi government offices to open, which only added further delay to the process,” Sadiq told Arab News.

According to the ambassador, it takes at least 20 days to secure an appointment for foreign delegates to enter the Kingdom, a regulation set forth by Saudi government.

The deputy foreign minister, who wrapped up his Saudi visit last week, had traveled to the Kingdom to seek clemency for Nafeek from the parents of the deceased boy.

In an open letter to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) praised Sadiq’s work. “We want to take the opportunity to compliment and to express appreciation of the excellent intervention of the ambassador ... for making it possible for us to contribute to the legal fees needed in the case of Nafeek in order to file an appeal to save her life,” said the AHRC letter.

Sadiq felt saddened by the Sri Lankan government’s decision to recall him. “I feel that I, as well as everyone in the embassy in Riyadh, have worked so hard for the past two years in helping save the life of Nafeek and now I have been ordered to leave without being able to witness the results of my labor.”

The ambassador said he suggested to the Sri Lankan government ways to resolve problems between Sri Lankan employees and their Saudi sponsors.

“I have asked government officials on numerous occasions to create an insurance scheme that would protect Sri Lankan nationals as well as their Saudi sponsors in cases in which Sri Lankan employees run away from their sponsors... I feel that sometimes domestic workers feel homesick or have other problems including abuse and want to escape their employers but at the same time I am a great advocate of the rights of the Saudi sponsors who shouldn’t be held responsible for paying for such occurrences. The insurance scheme would be in place to pay for fees such as back salary, airline tickets, or as in the case of Rizana and so many like her, for providing legal representation,” he said.

So far no one in the Sri Lankan government has taken notice of Sadiq’s idea.

According to sources in the Sri Lankan Embassy, there are currently over 300 runaway domestic housemaids living in a four-room safe house located beneath the embassy.

Embassies and consulates in Jeddah this year have been receiving an unusually large number of runaway domestic workers. Many foreign workers find an opportunity to escape in the summer months, which is a popular time for Saudis to travel abroad.

“Others are simply dropped at the consulate door by their sponsors, who want to avoid paying extra fees for plane tickets or deportation expenses for maids to travel,” said Rizwan, a social worker at the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah.

As yet there is no word on who will be assigned by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry to replace Sadiq following his departure on Friday.

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