Life Abroad – Part 11: ‘Servants’, and scam-land scum
Posted on January 17th, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

The ‘cutting of the neck’ of Rizana Nafeek in Saudi Arabia last week, to put it in a crude manner than using a refined word like “ƒ”¹…”be-heading’, the facts behind the whole unfortunate episode is now widely known not only in Sri Lanka but in every corner of the world.

This took me back to 1991, when I bared a “ƒ”¹…”house-maid scam in London’ through columns of the Sunday Times, which exposed the wolves in sheep skin who were engaged in human smuggling rackets just to earn a few chips at the cost of human life !

Innocently marooned

Mallika, in her mid forties, appeared on an upmarket London street with her daughter Sepali donning a “ƒ”¹…”home-made’ frock. She appeared unsophisticated. Her daughter in her mid-twenties walked abreast wearing similar attire.

By a stroke of luck, they came across a Sri Lankan good Samaritan, a chance in a million, who approached them having realised they were in a distressed situation and devoted his time to listen to their most astonishing and equally sad story of becoming victims of a wave of Kuwati employment racketeers operating from London.

Immediately after the anexation of Kuwait by Saddham Hussein, the so-called Kuwati “ƒ”¹…”employer’ based in London had travelled to Colombo, recruited four women (including Mallika and Sepali) and brought them on a single direct flight to London for employment. Although he pretended to be the employer, he was exposed as “ƒ”¹…”an employment Agent’ subsequently!

In London, the four women were placed by the Kuwati with separate Kuwati families living in London with the promise of good wages and many other perks, yet amidst other mistreatment,they were never given a day off, or ever allowed to go out of the premises, which was strictly against British regulations.

Mallika and her daughter soon became dismayed with enduring agony within weeks of their placement and the freedom they anticipated in a hyper democratic law abiding society had flown through the window! For Mallika and Sepali it became inconceivable. Their knowledge of Arabic was limited, neither could they converse in English, not even to get by or ask for directions from anyone to approach the nearest police station or the Sri Lanka High Commission in London.

Rescue operation

For the mother and daughter the sudden meeting of a kind “ƒ”¹…”Sinhala Mahattaya’ on a London street appeared like a “ƒ”¹…”god-sent’, who, after listening to the disheartening story escorted the duo to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London.

Needless to say even the High Commission officials were taken by surprise to hear their depressing story, and more so, how they managed to escape from their employer while the mistress was enjoying an afternoon siesta. The fate of the other two women brought to London by the fake Kuwati agent from Sri Lanka was not known to Mallika or Sepali.

Officials of the Sri Lanka High Commission listened to the women’s harsh experiences and realised the intensity of the problem and the plight they were in. The tricky situation placed the London Mission in a quandary because on the one hand, the High Office had in their custody two Sri Lankan citizens who were stranded in London, which obviously became a liability and on the other hand, Colombo had not allocated any provision or financial allocation to deal with such unexpected situations before.

In the absence of any reserved extra funds to send the two women home by “ƒ”¹…”the next available flight’ they produced the two women at a face-to-face interview with the Kuwati Agent in an attempt to resolve the confused and thorny situation, in the hope of reaching an amicable agreement.

During the interview the High Commission staff laid down some specific conditions to the Kuwati national thus:

(a) To negotiate with the women’s employer and come to a written agreement for fair treatment under the Britain’s Office and Factory Act.

(b) To ensure that the two domestic workers were allowed at least a day off (a week) and a reasonable wage.

(c) The two Sri Lankan passports be brought from the employer and kept at the London Mission for security.

(d) Kuwati Agent to turn up with the two women once a month at the Sri Lanka High Commission to ensure they were being looked after well.

Naturally, the Kuwati national did not agree to such conditions and the maids were adamant too about not getting back to the same household again; instead their plea became only to get back home.

The London Mission was now placed in an awkward situation when the Kuwati vehemently disagreed to bow down to Sri Lankan conditions and the two women on the other hand refusing to work anywhere in London but to return to Sri Lanka.

In a desperate move, having failed to recover a penny from the Kuwati Agent, and in the absence of any reserved allocated funds for social obligations of this nature officially, the High Commission was left with only one alternative, to make a desperate appeal to the IOM (Intrnational Organisation of Migration) office in London, a voluntary organisation aimed to help migrants especially during the Gulf War crisis.

On a bright April morning (1991) Mallika and Sepali were seated inside an AirLanka Tri Star plane on a journey home bound. But what caught their eye in mid-air made their hair stand on end! They could not believe their eyes when they saw the same Kuwati Agent, who pushed them into such a calamity, once again inside the same plane travelling to Colombo!

Presence of mind

The moment the plane touched down at Katunayake Internatinal Airport, Mallika and Sepali made a quick dash up to the Airport Security and related their entire experience which made the immigration authorities question the passenger and later release him after obtaining a statement.

In the meanwhile, the Sri Lanka High Commission in London did a thorough follow up operation and dispatched a detailed dossier to Colombo. However, the Kuwati agent being a shrewd and a cunning fox had already lined up another batch of women in Colombo to replace the one’s he already lost in London. Despite such trickery, he had approached the Foreign Employment Bureau in Colombo quite confidently quoting one of the London Diplomatic Officer’s names as a referee hoping for a favourable decision and approval from the the Colombo authorities.

The Foreign Employment Bureau, in their routine double checking programme, intelligently contacted the London Officer whose name was given as reference by the Agent. While high links were being played by the foreigner, telex messages soon began to fly up and down blowing the cover of the Kuwati’s nefarious activities. At the time this incident (1991) was filed by me from London, the Kuwati national had been subjected to painstaking interrogation by the Sri Lankan authorities with the co-operation and assistance from the London High Commission Officials.

Subsequently, it was revealed that in both Mallika and Sepali’s passports an official entry permit had been rubber stamped at the British High Commission in Colombo as ‘Visitor’ with an endorsement by the London Immigration officials at the airport stating that they should not have been engaged in any profession, business or employment for payment or reward in the UK. Yet it remained a mystery as to how the Kuwati agent in London managed to visit Sri Lanka quite confidently and regularly and managed to take Sri Lankan women out of the country on “ƒ”¹…”visitors’ entry permits on single trips!

Shocking

The deplorable factor is that even after such incidents taking place two decades ago, still there appears to be some unscrupulous elements who manage to sieve through slack areas of the law and manage to get away with “ƒ”¹…”murder’.

Rizana’s recent death is a case in point. The general consensus today in Sri Lanka appears to be that even at this late hour the authorities should be able to bring the employment agency, that was responsible for forging documents and sending this under-aged young girl abroad to work and face a barbaric end to her innocent life to book!

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4 Responses to “Life Abroad – Part 11: ‘Servants’, and scam-land scum”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Thilak
    Please pass this article to Home Secretary and the British High Commission in Colombo.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Barbaric Sharia law is the main reason for all these problems the civilized world face.

    Even if SL stops it, barbaric Sharia law will continue to kill innocents.

    e.g. Last year another Muslim housemaid from Indonesia was killed in Saudi.

    This is a GLOBAL problem. It has a GLOBAL solution.

  3. Christie Says:

    What we see in this case is the poverty among the Sinhalese and Moors and their only choice due to the recent history of Ceylon.

    We should refrain from having a go at another religion or the laws of a State. Islam is the second after Christianity in the world practiced by almost quarter of the world population.

    I am grateful to the Islamic countries for providing employment for our brothers and sisters who are unfotunate and never had the same opportunities back home.

    What opportunities did these poor have before the Middle East employment. Menikes, Bandas, Somas from villages were the domestic servants with the Sinhala middle clas and Indian (include Tamils) house holds. It was a status symbol to have a domestic servant. They started when they are 7 or eight years old. What they got was food and a mat to sleep. When the father came to see them and for wages they were just given the fares to go back. They were sexsually abused by the men and the young men of the house hold and their friends and relatives. Most of these villagers were the people who lost their land to the plantation sector.

    Then comes what do most of us do when in the West. Mainly manual jobs like our folks in Islamic countries.

    May peace be with Rezana.

  4. Maghribi Says:

    When the Menikes, Bandas, Somas return; fluent in Arabic with their wages to Lanka and most go back to the same employer. The smart ones stay back and start a cottage industry with their savings. Stats show only a small percentage of workers are badly treated. Tightening the process will filter the good employers from the barbaric. The Islamic Shariah is the best defense against the mentally handicapped who are infected by the incurable phobia against all community other than theirs.

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