19 April, 2024


Sri Lankan Migrant Workers & The Case Of The 45-Year-Old Married Mother

By Imtiyaz Razak

Dr. Imtiyaz Razak

Dr. Imtiyaz Razak

Sri Lanka Experiences: Neo-liberalism, the rise of migrant workers and the case of the 45-year-old married mother

Sources suggest that a Saudi court has decided to reopen the case of a Sri Lankan woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The 45-year-old married mother of two was convicted in August because she was allegedly participated in the adultery with the man, also from Sri Lanka. The fact is that “the man was sentenced to only 100 lashes while the woman was sentenced to death by stoning.” The latest development related to the 45-year-old married mother of two is rather positive. “Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva told parliament that an appeals court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, has decided to hear the case again following pleas by Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry. “Based on the advice of the lawyers and our (foreign ministry’s) intervention on the matter, a decision has been reached to reopen the case,” de Silva told lawmakers.”

Now it is the time to discuss the question why do those people go to countries such as Saudi Arabia in the Gulf? The answers are not so complicated. We know some answers. One answer is associated with poverty, and countries like Sri Lanka’s inability to create equal conditions for all people to seek equal economic opportunities. Some blamed Saudi wahabbism. Actually, it is not Wahabi barbarism, as alleged by Dr. Ameer Ali, killed 45-year-old married mother of two, but the very neo-liberal economic system that Sri Lanka has been practicing contributed to econonomic marginalization and polarization.

StoningWhen sufferings occur, when killing hit our society, when inhumanity dominate our polity, we rather than targeting the roots of all evils, tend to blame the results and actors associated with the results. The fact is that if Sri Lanka is able to provide safer economic security and conditions for all to seek upward economic mobility, it is very unlikely Sri Lanka’s economically marginalized would choose to go out of Sri Lanka to win their bread and butter. In plain words, it is Sri Lanka’s neo-liberal economic system contribute to the sufferings. Sri Lanka’s neo-liberal economic system has history of discriminating it’s own people. Rebellion by the JVP mainly from the south both in 1971 and 1987 rooted in economic marginalization of Sinhalese. The rise of Sri Lanka’s brutal ethnic conflict, which killed more100, 000 since it’s inception, had been rooted in Sri Lanka’s economic modernization program engineered by Sinhala elites and politicians from 1956. Now the LTTE, which challenged the state violently, either silenced their guns by themselves or they were forced to silence their guns, but the fact is that there was and is economic origin to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.

Sri Lanka needs to seek better economic choices to help all Sri Lankans. Poverty is one of major issues in the island. Poverty in rural Sri Lanka is one of pressing challenges, and become sources of frustrations and alienations. As pointed elsewhere “nine out of ten poor people in Sri Lanka live in rural areas. The 20-year civil conflict in the north and east of the country had a major impact on poverty, leading to the displacement of about 800,000 people from their homes and sources of livelihood. Thousands of children lost one or both parents, and there was an increase in the number of households headed by women, which are more likely to be exposed to economic hardship. More than 40 per cent of rural poor people are small farmers. Apart from poor people in areas affected by conflict, most of the rural poor are concentrated in the Central, Uva, Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces. Agricultural growth in those provinces has been sluggish. A significant lack of infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and irrigation and communication facilities limits people’s opportunities to earn income through off-farm activities. Malnutrition among children is common. In some areas in six of the seven provinces, seven out of ten people have no access to electricity, and almost half of the population does not have access to safe drinking water.” (For more information click here.)

This is Sri Lanka’s problem. Evidences suggest that Sri Lanka’s poor often do not have high skill and thus they find difficulties to seek decent jobs and opportunities in Sri Lanka. But those poor do have stomach. It means that they need to eat. Apart from winning bread, they need to live. If Sri Lanka fails to provide economic security and opportunities for all, poor have to find new markets and opportunities beyond Sri Lanka. The Middle East has been that home for many poor since 1978. Studies suggest that neo-liberal economic model implemented by former President Mr. Jayewardene while helping a few to be rich, actively polarized the society. That polarization took form of migrant workers. The migrant workers from Sri Lanka did not start from 1978, but a kind of migrant workers in the post 1978 period largely is poor and unskilled, and their leading destination is the Gulf. One key trend as far as migrant workers concern is that the majority of whom are women—women breadwinners.

As pointed, “In 2003, the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), the main administrative body regulating labor migration, estimated that 1,003,600 Sri Lankans worked abroad. By 2008, this number had increased to 1,792,368, or 9% of the island’s 20 million people. From the late 1980s until as recently as 2007, women made up the majority of these labor migrants. They accounted for 75% of the migrant flow in the mid-1990s, and by 2008 declined to a little under 50%. Of the migrant women, 88% went to work as housemaids. In much of the global North, such migrant transnational domestic workers meet the needs of the global “care deficit,” reflecting a global trend in outsourcing domestic labor to women from less developed countries. In contrast, transnational domestic servants in the Middle East free their sponsors for leisure, supporting a socially significant lifestyle. “

Evidence suggest that “most Sri Lankan migrants (92%), both male and female, journey to the Gulf, with four countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar) absorbing over 80% of Sri Lanka’s workers. In the Gulf, Sri Lankan women share the market for migrant domestic workers with women from Indonesia, the Philippines, and several other countries. Racial, ethnic, religious, and national stereotypes predetermine wages. For example, in the UAE in 2004, housemaids from the Philippines were paid more than those from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh, in that order”

So the point is clear. It is materially poor people who would migrant workers seeking opportunities in the Muslim majority Gulf. That is to say that there is economic crisis in Sri Lanka, and that crisis is not caused by Saudi Arabia’s so-called Wahabbi barbarism. It is caused by neo-liberal barbarism. Sadly, Saudi Arabia along with other countries, as mentioned above, become home to poor from Sri Lanka to seek shelter to win their bread.

Note that each and every country has it’s own law and regulations so is Saudi Arabia. In the US, capital punishments are still on the book, and “31 states still retain the death penalty” Some states use the electric chair to carry out death sentences. One may say it is better than the death sentence performed by Saudi Arabia or other Muslim majority societies where Islamic ethics on law have been implemented.

The point is any functioning societies have rules and regulations. They function along those laws, rules and regulations. Different societies have different laws and regulations. It is practically impossible for a particular nation/society to embrace the experiences and practices of others for many socio-political as well as historical reasons, but it is progressively possible to make laws or humane punishment models. Those negotiations have a lot to do with relations between states and society both at popular and masses level.

But question remain is why countries such as Sri Lanka still send their own people [migrant workers] to work there. The latest development with regard to 45-year-old married mother of two is not the very first case as far as deaths occurred for housemaids in Saudi Arabia is concerned. As we might remember in 2013, “a Sri Lankan maid was beheaded after being convicted for murdering a child in her care when she was 17 years old. Sri Lankan authorities protested the death, saying that she did not receive a fair trial and their calls for clemency were rejected.”

So it is very likely the tragic story of 45-year-old married mother might not be an end of history related to the sufferings of housemaids in Saudi Arabia. Sri Lanka’s ruling political class and politicians have responsibility to create better conditions for all so both inequality and poverty eventually can be defeated. Creating better economic infrastructure and condition can boost both hope and peace. That’s the way we would prevent our own people from entering to unfamiliar territories to face unfamiliar laws.

*Dr. A.R.M. Imtiyaz attached to Asian Studies/Political Science, Temple University, USA. His teaching and research mainly focus on ethic conflict, China and Islamic movements in the Middle East.

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Yes u r arguments r right, what these 2 adults they done? Damn whats wrong with two consented adults having sex. if u punish everyone in this world for adultery their will be no more muslims……all will be gone long time ago. [Edited out]

    • 5

      Imtiyaz Razak – In the USA where to teach
      Blacks take most of the NBA slots. Indians from South India take most of the spelling bee, and engineering slots. Chinese take most of the math slots. Jews take most of the banking, finance, and entertainment slots. Anything left for the mus-slim from Asia??

  • 7

    This sad situation has been a train-crash waiting to happen. On one hand, a country that practices a barbaric system of punishment, and on the other a country that produces a large and growing pool of labour, the sediment of a variable ‘free’ education system, only fit for menial work, and ripe for exploitation and abuse.

    This isn’t the first time a citizen of our country has fallen foul of an alien system, and for the foreseeable future, this will not be the last time.

    • 3

      Spring Koha
      Please do not denigrate the free educational system in the country which became operative from the time the country was free of the strangle hold of the colonialists.
      Even you may be or are a product of the benefit of that system , don’t forget.
      That said, The point Dr. Initiaz Razak makes about the inability and neglect by successive Sri Lanka’s political elite in providing a safer climate for economic security and upward mobility from the time after 1956 up to date is glaring and cannot be disputed.
      The reason for that is because the country was confounded by the paradox that existed between it’s pro- capitalist economic mindset and reactionary racist ideology.
      Even in this twenty first century the appeasement of the Southern vote bank through populist pandering and that bodes no hope for reconciliation or future progress.

      • 4


        Apropos your opening comment.

        I do NOT denigrate our ‘Free’ education system. On the contrary, I deplore the way it has been administered by consecutive governments over the past 60 years. Seriously underfunded, the real value investment by government has hardly changed since I benefited from the system in the late 40’s and 50’s. Good teachers cost money, and in these days of competing opportunities, they cost even more.

        The system also continues to perpetuate wide discrepancies. There is simply no comparison between Royal College (arguably the best government school) and an outstation Maha Vidyalaya. I think you don’t need me to tell you the answer. Sadly, the Royal College of these days is simply not of the same high standards that it reached in the last century. That still does not excuse the discrepancy.

        You also write …free of the strangle hold of the colonialists… What stranglehold? As I know it, it was the British administration who encouraged the establishment of schools for all, and that concept was eagerly seized upon firstly in the north, where some excellent schools were established (and allowed our Tamil brethren to steal a march in education), and gradually, later, in other parts of the country. The Sinhalese, and the Muslims who had suspected some sort of ‘colonial’ conspiracy were late in availing themselves of the opportunities.
        The simple fact is that after 67 years of holding the whip hand, our governments have seriously let us down with their management of this valuable investment.

        Would you like to know why? Let’s try this simple test ; where do the best overfed, and over-incentivised politicians, educate their children? Where do their cronies and hangers-on educate their children? OK, I’ll stop for now, but when you next see your MP, ask him these questions, and marvel at the answer. When I asked Madame B as to why she chose to educate her children in foreign climes, she gave me a sweet smile and, without batting an eyelid answered ‘so they can learn leadership’.

        I can promise you this; if all our MP’s and other politicians were forced to educate their children in their own constituencies, we would have a very, very different quality of FREE education.

        • 0

          Spring Koha
          If you deplore the way in which free education is being administered due to underfunding I can take your point.
          But as you belief that the British colonials had ultristic in their intentions hy occupy our island by deceit in order to educate and civilise us by setting up schools, then there is no point in my wasting my time responding to the rest of your comment, as you say what you heard from Madame B in reply to your question.
          So I shall stop at that point now.

        • 0

          Ultristic read ” altruistic”

      • 0

        “”Please do not denigrate the free educational system in the country “”

        Tam ill/Muslim goes into labour and a silly little mouse is born.

        Delusional Disorder Symptoms!!

  • 4

    Just looking at the demonstrators in photograph above exposes the fraud they are perpetuating in the name of justice.If they were really interested in saving our women from such a gory end, they will start a village level campaign showing the dangers of going into Saudi Arabia in search of petro Dollars or really just a pittance of it.But they will never do that because if they do these NGO crows would end up with the donors giving them nothing.It will be simply a case of “NO CAUSE NO DOLLARS”.

    So they will prefer to have such executions go on so that they can turn up at prominent places in their designer wear dresses , Ray Ban and Gucci sun glasses, make a little noise and have the donor dollars flowing into their hand bags and wallets.

    So the big question is who is fooling whom?The answer is of course ‘blowing in the wind’ or more appropriately blowing in the photograph above.

  • 3

    Dr. Imtiyaz Razak

    RE: Sri Lankan Migrant Workers & The Case Of The 45-Year-Old Married Mother

    “Sources suggest that a Saudi court has decided to reopen the case of a Sri Lankan woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery”

    The public outsry against the Iblis, Devil Satan, Shaitan foillwimng Wahhabi covoluted “Sahria Law”, has fortunately caused the Iblis to reopen the case.

    There was no support and justification in the Quran for stoning. The “Muslim” idiots who blindluy follow their Ulema. Imams and Mullahs, who do not even know the Quran should be ashamed, but those idiots have no shame.

    See what the Idiot Sri Lankan “Ambassdor” to Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Thassium., had to say. What a shame. When he returns to Katunayaka Airport, a stone throwing party should be organized to hit his car and the idiot with stones. Ask the innocent driver to wear helmets.

    “Actually, it is not Wahabi barbarism, as alleged by Dr. Ameer Ali, killed 45-year-old married mother of two, but the very neo-liberal economic system that Sri Lanka has been practicing contributed to econonomic marginalization and polarization.”

    No and and Yes. No It is the Wahhabi double standards and not following the Quran.

  • 1

    What a great relief!

    Our diplomats seem to have found a way out of the quagmire. As I undertsand, even the rulers would not have been able to pardon our sister, which would have been a violation of the Sharia Law. The verdict is based ona confessions by the accused.

    In addition to the measures suggested by the good Dr., I would like to point out the importance of making those who venture out in this way be fully aware the country’s laws and the repercussions of violating them. This case could be a very hard hitting example of the punishments.

    Unwanted comments and the actions of NGO’s could have made the situation worse. It is another concern we must address. No one should fish in troubled waters.

    • 1

      “Our diplomats seem to have found a way out of the quagmire”

      It’s not much to do with the mus-slim diplomat.

      See how Putin the most experienced slipping away from the most difficult situation he is in and moving ahead? He is the longest standing (15 years) leader from among the European leaders.

      Similarly, only the mus-slim has had power continuously from the time of independence in the amma nathan tattha (mum or dad) government.

      the mus-slim public of Lanka know how to coup successfully.

  • 5

    When you get a little taste you want more as human nature demands. The Middle-East is a money trap.

    There are men who have spent 20 years continuously whilst their children grow up without a father. When it involves mothers its far worse.

    Few people have tried to stop the flow. Although the country needs to do more to encourage people not to go there. If they do then the entire family should be taken with them.

  • 3

    Vibushana” The Middle-East is a money trap. “

    its the Honey trap that is the issue here.

    • 3

      Its a honey, bunny, less money, trap.
      If you think of starting your own enterprise then you pay 50% of all your profits to your local sponsor for the privilege.

  • 0

    This man doesn’t know that migration work is number one income to SL? It is easy to talk…? If you don’t send who feed them..Be practical..not theoretical…
    You are writing for sake of writing..
    No knowledge of sharia laws or Saudi tradition..
    No solid argument..
    CT wasting time of people.
    Only publish good article..
    See all other articles on this subject.

  • 2

    Islam as propagated and practised in Saudi Arabia finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Saudi Arabia is vilified today even more than it’s vile terrorist arm, ISIS. This has fortunately come to the rescue of this poor woman (and man) who had already been condemned to a savage death for what would be a minor infraction in civilised societies. The way women are treated, in sharp contrast to men, stands completely exposed. What is ironic though is that this seems to have escaped an adequate degree of attention from the women’s lib movement.

  • 1

    Brother Imtiaz Razak,

    Most of what you say about the cause for the disproportionately high number of abjectly poor people in Sri Lanka is true. It is poverty that drives these unfortunates knowing very well that they are entering the dens of the inhumane barbarians dressed in impeccably white robes.

    The first and foremost problem we have is that our politicians are corrupt and corrupt to the core. Their most important role in being a politician is to enrich themselves and their kith, kin and their erstwhile friends and thriving on contrived adulations. And when such is their primary role the economic development of the country needless to say takes a back seat. So the cycle of uprisings and resultant violence will continue ensuring the abject poverty of the rural masses are enshrined. Sad to say Lord Buddha’s message drummed into the heads of our folk for over 2500 years has not changed our primal mindset even an iota.

  • 1

    There are 2 underlying social and legal issues here

    i) its treu that poverty drives our women and men to work in bad conditions in the middle east,the Govt should do something about it,but thats one side of the issue

    ii) the main issue is the terrible and sub human laws in Saudi Arabia called Sharia law where a woman is getting stoned for having sex outside of marriage

    if that same yardstick is used almost all Saudi men would have been stoned to death by now as they fly to Europe get the best looking escorts have sex,rape maids in home ground and then act pious and pray 6 times a day,these are questions that the muslims must ask themselves without trying to say ah poverty drives them there,the issue here is the hypocritical Sharia law

  • 0

    Like the proverbial Parson’s Egg, this is is very good in parts.Bensen

  • 4

    “That is to say that there is economic crisis in Sri Lanka, and that crisis is not caused by Saudi Arabia’s so-called Wahabbi barbarism.”

    Hello hello Political Scientist Imtiyaz Razak – Donald Trump is right in judgement and wants it known.

    Imtiyaz Razak, Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.

    Its is mus-slime POLYGAMIST backed by UAE/KSA that are responsible not SL poverty.
    Providing poverty stats is great but hiding your thinge in joc strap is good for politicians.
    ” The job agents are but mus-slime are you in bed with them too as much as with the tiger?

    Mus-slime love infidel land which are very rich $$$ for its freedom to Polygamy paid for by UAE/KSA – to build mosque.
    Native kids run away from schools because mus-slim come in drones taking up limited resources- anti-social mus-slim No??

    Its the crisis of mus-slim mans thinge!! Sterlisation is the answer- if china can have it and Europe is considering that policy which has been a success.
    If the sinhalese and tamils can have 2 why not the mus-slime
    US density is 34 Europe is 300

    You also support Rohingya illicit in buddhist Burma?? Rohingya/Bangladeshi.

    The UPA government didn’t release the 2011 census data for religion based distribution of population [1]. Until the data is released, it’s difficult to guess the percentage of Muslims in West Bengal or any other state.

    Among all religions, Muslim population in India has been rising at the fastest rate.

    Muslim share of West Bengal’s population has increased from 19 % in 1970s to 25 % today. It is true that probably 40 % of the farmers in West Bengal is now Muslim and there are comparatively more Hindus in urban areas. Hindu majority is going down even in urban areas judging by the frenetic building of mosques in urban areas. In some border areas Muslims are now in unassailable majority. The Jangipur parliamentary seat (President Pranab Mukherjee’s old seat) which is right on the border with Bangladesh has a 70 % Muslim population.

    West Bengal’s border areas comprise 25-30% Bangladeshi infiltrators and even 50% in some places. Every month (as reported by a newspaper) 1 lakh Bangladeshis enter India. Most political parties are using this for their political purposes by granting them voter id thereby making them Indian citizens. Sad face of Indian politics.

    Hindus of India died for their freedom and now it is the melting pot for terror.
    Freedom and 2 women at the hearth – every single boat carries Bengali/Pakistani the poverty they created.
    Koran is responsible- so stone many more to death-

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