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Ranjan Ramanayake slams export of Lankan women for work

2013 Dec 12

By Ashwin Hemmathagama –
The main Opposition United National Party on Monday slammed government plans to bridge a widening budget deficit using the remittances of Sri Lankan migrant workers and accused the regime of exploiting women to run the economy.
Opposition Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake said the country was surviving today on this “respectable” slave labour of 1.8 million Sri Lankans who work overseas and send $ 6 billion to keep the economy running back home each year.
“We should be ashamed to sell our females and make money to run the economy of this country. If Sri Lanka is the miracle of Asia, women from other parts of the world should come here to work as nannies and housemaids,” he said.
Ramanayake charged that a quarter of Sri Lanka’s population lives on the money these workers remit.
“Recently I went to Lebanon for a recreational activity and was walking on the road with some Sri Lankan housemaids and the organisers. The females with us were identified as ‘$ 1 jigi jigi’ by the Lebanese. This is the nickname they call our women living in the Middle East? Sri Lanka should be ashamed of becoming a nation of pimps exporting women for foreign employment,” he told Parliament.
He said Saudi Arabia was the worst country for Lankan migrant workers.
“Saudi Arabia is the worst of all. I request the Government to discontinue sending housemaids there. Poor countries such as Sudan, India, and Pakistan has already stopped sending women to Saudi Arabia,” said MP Ramanayake said, requesting Minister Dilan Perera to be vigilant of the rackets and frauds taking right under his nose at the Foreign Employment Bureau and other legislated institutions under his preview.
“There are corrupt officials in the foreign employment bureau. If you catch them the budget deficit can be reduced easily,’ Ramanayake said.
The UNP MP charged that foreign employment had become crucial for families to survive in Sri Lanka with the cost of living being so high. The country’s annual import bill was $ 20 billion while the export tally is $ 10 billion, he said.
“A major part of the deficit is bridged using income sent by migrant workers. In 2009 foreign employee remittances were $ 5,985 million out of which $ 3,358million was from the Middle East. When women go to the Middle East the family structure falls. The Government has failed to add our strengths to the local industries. Foreign employment has become the main source income for the rural poor,” said DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
Joining the debate MP Sajith Premadasa said there were also considerable numbers of women employed in the estate sector. He said 49.1% of the migrant workers are women out of which 86% are housemaids and a majority work in the Gulf.
“But many die and get disabled for life. Not only that, but the organs are also taken off. The Government has no national plan to prevent these issues or to protect the women’s rights. Why can’t Sri Lanka enter into agreements with these countries to prevent such hazards? Every 90 minutes one gets raped in Sri Lanka. This Budget has cheated women,” Premadasa charged.
Premadasa said that while the Sinhala version of the Budget speech had promised an interest free loan for women entrepreneurs, the Tamil and the English copies only mentioned collateral free loans for women.
“Unemployment among women is 24%. There are over 80,000 families without husbands in the north. What have you given for them?” he asked Government MPs.
In response Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera said that there was a time when 100% of Sri Lankan migrant workers were female. “But this has reduced. In 2012 January-September 209,039 Sri Lankan had gone abroad for employment where 50.22% are males and 49.66% are females. “I agree that we need to reduce the number of housemaids going out. Our policy should be to reduce the number of housemaids. It is not good to insult saying ‘$1 jigi jigi’. We have started constructing over 366 house constructions for migrant workers. We don’t send people to Saudi Arabia without at least passing the NVQ3 level and the age has to be above 25 years.

“In other countries 22 years is the minimum age limit. This is also not fair for many those who have serious family problems. We take a family background report to ensure that she doesn’t leave behind minors,” the Minister said.




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