Lankan mission slams false report on jailed maid

Updated 08 July 2012
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Lankan mission slams false report on jailed maid

The Sri Lankan Embassy has rejected reports in Colombo claiming yesterday a Sri Lankan domestic worker has been arrested in Saudi Arabia for worshipping a statue of the Buddha.
According to the Bodu Bala Senaa, a Buddhist organization based in Colombo, it was alleged the youth, identified as Premanath Pereralage Thungasiri, was arrested by Ummul Hamam police for worshipping the statue inside his home.
It was alleged in the report Saudi authorities were planning to execute him.
The report added: “Although a complaint has been lodged at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment in Colombo, under complaint no: CN/158/1205, so far no action has been taken.”
Reacting to the reports, a senior official from the mission said the whole story was totally fabricated and had nothing to do with idol worship.
The diplomat, who had met Thungasiri in jail yesterday, said that he had been booked on some other charges by police in the Ummul Hammam district.
According to the official, Thungasiri, who works as a driver, had visited another Saudi's house to resolve a dispute involving a housemaid there. He said the maid was his relative, and during the dispute police arrested him.
In his statement to the embassy, Thungasiri said his Saudi sponsor had nothing to do with the case and had surrendered his passport and other documents to prison authorities for his deportation.
It was further alleged by Bodu Bala Senaa that those employed in Muslim countries are prevented from practicing their religious faiths, and those found doing so are punished severely.
Recently a Sri Lankan woman was arrested for practicing witchcraft after she allegedly gazed at a child in a shopping complex while wearing a black cord around her wrist, the report said.
The organization accused the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment of not educating Sri Lankan workers traveling to Saudi Arabia on the country’s religious laws.
Thungasiri has his wife and a daughter and son back home at Padiyatalawe, 200 km from Colombo.
The diplomat, responding to the allegations, said: “So far, no Sri Lankan has been found guilty of practicing his own religion in the Kingdom.”
He added no one had been executed for practicing their religion.
The official said that Vesak, the birth anniversary of the Buddha, was observed recently at the Lankan missions in the Kingdom. More than 20,000 expatriate workers attended the functions in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Subsequently, Poson, the day Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka, was also celebrated without any hassle at the mission's headquarters.
The diplomat said: “Besides Sri Lankan Muslim expatriates, Buddhists and Hindus from the island are also leading a happy and contented life in the Kingdom.”
He urged the Sri Lankan community not to allow parties with vested interests to tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia, home to 500,000 Sri Lankans.
The diplomat also stressed millions of foreign workers who come to the Kingdom for employment are expected to abide by the host country’s regulations.


North Korea’s new ‘tactical’ weapon test highlights military modernization

Updated 12 min 38 sec ago
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North Korea’s new ‘tactical’ weapon test highlights military modernization

SEOUL: North Korea’s claim last week that it had tested an unidentified “ultramodern tactical weapon” highlighted its desire to upgrade its conventional arms and reassure its military even as talks are under way to end its nuclear program, analysts said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un witnessed the test of a newly developed tactical weapon that could serve as a “steel wall,” state media reported on Friday, without giving details of the weapon.
It was Kim’s first observation of a weapons test this year and could complicate already stalled nuclear talks with the United States, although Washington and Seoul downplayed the development in an apparent effort not to derail negotiations.
Experts say the test was part of Kim’s initiative to shift the mainstay of the conventional military power from a nearly 1.3 million-strong army to high-tech weapons.
“This is sort of like the North Korean version of military reform,” said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
“If we have to find an underlying message to the outside world, it’s ‘Don’t underestimate us, we are modernizing too.’“
New advanced weapons might be even more crucial if the country were to abandon at least some of its nuclear arsenal.
Although heavily-sanctioned Pyongyang is easily outspent in defense funding by Seoul and Washington, the North’s forward-deployed troops, guns and multiple-launch artillery rocket systems (MLRS) pose a significant threat to the allies.
The North Korean military has nearly 5,500 MLRS, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, 810 fighter jets, 430 combatant vessels and 70 submarines, according to a 2016 assessment by the South’s defense ministry.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said last week it has identified at least 13 undeclared missile bases inside North Korea.
The Washington-based think tank has also said Pyongyang has been developing hovercraft units for its 200,000-strong special forces as part of the military modernization drive.
Kim has been pushing to modernize production lines at munitions factories and replace aging weapons and technology since he took power in late 2011.
“The defense industry should develop and manufacture powerful strategic weapons and military hardware of our style, perfect its Juche-oriented production structure and modernize its production lines on the basis of cutting-edge science and technology,” he said in his 2018 New Year speech, referring to the long-held principle of self-reliance.
The two Koreas agreed during their September summit in Pyongyang to significantly reduce military tensions along the border, and the North has begun deactivating artillery deployed along the skirmish-prone western shore, Seoul’s defense ministry said.
But the pact did not include any removal of MLRS from forward-deployed areas, where some long-range guns and rocket launchers can still reach Seoul.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the newly tested weapon was a new model of MLRS, citing an unnamed military source familiar with intelligence. Other experts suggested it might be a new, short-range missile.
Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said by touting a modernized weapon, Kim could seek to reassure hard-line military generals and the public in North Korea who may be worried about a nuclear-free future.
“With Kim having publicly declared the economy a new priority and saying the North would denuclearise, many in the military who saw a decline in interest and support could be doubtful and anxious because he has not secured significant concessions like an end-of-war declaration,” Kim, the professor said.
“It could have been necessary for him to consolidate the nation even though such a field guidance would give a negative signal to the outside.”