President Refuses To Pay Lawyers For Housemaid On Death Row

A demonstrator holds an image of Rizana Fathima Nafeek during a protest in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 8, 2011. Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

In a shocking decision the President’s office has rejected a request for financial assistance to pay lawyers for an appeal on the death sentence passed on Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek.
Sri Lankans working abroad have been the biggest single net foreign exchange earner for decades and most of it is from house maids.
In what should be a major embarrassment to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) took the initiative to raise the funds for filing the appeal, and thus prevented her immediate execution.
In a letter to the AHRC, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge on August 20, wrote, “ I write with reference to your letter of June 05, 2012 addressed to His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka on the above subject and wish to present the following details for your information.
According to the background reports received from the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, and the Ministry of External Affairs, charges have been made against Miss Rizana Nafeek under the Shariya Law by a court in Saudi Arabia for committing the murder of a baby child even though Miss Nafeek was a minor at the lime of the incident.
His Excellency the President has requested clemency for her from His Majesty King Abdulla bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in the year 2010.” Unquote. Responding to this letter, the Director of Policy and Programs for the AHRC Basil Fernando has appealed to the Sri Lankan government pleading, as it has done throughout several years, to take up this matter of the life of one of its citizens, however humble the position of that citizen may be, with the appropriate dignity of a sovereign nation, and to request from the authorities in Saudi Arabia the saving of this person.
“Thank you very much for your letter dated 20th August 2012. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been writing to His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan authorities ever since it learned about the sentencing of the Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek in 2007.
As the Sri Lankan government was not willing to provide the lawyer’s fees for an appeal from the death sentence, AHRC took the initiative to raise the funds for filing the appeal, and thus prevented her immediate execution,” Fernando wrote.
The AHRC in their response to Weeratunge has said that the human rights organization had taken many initiatives to save the life of the unfortunate girl, Rizana Nafeek, who was seventeen years of age at the time she left for employment in Saudi Arabia.  “Despite being a small nation, Sri Lanka has the same status with any other nation in the world as a sovereign state.
It is with the dignity of a sovereign state that a matter of this nature should be pursued and it is by pursuing matters in that manner that many nations have been able to convince other nations of the seriousness with which they regard the matters of life and death of the citizens of their nations.  It is to be hoped that the fear of the loss of trade relationships or other such embarrassments will not be a consideration on matters of this nature,” Fernando on behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission further wrote.
Pushing for the Sri Lankan Government to pursue its call for clemency from the King of Saudi Arabia Fernando further states, “The Sri Lankan government in this instance had the advantage of the support of the international community.
United Nations human rights authorities have expressed their concern on this issue to the authorities of Saudi Arabia. Besides this, the European Union has expressed its continuous concern on saving the life of Rizana Nafeek and publicized its desire to work with the Sri Lankan government on this issue. The European Union’s High Representative and Vice President, Catherine Ashton, has announced that the European Union has intervened on this matter and that they will pursue efforts on her behalf together with the Sri Lankan government. Many Western governments have also taken up this issue with the Saudi authorities, as well as the Sri Lankan government.
Among the international dignitaries who expressed their concern are His Royal Highness Prince Charles and many others.” Unquote. Sri Lanka’s 1.7 million migrant workforce has been a boon for Sri Lanka’s economy. Last year alone Sri Lankan workers abroad sent home Rs. 5,200 million in foreign exchange to the country’s coffers.
Sri Lanka’s Bureau of Foreign Employment estimates that women represent roughly 60 percent of Sri Lanka’s growing migrant work force. Most women Sri Lankan migrants work in the Middle East as housemaids.

52 Comments for “President Refuses To Pay Lawyers For Housemaid On Death Row”

  1. Lal.Fernando

    It is so ad to hear this news.Why can’t we start a foundation named “Free Rizana” to collect donations.Even if there is any please let me know I would like to forward a donation.Lets do it soon.

  2. Marikkar

    If the Presidential Secretariat refuses to pay the lawyer’s fee, it is the Foreign Employment Bureau which has the sole responsibility to pay the said fee as it is the one who forcibly takes money from agents and individuals in the name of Sri Lankans who go abroad for employment. For the courtesy to the foreign body, the Highest authority should have directed the authorities to respond to the correspondence without committing the serious blunders of this nature which is invariably embarrases the country as a whole in the international level.

    • kaputakukula

      I beg to second this suggestion. Yes, the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) MUST pay the legal costs till the end. All the Sri Lankans who work in abroad know very well how the FEB has stationed “vultures” at the Bandaranayake International Airport to grab the FEB insurance levy (of course not forgetting the rude manner in which these FEB vultures operate). The FEB barks that this insurance levy is for the benefit of the overseas employees. THEN PROVE IT. Pay the legal cost for Rizana instead of contributing to P’s tamashas.

    • Jayantha

      Yes Mr Marikkar your correct , Dont depend on any now lets do somthing now , lets start collecting funds from overses workers to pay the bills for lawyers .
      dont depand on the SLFB too.

      I had already written a memo to Department of State of USA , for releasing rizana from the jail , its coming on diplomatic way ,

  3. dagobert

    Who is this ? Jayantha AL @ Jayantha .G ? It can not be Jayantha Gnana….
    Jayantha…. Is the Saudi Govt., a proxy of the Department of State, USA ?/

    This stagnation of release of Rizana is USA hypocracy Human Rights.
    Where are those voice ferocious HR advocates ? HRW, AI, Louise A’bour, Navi Pillai, AHRC & Basil A’do who thrives on funds dished out by the Danish Foreign Ministry.
    It appears all HR advocated are dumfounded & kneeling before the Saudi King & his petro money & accolades for the religion doctrine Islam they follow.

    HR advocates have happily pocketed their monies and are sleeping at home.
    Who cares for Rizana ?
    World leaders & HR advocates playing politics with Rizana’s life & GOSL..

    • Shaik Anwar Ahamath

      Dagobert, the likes of Loise Arbour, Navi Pillai, Ban Ki Moon, Kofi Annan etc. will not dare say anything that wil offend USA because USA is their paymaster. Likewise, our leaders do not want to say or do anything that would embarrass Saudi Arabia because they employ our housemaids that provides a lucrative balance of payment revenue, however barbaric their treatment. In the case of Rizana Nafeek, besides being a minor at the time of the alleged offence (Saudi Arabia’s own laws prohibits execution of a minor) she is also totally innocent of the charges she had been convicted upon. The wshole trial was in Arabic which she never understood. The interpreter was Indian whose Tamil is vastly different to the Tamil spoken Rizana’s community. The confession was also in Arabic. The only guilty party in this case is the unfortunate infant’s parents for leaving it in the care of an untrained child herself, who came to work for them as a housemaid.

    • Jayantha

      Dagobert you are talking somthing which you dont know , remember the tamil jounalist , Sarth fonseka , Sri lanka ex military guys who was working in iraq, sri lanka employees in kuwait who was captured by terriorist, somalia patirates these are few examples how USA got invloved and realised our OWN Sri Lankans , remeber Rizana is a sri lanka its no matter what religion she is following we need to do somthing for her realised ,

  4. Mohammed Hussein

    The person involved is not a Sinhala Buddhist so why bother.

    • Lankan

      Hussein please do not bring a racial slant into this picture…..we have enough troubles as it is and we do not need a rabid instigator to add to this boiling pot…
      people like you need to be treated by a phychiatrist.

      • Pacha Epa

        Lankan:
        Even when they are stating the obvious, they need psychiatric treatment? Come on!

        • Lankan

          Stand behind behind Hussein in the queue to see the phychiatrist………….you “obviously” need more help than your brother Hussein.

      • Afzal

        Very true. The need of the hour is how we can save this girl not disputing on racial lines

    • Buddhadasa

      Well that raises many questions.Interestingly .more than 80 percent of the people who showed interest in Rizana’s case were Sinhalese. The Muslim brethen who get inflamed for every trivial thing were vastly silent on this issue. It is understandable that hey may have their great respect to Saudi Sharia law and even most of them will acknowledge their decisions whatever they are under Saudi circumstances.However,if one come out from racial and religious framework and see this issue,it is very clear they are trying to execute a child[17 years at the time of incident] who has made a mistake on a job she was not qualified to do and in front of the civilized world it amounts to barbarism whatever the interpretations are one can give. Hope you will at least accept that.

    • Sisira

      How dirty are you Mohammaed Housain. Who did sentence her to death? Not muslims? Do you think The Sunday Leader is a muslim paper? Do you think all sinhala buddists in this country have no problems, do you think that if this poor girl was a sinhala girl – the attitude of sihalese would have been diferent? Please do not drag unnecessary argument. Do whatever you can to help Rizana. Every true Sri Lankan, whether shihalese or not – do pray for her release. Please do not play cheap politics dirty b……..

    • Keppetipola

      Mr.Hussein…Why 99% of the Lankan Muslims are silent? Because Muslims have double standards…When the Mosque in Dambulla ‘attacked’all the Muslims were picketing and protesting at Dewatagaha,Maradana and some parts of the island after Friday prayers…About Rizana verdict I do like to ask the Muslim brethen where do they stand.For the verdict of Saudhi government or against it?I have not seen Muslim men and women picketing or protesting in large numbers in front of Saudhi Embassy…Her issue solely taken by Buddhists,Catholics,Christians and Hindhus.Muslims of Srilanka still has not embedded to the society of ours but Indian Muslims do in India…Still Muslims of Srilanka are Saudhi/Middle east Muslim mind set…I am sorry to say this!

    • ansar

      Hussain,
      Speak Good OR keep your mouth shut, at least Rizana will be benfited. People like you have spoilt this world.
      A lankan

    • Imran Hussein

      Mohammed Hussein – For Gods sake, think twice before you write something. Most of the people who sympathize this poor girl Rizana, are Sinkalese & Tamils than our Srilankan Muslims. What our Azwer, Cader, Rishard Bathiudeen, F Mustafa, Hakeem so on are doing? Dont say rubbish. Its a very sensitive case here we are facing. We should not treat this case as Muslim girl or Tamil/sinhala girl. She is a Srilankan girl and a juvenile when she was sent to that country as an amateur maid. Hence we have a case here, we can defiantly and certainly fight for it. Its the responsibly of the FEB.
      I totally agree with kaputukukula – Those foolishly arrogant, untrained (no PR at all) hopeless looking FEB ‘Vultures’ try to grab every labors hard earn penny for that lethargic Employment Beauro. They even go an extent to send the out going poor overseas employees back home from the airport when they dont have sufficient funds to pay.
      So, please refrain from making such comments which will antagonize the genuine supporters of Rizana and may withdraw their support of this poor soul sitting in the jail without any hopes. Let us get together and do something and I am sure tens of thousands of Srilankans will contribute. It doesnt matter its a Rizana, or a Sriyani or a Lakshmi. Whats important is to save her life.

    • lakshman de silva

      Why cant the “Muslim Britherhood” that is so united and perhaps asking for a seperate stat in the east, appeal to the Saudis? What is Rauff hakeem and his pandankarayas doing. ?
      Dont make this a Sinhala Buddhist issue .It is the life of a young girl.
      If she was a Sinhalese Buddhist you Muslims wouldnt care a damn or a xxxx

    • Tamil Christian

      Mohammed ,

      How can I noagree with you. Killing snake is a sin, even take for example rats, Cockroaches and lice.

      I am so sorry to learn the pathetic situation of this girl. If MR has an ounce of sympathy he would do it. He has tasted blood, hence its not going to happen.

      God is great and He would fight for this girl.

  5. Ukussa

    I have been watching and listening to this drama ever since the subject came into light. I also have seen in the news the small hut Rizana’s family is living in made of cardboard & zink. So far no one has come forward (especially the so called rich and God fearing Muslims) to build a small decent house for the family to live. How can you expect the others to help pay the lawyers’ fees. Only Almighty God must help innocent Rizna to get the release from the Saudi Government only if they are God fearing.

    • lakshman de silva

      Muslims are all talk no action NATO!
      All Fart No Shit!

      • Compassionate

        This is typical. They have money to protcet a drug peddler and murderer in Singapore,with medical bills etc.. but drag their heels to protect a vulnereble girl who is wrongly accused. The plight these women go through in the ME is heart breaking. Nevermind, this is only a drop in the ocean for the government as there will be another few more millions willing to send their hard earned cash to sustain the over inflated cabinet and their cohorts.

        Btw, what do the Muslim politcians do in SL?Oh..I know, they certainly do not want to rock the Saudi Apple cart do they? Money talks.

        • dumith

          Hussain…I dont think presient would do much even if the girl was a sinhalese buddhist.

          There is a man in saudi death row for reading a buddhist book. what does govt. do?

          There is another sinhalese woman in death row charged with witchcraft.

          pretty soon this sharia law will be enacted in sri lanka too. its happening in east now.

  6. Audrey barber

    I need to agree with Kapaputakukula, what is the foreign emplyment bureau doing?. They need to come forward how much did they take from Rizana before she left to Saudi?. The Foreign Employment Bureau has to has take responsibility for this this they plunder each person at the Airport they forcefully grab peoples passport and demand Issurance money which is certainly not a small amount for example a boy whom i know who went to Bahrain on job for a waiter had to pay the FEB a sum over 20,000/- they demand it. These socalled officers stationed at the Airport is a disgrace when they start harrassing people those expat visitors keep looking on in sheer shock an Swedish friend had even taken photos of two officers harassing a housemaid at the airport. This is shows the greed, so where is all this money going to? They say such insurance money is to cover the workers welfare so what are they doing for Rizana? is this not welfare? If you try to ask the Bureau for questions they get rude with you and later become violent they think they are an authority among themselves.

    It is also a shame that the President refused such payment when he spends so much on his overseas trips to stay in luxury hotels and so on. It is shame that the President himself cannot at least direct the FEB to take over such payments……

    OH where Oh where is Humanity in lanka, Oh Lanka what has befallen thee!….. Shame Shame On the FEB and those that run the Government .

  7. BANANA REPUBLIC MAFIA BOSS RAJAPAKSE IS NOT GOING TO PART WITH
    $$ DOLLARS FOR A HOUSE MAID. AFTER ALL THE REASON THE RAJAPAKSE GANG IS HOLDING ON TO POWER BY HOOK & CROOK,IS TO POCKET ALL
    THE $$ DOLLARS INTO THEIR SWISS & OTHER OVERSEAS TAX HEAVEN BANK ACCOUNTS.

  8. Our President do not care about ordinary citizen. He claims to be a people President but his behaviours are just opposite. He only cares about his family and we stupid people keep on making him as our President.

    • Rata Kana Lanka group

      When an election is on the map, “Srilanka President” is a “People`s President”
      after that he is ” Family only President”.

      It is a sin that “Srilankan Foolish Voters” cannot understand this difference.

  9. Saro

    The country benefits a lot from Sri Lankan maids working abroad. It is inhuman not to try whatever means possible to save this girl’s life. The president spends billions on propaganda and in entertaining foreign politicians to improve this country’s tainted image abroad. He must pay for the lawyers to try to rescue this poor girl.

  10. Cas Shivas

    It would seem that under the Sharia Law only the parents of the dead child could pardon the accused. This is a poor girl from a very remote area, Muthur. It is a shame that we have to send these poor people, especially women in that to earn foreign exchange for the country and bust it up and leave them to suffer in the prison. People like the Justice Minister Rauf Hakkim, because of his position and the Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana who is said to hail from a very prestigious Muslim Religious family appealing to the family of the child may yield results. Let us not belittle the efforts of others as well. All are working for a good cause why create dissensions even in that.

  11. Manu

    yes…Marikkar , I am also fully agreee with you. Not the president the Foreign Employment bureau has to pay.. They charge from all migrant workers for the insurance … Why cannot they pay from that ???

  12. Meena M.

    A certain politician, accused of murdering another has fled to Singapore, bills and living paid by Sri Lankans, and this poor girl does not get the courtesy of having her bills paid. The Rajapaksa’s can live off the foreign exchange bought in by these poor workers, but cannot help them at least pay for lawyers.
    What will it cost them. Not even a new flashy car for the family.

  13. George

    This is so unfortunate as the ruler of Sri lanka denied the assistance. I also served in a middle east country ( it is not correct to call these countries as such because they are not in middle east with respect to possition of Sri Lanka). The foreign employmet aurhorities robbed Rs. 20,000 by that time proclaiming that the monies will be used for the welfare of those workers, If that is a true now these blood suckers should come forward and save the life of this woman. Though I am a sinhalese I strongly believe that no matter which tribe, religion or nation the prsident should come forward to protect his fellow country woman. I am totally against sending our women to middle east for so called house maid employments,because I witnessed what actually happening to our sisters there. I do not want to mention them here. Government should stop this immediately.
    On the other hand all the gevernments came in to power during last 30 years were greedy for the money they earn after sacrifing everything they have in those countries. These courrupted politicians no matter they are from the government or from the opposition or a minority party are wasting that currency for luxary vehicles , foreign tours and other shameless activities. In the end non of them really look after these helpless poor women. I would like to call upon the Muslim parties be act together at least to save this lady in the name of your god.

  14. Rania

    On behalf of Muslims I apologise for the comment made by M Hussain. I am grateful to all the good people of SL who have stood by us putting aside caste or creed and hats off to people like Lal Fernando who have come forward to donate in her cause.
    I think its time that we do what we can, and one thing that most of us, esp the rich Muslims in SL is build a decent home for her family and take care of them and also do what we can to get her released.

    • Lankan

      Rania, thanks for the apologies, this is a noble act………I am sure that Rizana’s
      family will get a decent house to live in and we all hope and pray that Rizana will also be pardoned and come back to live with them…..I am also sure that Mohamed Hussein will write a generous cheque and initiate this project and show all of us that it was only a moments insanity that made him react in such a
      boorish manner.

  15. Independent Observer

    This is, after all, a human problem –it has nothing to do with religion , race , caste etc.
    Rizna has, according to the information we get , been given a raw deal . Ultimately she has to face death .
    As human beings we must comer forward and do our best to save her . Let a “Free Rizna Fund” be set up urgently , as time is running out .
    I am a Sinhala Buddhist . I too will make a donation with the best of intentions .
    Pleas hurry up !!!

  16. Lanka Muslim, UK

    The Sri Lanka High Commission in London arranged a Solicitor to appear for the child rapist Buddhist Monk, but what a surprise they refuse to help this poor girl.

    • Lankan

      Another Muslim idiot from UK, this child rapist case has got nothing to do with poor Rizana. Koheda yanne, mallay pol……..if you want to write about the child rape case do it in the other column………….how did you get to UK ?? By boat ??

      • Channa Pathirana

        This question is relevant. If Sri Lanka can pay up to meet a criminal charge, why not pay up to defend an obviously innocent girl?
        Just because he is a monk, the question does not become “irrelevant”

        • Lankan

          Channa the monk has to be protected as a citizen, the UK High commission has done the right thing, the High commission in Saudi would have also done it’s job, there are proper channels to handle the rights of all citizens, monks, muslims or otherwise………it is stupid to try and relate what happens in Saudi and UK and try to stir up racist tension. You must not just jump to conclusions just because you have different loyalties – look before you leap, we do not need more racial problems in Sri Lanka. Try sending some smart muslims to talk to their Saudi brothers and release the poor girl instead of blaming the president and the government for everything.

  17. Lankan

    Hussein I hope you have read the many comments and like every coward died a thousand deaths……………when you look up and spit, you will get a bit of your own spittle on your face brother……not long ago another Hussein was found hiding in a manhole in Iraq….maybe the name itself belongs to cowards and useless instigators.

  18. Govt. is only interested in maintaining high cost foreign diplomatic and council offices in the foreign countries employing govt. favorites, wasting our poor middle east foreign exchange. Also the record number of foreign trips deplete our valuable foreign exchange reserve. But no money given for other incidents similar to Rizana Nafeek . Also in the plan to open many more embassies in Latin American and African countries. Jayaweva

  19. Channa Pathirana

    The Foreign Employment Bureau will not let us leave the country without paying their pound of flesh at the airport. Their hawk faced attendants skim through passports and even if it is on tourist visa they ask you to pay their ransom, otherwise they don’t let us out of the country.

    When I protested, a very rude official kept repeating that he would not allow me to pass until i paid. When I asked why, he said it would be my insurance.

    Now someone goes abroad and is in trouble, they don’t even raise their little finger to help out an INNOCENT GIRL on DEATH row. Even if their minds are numb where are their hearts?

  20. sangaralingham

    not right. each service must be trusted and compensated. each has aduty responsibility to society. nation respect its beliefs seeks services need to compensated for time labour etc if moral isues involved certain sacrifices warranted by all parties

  21. Edibleglamour

    why not stop throwing the ball onto each other’s court and do something. if someone starts a fund we could use the social media for publicity and raise funds. what happened to our own Radika kumaraswamy, jaweed usuf and the likes who fight for human rights. when if comes to the life of a fellow sri lankan where are these activists. so lets unite as sri lankans and start something for this poor girl. the sooner the better.

  22. A V

    Hello All,

    I have been following this news for sometime.
    I feel very sorry for this girl.

    Can somebody explain me the following?
    I read so many news articles, but I still couldn’t find answers for the following.

    How much ‘Blood Money’ is expected from the Govt. Saoudi Arabia?

    How much money is required to pay the lawyers?

    Did Sri Lankan Govt. officially have a discussion the Saoudi Arabian Govt?

    Why the Muslim Community hasn’t acted more brutally on this issue? Is it because it’s a decision made by a Muslim Govt. and they have no say about it or they have to obey?

    If Sri Lankan Govt take active engagement in this matter, will it affect them diplomatically?

    Thank you.

    • Lankan

      Wow what a lot of questions, are you from the CID ??
      If you have some spare time go to Saudi Arabia and
      talk to the Saudi’s on this girls behalf….Thanks in advance……….

  23. Gota the Hero

    How can he? He needs to pay all his White Van operators thousands of $ before he pays lawyers.

  24. Ken Leclair

    This is a slap on the face for the entire Muslim community in this island. The opportunistic Muslim politicians pay attention to this matter and do something about this. This is the defining moment for those who really care about their
    people.

  25. Khuzaima

    Khuzaima
    I agree with my Srilankan brothers totally, please Mohd Hussain
    if you cant do anything , don’t spoil anything also.

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