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.


Italy tells rescue ship to take migrants to the Netherlands

Updated 12 min 43 sec ago
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Italy tells rescue ship to take migrants to the Netherlands

  • Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini: “You have intentionally not listened to Italian or Libyan authorities. Good. Then take this load of human beings to the Netherlands.”
  • Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Lennart Wegewijs: “They have a Dutch flag, but they are not registered in the Netherlands, and therefore are not under Dutch state flag responsibility.”

ROME: Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister accused a German charity on Thursday of ignoring coast guard orders when its Dutch-flagged ship picked up 226 migrants off Libya’s coast and he said they should be taken to the Netherlands not Italy.
Earlier this month Matteo Salvini pledged to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe haven.
On Thursday, Mission Lifeline, a charity based in Dresden, Germany, pulled migrants off two rubber boats in international waters even though it was told by Italy that Libya’s coast guard was coming to get them, a spokesman for the charity said. They would not have been safe if taken back to Libya, he said.
Salvini, also leader of the anti-immigrant League party, addressed the charity in a Facebook video: “You have intentionally not listened to Italian or Libyan authorities. Good. Then take this load of human beings to the Netherlands.”
International maritime guidelines say that people rescued at sea should be taken to the nearest “place of safety.”
The United Nations and other humanitarian agencies do not deem Libya “a place of safety” because they say migrants there are subject to indefinite detention, physical abuse, forced labor and extortion.
A Lifeline statement indicated its vessel was heading northwards with the 226 migrants and called on “the competent authorities to swiftly react according to their obligation to designate a place of safety.”
“They have a Dutch flag, but they are not registered in the Netherlands, and therefore are not under Dutch state flag responsibility,” Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Lennart Wegewijs said in response, without elaborating.
Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said he had asked the coast guard to investigate state flag issue.
Lifeline spokesman Axel Steier said the migrants aboard its boat included 14 women and four small children. “We didn’t want to wait for the Libyan coast guard because people were in danger,” Steier told Reuters.
Waiting for the Libyans would have constituted allowing “an illegal pushback” of refugees to a country where they are not safe, he added.
With its hard line on rescue boats, Italy’s new populist government has thrust migration back onto the European Union agenda. Italy has seen more than 640,000 land on its shores since 2014 and is currently sheltering 170,000 asylum seekers.
Germany is also seeking to restrict asylum-seekers’ movement in the bloc. An emergency “mini-summit” has been called for Brussels on Sunday to discuss immigration ahead of a full, 28-state EU summit on June 28-29.
Toninelli, who oversees Italy’s ports and coast guard, had called last weekend on the Netherlands to recall Lifeline and another Dutch-flagged ship, Seefuchs. On Thursday, Toninelli said Lifeline was acting “outside of international law.”
“The transport minister is lying,” Steier shot back. “We always act in line with international law. Always.”
Salvini has denounced the charity ships as “deputy traffickers,” suggesting they profit from the rescues.
Earlier this week a tribunal in Palermo shelved an inquiry into whether German charity Sea Watch and Spain’s Proactiva Open Arms were in contact with smugglers, saying no evidence was found.