Vol. 11 - No. 1


SOUTH ASIA: SRI LANKA                                                                                                                       News Briefs


(Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
         map are not members of SAARC)

A Move Beneficial for Lankan Women

It would be a welcome change if the state decides in stipulating that the employable age for local women seeking work as domestic workers abroad be increased from 21 to 30 years. This measure is reportedly under consideration and we could be speaking up for the vast majority of people in this country by taking the position that an increase in the age criteria on this matter is long overdue.

The trials and suffering currently borne by many local women pursuing the elusive pot of gold in torrid overseas terrains make prophetic the words of those who cautioned against opening the local flood gates to overseas employment for women, nearly three decades ago, when the open economy experiment was tried out with a high degree of heady optimism. The disastrous socio-economic fallout from the indiscreet and indiscriminate availing of overseas employment, particularly in the domestic sphere, by local women has been voluminously documented over the years and they hardly need reiteration. Suffice it to say that tens of thousands of Lankan women have paid a very heavy price for the exceptionally high earnings they have garnered for Sri Lanka.

A local woman who returned to Sri Lanka from a job stint abroad with scores of nails in her person, epitomized the usually silent, long and excruciating suffering of our domestic aides abroad. Hers was just one of the numerous harrowing nightmares. Not few were the instances when women died in agony and in harness abroad and returned to Sri Lanka in coffins. For many of these women, working abroad was indeed a terrible night of despair.

However, these women contributed in no small measure towards the national income and successive governments chose to turn a blind eye on the sufferings and hardships of these painfully labouring women as long as the wheels of the economy were kept humming. However, the administration under President Mahinda Rajapaksa is choosing to think differently on this question and we urge it to go ahead and put the interests of our families and homes ahead of monetary gain, considerable although the latter may be. The choice for our rulers is financial gain or happier families and homes. The tendency thus far has been to put the former above the latter. But some 30 years into market economics and global economic integration, we see some dire long term consequences which are staggering and even unendurable. Just a few of these are: broken and unhappy homes, neglected families and distraught and drunken husbands, immorality among husbands trying to cope with loneliness and children who are left to fend off a range of imperiling hazards.

In other words, the consequences have been deeply destabilizing for Sri Lanka. Our migrant workers have contributed substantially towards the sustenance of the national economy but local society has suffered terribly in the process. For these reasons it is best that more consideration be given to keeping our homes and hearths intact.

Besides, upping the age of employability could ensure that more mature women would take on the challenge of overseas employment. The horror stories originating abroad of the unspeakable harassment, for instance, suffered by many local women migrant workers could be decreased by paving the way for older women with more experience of the world, to take on these jobs. Hopefully, they would show greater resourcefulness in the face of the numerous challenges that await them. But the chances are greater that they would take on the challenges at hand with greater skill and capability.

Accordingly, a national policy on female migrant labour must be put into place and this must be based on the long term interests of the country. While financial gains are important, these cannot be achieved at the cost of human and civilizational values. Social stability and happy homes need to be considered as important as economic gains.

Ironically, on these questions too, we are compelled to see the importance, to a degree though, of the interventionist state. While the closed economy is no longer an option for us, everything cannot be left at the mercy of economic considerations. Human well being would not be ensured by economic forces. There needs to be a degree of state involvement in the resolution of problems of this kind and it is most encouraging that the Lankan state is initiating the necessary policy inputs to ensure human wholeness.

So we seem to have come full circle on the migrant labour issue. Thirty years into the open economy experiment we find that the focus entirely on material wealth at the expense of human values just would not work. Left at the mercy of market forces, a country would propel itself into social and even civilizational chaos.

There needs to be a visionary state to balance the negatives of the consumerist ethos with some policy inputs that would ensure human development.

[Source: The Daily News Editorial]

News Briefs

Army warns armed groups in Eastern Province to surrender or suffer: The Commander of Sri Lanka Army, Eastern Command, Major General Boniface Perera in a discussion on July 1 warned the armed groups in the Eastern Province to suffer unless they surrender their weapons. He said that military had identified the persons carrying weapons in the area and warned them to surrender cautioning that they would be followed otherwise. Paramilitary groups that surrendered their weapons earlier were called for this discussion participated by the senior defence officials of the area. Colombo Page, July 2, 2011.

Elections for Northern Provincial Council will be held next year, says President Mahinda Rajapakse: The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced on June 28 that Government will hold Northern Provincial Council Election in 2012. The President stressed the need to hold the election to further democratize the process in the North. Northern Province includes Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts. Colombo Page, June 29, 2011.

Government to respond to Tamil party's power devolution proposal: The Government is to respond within a week to the power devolution proposal presented by the major Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Representatives of the Government and the TNA met on June 23 to discuss a political solution to the ethnic issue. Colombo Page, June 25, 2011.

Government to resettle all remaining IDPs in the North before end of the year: Resettlement Minister Gunaratne Weerakoon on June 22 said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa instructed to expedite and complete the resettlement programme before the end of the year. He said that all internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be resettled before the end of the year as the Government by then expects to complete the demining operations in the North. Colombo Page, June 24, 2011.

Government urges people to defeat elements trying to revive LTTE remnants: Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa requested all communities of Sri Lanka to stand up against elements attempting to revive the remnants of the defeated militant outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who were involved in tarnishing the country's image in the aftermath of the Government's victory over terrorism. Colombo Page, June 18, 2011.

UN issues fresh call to Sri Lanka to investigate war crime allegations: In the wake of a documentary aired by Britain's Channel 4 on Sri Lanka's war, the United Nations on June 15 renewed its call for Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged violations of human rights during the last phase of the three-decade long conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants. Responding to media queries at the press briefing about the documentary, Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General ban Ki-moon said the UN Chief was aware of the documentary. Colombo Page, June 16, 2011.

Government plans to use former LTTE leader as a 'crown witness': Sri Lankan Government intends to use the detained leader of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP as a State witness to discover more information about the LTTE's overseas operations. xinhuanet, June 14, 2011.

LLRC plans to release final report before Nov 15: The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) on June 10 said that plans are underway to release its final report before November 15, 2011. The Commission stressed that its final report will be completely based on the observations made by the Commissioners through gathering oral and written evidence from the public and field visits. Colombo Page, June 11, 2011

Rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-LTTE combatants successful, says Sri Lankan Diplomat: Addressing the plenary session of the 17th session of United Nations Human Right Council on Protection and promotion of Women in Geneva on June 3, Sri Lanka's envoy Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said that the Sri Lankan Government had successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated ex-combatants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). "All female ex-combatants who were beneficiaries of this program have now been released and are back with their families," he added. Colombo Page, June 4, 2011.

[South Asia Intelligent Review]

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