Sri Lankan woman’s death penalty for false Saudi ‘adultery’ accusation


This video is about the horrible beheading of Ms Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim in Saudi Arabia. Not fit to watch for children and sensitive people.

By Pani Wijesiriwardena in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan housemaid faces execution in Saudi Arabia

5 December 2015

Saudi Arabian authorities are about to carry out another barbaric execution: the public stoning to death of a Sri Lankan domestic worker. The 45-year-old woman, who worked in Riyadh since 2013, was convicted by a Sharia court for alleged adultery last August.

The Saudi monarchy maintains these reactionary laws as part of its repressive rule directed particularly against the working class, including the country’s estimated nine million foreign workers. This case also highlights the Sri Lankan government’s disregard for the plight of hundreds of thousands of citizens working in the Middle East.

The woman, whose name has been withheld by the Sri Lankan government and media, is reportedly a mother of three from Colombo. She went to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid in 2013. In 2014, she was arrested for allegedly committing adultery and after a trial beginning in March 2014 was found guilty of the charge.

The Colombo-based Sunday Leader, however, reported that the convicted woman had told her husband that she fled her employer because of unbearable living conditions and was arrested by police. Her husband sought the help of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) by lodging a complaint.

The plight of the woman has been widely condemned by human rights groups in Sri Lanka and internationally. In response, the Sri Lankan government has made token efforts to intervene on her behalf. SLBFE spokesman Upul Deshapriya told Arab News that the government has contacted the Saudi authorities to seek a review of the death sentence.

Nalin Rajapakse, media secretary for Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorala, said that since the maid had already pleaded guilty, the conviction could not be overturned. He said the minister had hired a lawyer and filed an appeal before the Riyadh Court requesting that it reduce the punishment.”

The government’s priority, however, is to maintain good relations with the Saudi regime and thus the flow of remittances from migrant workers back to Sri Lanka. The attitude of President Maithripala Sirisena and the present government is no different to that of the previous government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

In 2013, Saudi uthorities beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek, who had been convicted for murdering her employer’s infant child. The Rajapakse government made no effort to help in her legal defence or to prevent the execution. Nafeek had no training in looking after infants and evidence came to light that the death had been accidental.

Even after a Saudi court sentenced her to death in 2007, the government refused to provide financial assistance for an appeal. Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Keheliya Rambukwella declared that it was “important not to violate Saudi Arabia’s domestic laws.”

Tens of thousands of poverty-stricken male and female workers seek jobs in Middle Eastern countries. According to Central Bank of Sri Lanka statistics, 279,952 Sri Lankans went to work in the Middle East in 2014. Total remittances from migrant workers were more than $7 billion in 2014, mainly from Middle Eastern countries. Remittances account for about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product.

One of the main destinations of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from South Asia is Saudi Arabia. Under that country’s law, workers have virtually no rights. Domestic workers in particular are ill-treated, work as slaves and are not properly paid.

Indonesia announced in May that it had decided not to send workers to Middle East countries after two housemaids were executed after being found guilty of murder. The Indonesian government, which was seeking to deflect the mass outrage over the executions, said its decision would be implemented in 15 months. Like Sri Lanka, Indonesia is dependent on migrant workers as a lucrative source of foreign exchange.

Foreign workers are particularly vulnerable as they do not read or speak Arabic. According to Amnesty International, they are not provided with adequate translations of the proceedings in court.

James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, commented: “The Saudi Arabian authorities appear intent on continuing a bloody execution spree which has seen at least 151 people put to death so far this year—an average of one person every two days.” In 2014, according to Amnesty International, the total number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia was 90.

“The use of the death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance but it is especially alarming that the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to use it in violation of international human rights law and standards, on such a wide scale, and after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated,” Lynch said.

As for the Sri Lankan government, it is seeking to defuse mounting public anger over the looming execution, while ensuring not to offend the Saudi regime. Sri Lankan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Azmi Thassim, told Arab News that authorities were “vigilant about the progress of the appeal made to the Saudi Court of Appeal” and hoped that “the sentence would be lessened.”

At the same time, Thassim found fault with the Sri Lankan media for criticising Saudi laws. He also implied that the 45-year-old woman was responsible for her own fate. “The problem lies with the lack of awareness of local laws. If someone is not happy with the laws of the Kingdom, they should choose not to come,” he said.

Five things that Saudi Arabian women still cannot do: here.

US arms sale to Saudi Arabia criticised by human rights groups. More than 2,500 civilians have been killed in Yemen mostly in air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition: here.

Saving blue whales in Sri Lanka


This 2011 video is called World’s Largest Blue Whale colony – Discovered in Sri Lanka.

From Wildlife Extra:

Simple solution proposed to save Blue Whales from being struck by ships

Research into Blue Whale distribution around one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and analysing their fatal collisions with ships has led scientists to offer a simple solution to the deadly threat.

Heavy ship traffic crossing the Indian Ocean passes close to the southern coast of Sri Lanka, bringing it into waters also occupied by the endangered Blue Whale, the largest animal on the planet.

Survey work coordinated by the University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka, local whale watch operator Raja and the Whales, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Biosphere Foundation and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in 2014 and 2015, was carried out with the aim of finding ways to address Blue Whale deaths in the ship strike hotspot off the coast of Mirissa.

A paper on the findings, Distribution patterns of blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and shipping off southern Sri Lanka, was recently accepted for publication in Regional Studies in Marine Science.

Eleven Blue Whales are known to have been killed by ships between January 2010 and April 2012 but the true number of ship strike-related deaths is likely to be much higher as for part of the year the current and winds are offshore, meaning additional whales could have been killed but their carcasses not found.

Surveys conducted perpendicular to the shipping lane were used to determine the relative density of whales close to the shore, both in the existing shipping lane and further offshore. The highest density of Blue Whales was observed in the shipping lanes.

Previous data on Blue Whale distribution and coastal upwellings (a process by which deep, cold water usually rich in nutrients rises towards the surface) indicates consistent and predictable patterns of whale distribution. This provides considerable potential for effective measures to keep ships and whales apart.

Data from the study suggests the risk to Blue Whales could be reduced by 95 per cent if the shipping lane was to be moved slightly so that traffic passes 15 nautical miles further south than at present.

Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Programme Director, says: “It is not often that a serious threat to whales can be so easily resolved and at minimal cost, but here we clearly see not only the problem, but also a straightforward practical solution which can prevent more endangered Blue Whales from suffering fatal ship strikes.

“A little more analysis is needed before Sri Lanka can start the process of asking for the shipping lane to be moved, but we are confident that this step will result in a dramatic reduction in the number of fatal collisions involving this great whale.”

Vivek Menon, Executive Director of WTI, adds: “Moving the shipping lane this short distance would provide a positive solution for all. It would increase protection for whales and whale watching boats in the area and therefore also help tourism.”

Researchers estimated that more than 1,000 interactions between blue whales and ships are likely to occur each year. An interaction is defined as an incident where a collision would have occurred if neither ship nor whale had taken avoiding action. Moving the shipping lanes could reduce this to around 50.

Shipping lanes in other parts of the world have been successfully moved in similar circumstances. In 2007, a shipping lane in the approaches to Boston Harbour in America was moved in order to lower the risk of collision with Right Whales by avoiding the main area of density, cutting the risk of collision by an estimated 58 per cent.

In order for the shipping lane to be moved, Sri Lanka will need to bring forward a proposal for consideration by the International Maritime Organisation. Additional data continues to be gathered and further analyses will be coordinated through the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

British government plans to deport torture victim


Janahan Sivanathan

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Fears for victim of torture spark rally

Friday 12th June 2015

CAMPAIGNERS in Yorkshire will protest outside Home Office buildings in Sheffield today over the threatened deportation of a 22-year-old torture victim from Sri Lanka.

Supporters say Janahan Sivanathan, a Tamil living in Doncaster, was “horrendously tortured” in captivity in 2009, during Sri Lanka’s civil war, when he was a school student.

They are demanding he be allowed to stay in Britain.

Protest organiser Alistair Tice said: “There was a genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka in 2009, with 100,000 killed or missing.

“The Foreign Office’s latest report on Sri Lanka found that there were continued allegations of police involvement in torture and custodial deaths, as well as in extrajudicial killings throughout 2014.”

Mr Sivanathan is to report to the Home Office today. The last time he did so, he was detained. The protest is at 1.30pm.

22 year old man detained regardless of UK rules forbidding detention of torture survivors: here.

A GLASGOW student was feared dead yesterday after he disappeared in Pakistan following his deportation by the Home Office: here.

Beheadings in Saudi Arabia, more and more


This video from Taiwan says about itself:

Sri Lankan faces beheading in Saudi Arabia for ‘witchcraft’

20 April 2012

A Sri Lankan woman was arrested and given the death penalty for allegedly using witchcraft on an unsuspecting 13-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia.

The young girl began acting erratically during a shopping trip in Jeddah after she was in close proximity to the suspected woman. Her father accused the woman of casting a spell on his daughter and reported her to security forces, resulting in her swift arrest.

Witchcraft and sorcery are punishable by the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, a country where court rulings are based on Wahhabism, a strict, ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam. Other illegal activities under Wahhabism include homosexuality, acting like a tomboy and drinking alcohol.

In September, a Sudanese man was beheaded after being convicted on sorcery charges. A few months later a woman met the same fate. Amnesty International has since began to campaign against such executions.

Translated from daily De Standaard in Belgium today:

In Saudi Arabia on Tuesday yet another man was beheaded with a saber. This was reported by the Interior Ministry. The beheading brings the total number of executions in the country this year to eighty.

Rabih Al-Sayari was sentenced to death for drug smuggling, says the ministry. He was executed Tuesday in Najran, a city in southern Saudi Arabia. This year brought the country already eighty executions, just seven fewer than the total for all of 2014.

Since 2010, when the Gulf monarchy had 27 beheadings, executions have continued to increase. Many human rights organizations express their outrage at regular intervals, but Saudi Arabia carries on.

“Already over 130 beheadings’

According to a representative of Human Rights Watch, the number of beheadings has in reality risen to 135: “And every day there are some more. We are seeing an exponential increase compared to previous years”, the organization says.

Sri Lankan militarist film censorship


This video from Sri Lanka says about itself:

Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) official movie trailer HD

19 April 2014

New film by Prasanna Vithanage

By Wasantha Rupasinghe in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan government censors Prasanna Vithanage’s latest film

18 December 2014

In another serious attack on fundamental democratic rights and freedom of artistic expression, the Sri Lankan government has demanded extensive cuts to Prasanna Vithanage’s With You, Without You. The film is the last in the writer-director’s Sri Lankan anti-war trilogy. Vithanage has been told he cannot publicly screen the film anywhere in Sri Lanka unless he makes the changes ordered by the government’s Public Performances Board (PPB).

With You, Without You is based on a novella by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is a tragic love story about a beautiful Tamil girl and her Sinhalese pawnbroker husband, who served in the military during the protracted civil war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The film, which is set in Sri Lanka’s central highlands tea estate region during war’s aftermath, challenges Sinhala and Tamil communalism by sensitively dramatising the destructive impact of the war on human relations (see review here).

Since its international release in February 2013, the film has been screened at numerous film festivals and won awards in France, Russia, Italy, the US and India. At the Vesoul Film Festival of Asian Cinema in France, it won the prestigious Cyclo d’Or and Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) prizes. It has also been screened in Australia and released in dozens of Indian cinemas.

In Sri Lanka, all film screenings must be approved by the PPB, which comes under the Sri Lankan Ministry of Culture and the Arts. The PPB, which includes members of the defence ministry, wants virtually all comment on the Sri Lankan military removed from the film.

The PPB’s letter to Vithanage demanded the following cuts:

“1. At about the 50th minute, the film shows a soldier who had deserted the army as having a pistol. Soldiers who have deserted the army or those not reporting for service are not allowed to keep a pistol with them. Such scenes [in the film] could be misinterpreted and harm the stature of the army.

“2. The statement of the wife gives the impression that she was sent to the mountain area by her parents to prevent her from being raped by the military and it might distort the public’s understanding about the situation that prevailed at the time in North and East.

“3. The wife says that her two school-going brothers were killed by the military and it too shows that the military killed innocent students without any reason. Since it is not true, it is not suitable to be shown.

“4. Finally, questions such as, “How many Tamils have been killed by the military? How many of our girls have been raped by the military? How much gold was looted from us?” which were emotionally demanded by the lady from her husband, are not suitable and could be erroneously interpreted.”

In other words, the PPB wants Vithanage to remove any reference to the brutal conflict and the military’s war crimes, particularly during the last phase of the war in 2009. These crimes have been documented in a number of local and international reports.

With You, Without You does not explicitly portray these crimes or show a single battle scene or soldier in uniform. The movie is an exploration of how the war destroyed the marriage of a Tamil girl and her Sinhala husband. The film’s sparse dialogue accurately captures the sentiments and plight of tens of thousands of victims on both sides of the conflict.

The ban on With You, Without You is an intensification of the anti-democratic measures taken against filmmakers and artists during the war.

During the war, filmmakers who realistically portrayed Sri Lankan life or criticised the military had their work banned and were subjected to threats and violent attacks. Vithanage was one of only a handful of Sri Lankan artists who stood firm and continued to expose the reality of war in their works.

In 2000, the United People’s Freedom Alliance government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga banned Vithanage’s Death on Full Moon Day (1997), the first film in his anti-war trilogy. That film explored the impact of the conflict on an elderly Sinhala villager whose son was killed in the war.

In 2000, filmmaker Asoka Handagama’s This is My Moon was angrily denounced by high-ranking military officials and Sinhala racialists. Five years later, in 2005, the internationally acclaimed Forsaken Land (2005) by Vimukthi Jayasundara was withdrawn from Sri Lankan cinemas after threats from the military and Sinhala extremists.

Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara declared in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times in 2005 that local film directors should make pro-military movies. Any film that “even indirectly contributed towards fulfilling [LTTE] objectives,” was “treason and should be dealt with severely,” he wrote. He specifically named Vithanage, Handagama, Jayasundara and Sudath Mahadivulwewa.

More than five years after the end of the war, President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government is acutely sensitive to any criticism of the Sri Lankan military. After fully backing the war against the LTTE and turning a blind eye to the military’s war crimes, the US is cynically exploiting the atrocities to put pressure on Rajapakse. This has nothing to do with defending “human rights” in Sri Lanka but is aimed at forcing the government to cut its ties with Beijing and fully embrace the US-led “pivot to Asia”—a diplomatic offensive and military build-up against China.

Having called an early presidential election, Rajapakse confronts a concerted effort by the opposition parties, tacitly supported by Washington, to engineer his electoral defeat. The common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, who split from the government shortly after the election was announced, is being falsely promoted as a great defender of democracy.

Significantly, neither Sirisena nor any of the opposition parties have issued a statement opposing the censorship of With You, Without You. All of them, like the government, are mired in Sinhala communal politics and backed Rajapakse’s war to the hilt. They have embraced the banner of “democracy” and enlisted in the US “human rights” campaign purely to advance their own interests and those of sections of the corporate elite.

Likewise, the Sri Lankan media, even as it reports the international success of With You, Without You, has dutifully fallen into line and is maintaining a deafening silence about the censorship of the prize-winning movie.

Workers, youth, artists and intellectuals in Sri Lanka and internationally must unconditionally condemn this act of censorship and demand the film’s immediate Sri Lankan release. These anti-democratic measures will inevitably be used against working people, regardless of whether Rajapakse or Sirisena wins next month’s presidential election.

‘Sri Lankan women cricketers sexually abused by bigwigs’


This 2014 cricket video is called Highlights: Sri Lanka Women Beating India.

By Kadeem Simmonds:

Sri Lankan women forced into sex acts

Thursday 6th November 2014

Cricketers were dropped from national team if they refused

Sri Lankan cricket was yesterday rocked by sexual misconduct allegations surrounding the women’s cricket team.

Sri Lanka’s sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has ordered an independent inquiry after sickening reports in the local press that some of the national players had to perform sexual favours to officials in order to keep their place or break into the national side.

Reports also claim that players were dropped after refusing to engage in sex acts with sports officials.

“The minister wants to clear the air by getting this report investigated,” spokesman Harsha Abeykoon said. “We want to get to the bottom of it because this is bad for the image of the game and the country.”

The investigation will be run by a three-person panel, headed by a retired female judge and will begin within the next two days.

The findings of the inquiry will be reported at the next meeting held on November 12, at which point a decision will be made whether or not a full-scale investigation will be required.