Amnesty has done great good for illegals: Lankan envoy

Updated 19 June 2013
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Amnesty has done great good for illegals: Lankan envoy

The new Sri Lankan Ambassador Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, who presented his credentials in Jeddah on Saturday thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for the generous amnesty granted to the illegal expatriates either to rectify their status or go back to their homeland.
Krishnamoorthy presented his credentials to State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nizar Obeid Madani at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Jeddah on Saturday. 
“The amnesty has benefited all undocumented Sri Lankan expatriate workers stranded in the Kingdom. Many Sri Lankans have been able to legalize their status by changing employers and obtaining a new Iqama, or by obtaining temporary travel documents to return home,” the envoy noted. 
He added that the Sri Lankan missions in Riyadh and Jeddah have documented some 17,000 cases under the amnesty granted by the king. The scheme has facilitated for illegal workers either to go home or work here respectably, he noted. 
“Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia have maintained close bilateral ties for several decades and I hope that my tenure here as ambassador will see these historic ties further strengthened,” Kirshnamoorthy said. 
Sri Lanka set up its embassy in Jeddah in 1983 with Dickman De Alwis as its first charge d’ Affaires, subsequently in 1993, Saudi government reciprocated with a mission in Colombo with Abdullah Al-Zahrani as its charge d’ Affaires. Later, the Lankan embassy moved its location to the capital in 1985. 
The new envoy also thanked the Kingdom for the donations and investments bestowed upon the Sri Lanka people to help them build a prosperous society after the end of the civil war. 
“I am also happy to acknowledge the loan given to us by the Saudi Development Fund (SFD) to help us develop our infrastructure,” he noted, adding that the longest bridge in Kinniya was recently completed the with SFD funds.
Besides the construction of the bridge, the SFD has contributed a great deal to fund hospitals and road construction projects in the island. The Epilepsy Center and the Trauma Center at the Colombo National Hospital were built with the assistance of the SFD. 
Speaking about his country, the ambassador said that it has eradicated terrorism thereby ending the civil conflict, which had been plaguing the country for more than three decades.
“With the end of the 30-year conflict, Sri Lanka has successfully created a peaceful environment within the country during the past few years. Moreover, Sri Lanka has already managed to achieve tremendous development after the conflict. We also know that independence is an empty word without economic strength and social progress,” he stressed. 
“We in Sri Lanka, under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, are also engaged with the task of building for our people a new world of economic prosperity and social progress to build a prosperous nation,” he added. 
“Although we have a considerable amount of bilateral trade, there is still huge potential to enhance it further by diversifying the trade baskets,” he said.
“Extending our trade relationship into the areas of tourism, software development, health care, and agriculture will open vast opportunities to further consolidate our bilateral cooperation further,” he added. 
Prior to his posting here, Krishnamoorthy was attached to his External Affairs Ministry as its Director General for the South-East Asia and SAARC. 
His last overseas posting was as the Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Chennai, south India. 
Krishnamoorthy had earlier served as High Commissioner at Dhaka (Bangladesh) and has completed his three-year term before he was cross-posted for Chennai. 
Krishnamoorthy had earlier served in The Netherlands (2001-04) and China (1992-97). While serving as the Minister Counselor at the Embassy in The Netherlands, inter alia, he functioned as the Deputy Permanent Representative to the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). 
He had also worked as the Director/ East Asia desk, Deputy Chief of Protocol (1999-2001, Assistant director/ West desk (1992) and Director of the Sri Lankan Institute of International Relations (2004-06). 


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”