Maids From Sri Lanka — Broken In The Middle East

Lahanda Purage Ariyawathie, V R Letchumi, Kusuma Ranjanie, M. A. Wimalasiri and Surgeons operating on Ariyawathie

By Ranee Mohamed

They are maids in Sri Lanka, but when they return from the Middle East they are broken women. There seems to be nothing that can bring happiness to the life of Lahanda Purage Ariyawathie (49) as she suffers from the nails within her and the excruciating pain from the cuts that have been made in the process of surgical removal of these nails. L.P. Ariywathie returned to Sri Lanka from Saudi Arabia in August this year and made headlines – and history — with the allegation that her Saudi Arabian employers had inserted nails into her body.
Ariywathie alleged that the husband of the Saudi couple had inflicted the torture on her while the other family members stood around laughing. “This act was usually done around 7 p.m. I am not sure if there was any significance in time,” she said. She also alleged that the man in the house had a knife held to her throat and she was scared of being killed and hence did not struggle.
And now several months after this harrowing experience, the pain has not stopped for Ariyawathie.
“I have been screaming in pain the whole night through. I can’t walk, I can’t sit and I can’t stand,” she told The Sunday Leader on Friday, November 19. “We are getting ready to take our mother to the Andapana Hospital,” said her son Chamil on Friday morning. “We cannot bear to see our mother suffer this way. We have not received any money from her employers in Saudi Arabia. The authorities here are in the process of gathering information about her case,” he added.
“My mother will be a patient for her lifetime. She is getting weaker everyday and we are unable to find a source of income as we cannot leave her alone at home. She requires round the clock care,” said Chamil. He went on to say that their house is only half built and that his mother is living amidst inconvenience and hardship and has to endure gnawing pain because of some of the nails within her body which were not surgically removed due to fear of complications.
“There have been a section of people who said that I have inserted these nails myself. Then what about the other women who came with nails and foreign objects in their bodies,?” asked Ariyawathie who is the first housemaid who gave us the story about nails being inserted into a human body. Approximately 24 nails had been inserted into her body allegedly by her employers in Saudi Arabia.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have denied her allegation and have said that Ariyawathie’s story is fabricated. The Saudi Arabian authorities have pointed out that the nails could not have been inside Ariyawathie’s body when she left Saudi Arabia as she had passed through the metal detectors at the Saudi Arabia airport, without any problem.
Earlier this month the case of V. R. Letchumi (30) of  Ibbagamuwa, Gokarella zoomed into focus as she alleged her Kuwaiti employers had driven nails into her body. Lying in the Kurunegala Hospital, her hands bandaged and her face disfigured with pain, tears and suffering is Letchumi. According to recent reports in the local media doctors operating on Letchumi at the Kurunegala Hospital have already removed nine nails from her right hand and left foot.
Hospital officials at the Kurunegala Hospital have reportedly said that x-rays and scans showed that there were more objects in her body and that they will be removed in the coming days. Reacting to the reports, Kuwaiti bloggers have  rejected the claims as “implausible”, saying that nobody could stand having so many nails in their body.
Meanwhile another housemaid, Dissanayake Mudiyanselaga Chandani of Manampitiya, Polonnaruwa who ran away from her employer’s home in Amman is now lying at Ward 65 of the National Hospital. Last week, Chandani was receiving treatment at the Italian Hospital, a premier private hospital in Amman when Hemantha Wijeratne, Head of Labour of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait spearheaded an effort to look after the interests of Chandani.
“The doctor who examined her  asked us to take some x-rays. The x-rays revealed that there were six nails in her stomach. We were told however that she will pass out the nails,” said Hemantha Wijeratne, when The Sunday Leader contacted him in Amman.
There are  nails within Chandani that  needs to be surgically removed,  but Chandani  refused to be subject to surgery in Jordan. Her employers in Kuwait  however have denied the allegations claiming that from the day Chandani came to their house she had wanted to go back to Sri Lanka. They have said that she has swallowed the nails to get back to Sri Lanka.
While giving statements to the police, a woman in much pain, D.M. Chandani said that she is suffering in a way that she has not suffered before.
“Doctors  say that the remaining nail in my body is not one I swallowed. It has been inserted into my urinary route. I cannot bear the pain. I remember this day – my madam beat me till I fainted. Then, after I fainted she had inserted the nail into my urinary route,” alleges Chandani speaking to The Sunday Leader on Friday.
D.M. Chandani went on to speak at length about her suffering in her employer’s house in Kuwait. “There were eight people in the house. It was impossible to say whether they were all daughters or sisters. All of them looked alike.  Sir, was not involved in these things. There was one  Madam who was always angry with me. I think she was the head of the household.  At first she put kerosene oil in my hair and then cut it short saying that there were lice on my head. Then I developed chicken pox and she sprayed the cockroach killing insecticide on my body. Madam was angry with me because I had complained about the house to the Employment Agency,” cried Chandani.
“I did not receive my wages. I am not only poor, I am ill and suffering,” said this mother of a three year old. Chandani is in Bed No. 3, Ward 65 of the National Hospital in Colombo.
Nadeeka Dilrukshi (22) of  Dayagama East, 1st Division Dayagama, Nuwara Eliya said that she has worked in Kuwait for two years. “The first year was all right. But I received my wages for only four months. Then after that the family found a hair in the food. Thereafter, every single day was a day of horror. The day they found the hair was the worst day of my life. The lady of the house and two of her sons attacked me. One of them had an iron pole. Thereafter the beatings were more and more regular. The Sir of the house did not know about the assaults. My spine, my buttocks and my hand with which I tried to stop the attacks are still wounded. The huge blue patches in my buttocks have now become open wounds. I cannot sit or stand. My left finger is broken. I have a three year old and I am unable to attend to the needs of my little son. When he asks me to get up from the chair, I cannot get up,” cried Nadeeka.
“When all the assaults by the mother and sons became unbearable, I told the Master of the house that I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka. I showed him my wounds and he was shocked. However he slapped me for not telling him, and thereafter he made my ticket and sent me back to Sri Lanka,” said Nadeeka who went on to say however that they did not give her any money.
“My wife came to Sri Lanka on August 25. She did not bring a cent with her. She came as she went. All she brought were her own clothes – and a bruised and broken body. For four months she sent her salary. For 20 months she did not get paid – all she has received were beatings,” said Mahinda Kumara, her husband speaking to The Sunday Leader on Friday.
“I have to take her to hospital once every two days. We have no money. I am unable to work now as my wife is ill and there is no one to look after our little son. I am trying to get her salary for 20 months. I have no one to help me. All I have is a telephone number of the employers,” said Mahinda Kumara. He is in possession of a Kuwait telephone no. 0096524534204.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, P. Subramaniam, brother of assaulted housemaid P. Raja Kumari (35) said, “My sister arrived at the airport carrying a bag given by an airline. She had in her possession only her passport, her identity card and the mobile phone which she took from Sri Lanka.”
“She could speak to us intelligibly only after she was given immediate medication and a saline drip. X-rays have also been taken and we are awaiting results of investigations to find out whether there has been any damage to her nerves,” said Subramaniam.
A resident of  65/11, Balika Road, Pahala Kosgama, Kosgama,  Raja Kumari, speaking to The Sunday Leader said that she is trying to recover from her injuries and psychological trauma and is now without employment and any source of income. “I had to go to  Saudi Arabia because of my mother aged 65 and my father aged 75. I have three children, one of my sons is half-blind. My parents and my children depend on me for support. My husband abandoned me 13 years ago,” she said.
Raja Kumari alleges that she was taken away by her employers from the embassy where she sought refuge after going to the police for not receiving her salaries. “On the pretext of taking me to the airport, they took me back to their house and the three sons of the house assaulted me mercilessly. Many of the blows were directed to the area above my neck,” said Raja Kumari who is still wearing a medical collar to keep her neck in place.
“I hugged the Madam, pleaded with her to make them stop. But she asked them to carry on. The men pulled clumps of hair out of my head. Look at my forehead,” alleged Raja Kumari, showing portions of bare areas in her head. “One of the kicks from the men sent me flying from one corner to another. They tore my handbag, photographs of my children and my clothes,” she cried.
W.M. Indra Kumari (23) had to leave her hometown along with her husband and her three year old son when their  neighbours  in Bandarawela read and heard about her rape in Dhamman. “Everyone was looking at us and whispering. Some were passing hurtful comments. My wife was hurt and crying anyway and we could not bear all this,” said Indika.
“We are now living in a small rented room in Kanuwana, Jaela” said Indika, the husband who works as an assistant carpenter.
“We are undergoing great suffering. We have to pay the rent and look after our baby. Indra Kumari cannot go to work anymore. She is in a deep mental anguish and cries every night. All  our dreams have been shattered,” said young Indika, speaking to The Sunday Leader from Jaela on Friday.
Indra Kumari alleges that was repeatedly raped in a closed dark room in the employment agency in Dhamman.
Munasingha Arachige Wimalasiri is waiting for his wife Kusuma Ranganie who he says telephoned him after his story appeared in The Sunday Leader of November 14.
“It is amazing. After I told our story to The Sunday Leader, there was a telephone call from my wife. She said that she is in the Embassy in Kuwait. My wife told me that her employers in Kuwait had tortured her. She said that things became worse for her when a telephone call came from Sri Lanka inquiring about the safety of Kusuma Ranjanie,” said M.A. Wimalasiri.
Kusuma Ranjanie and Wimalasiri are residents of Malwatte, Godakawella.
“My wife said that she is suffering from a head injury. She also alleges that the Madam of the house had heated the clothes pressing iron and placed it on my wife’s cheek. Ranjanie told me that she escaped from the roof after the Madam of the house hit her on the head and left her bleeding on the floor, thinking she had fainted. She said that she has injuries all over her body,” cried Wimalasiri.
“Yet there is no way that I can get my wife back to Sri Lanka as I have no ‘power’. We are helpless people, but I do want my wife back, my children need their mother back,” cried Wimalasiri, who went on to say that loss and sadness are equally painful for the rich and the poor. raneemoham@hotmail.com

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