‘Good governance’ is the motto of new leadership

Updated 04 February 2015
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‘Good governance’ is the motto of new leadership

On this memorable day, we must remember all those who contributed to achieving our country’s Independence from colonial rule and thousands of young men and women who laid down their lives to safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our motherland.
After decades of civil war, today Sri Lanka is enjoying peace and harmony and co-existence among the communities.
The country has a new government now under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is working hand in hand with the president to create a new political culture; social plethora and economic system and communal harmony in the country.
’Good governance’ is the motto of the country and the government today.
After the war, we we went ahead with massive development drives and projects.
Around half a decade later, now the country is being led toward marvelous goals of good governance and social justice where significant paradigm shifts in social, economic and political arenas are at their dawn.
As correctly mentioned by our foreign minister, it is our duty to work hard to create a Sri Lankan identity based on the cultural diversity of its people.
If Sri Lanka is to harness its true economic potential, it must meet the aspiration of all its different communities to live in ethnic harmony, religious tolerance and in a true and democratic society.
The relationship between Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia goes back to the Arab era in the 7th century where the first ambassador was sent by a Sinhala King to visit Kaliph Umar Ibnu Kattab.
Also I would like to highlight the link of Makkah and Madinah where the Muslims of Sri Lanka used to come by sailing boats.
King Faizal was the first monarch of Saudi Arabia who has established the Rabithathul Alam Al-Islami and through which we were able to establish mosques in all rural villages in Sri Lanka and assist Madrasas.
Rabithathul Alam Al-Islami opened the doors of the Madinah University for Sri Lankan Muslims to study Arabic and Islam and also supported the Jamiah Naleemia Islamia.
I am very proud to say that my father is the one of the founder members of Rabithathul Alam Al-Islami and its only the living active member.
Saudi Arabia is the largest destination for Sri Lankan expatriates seeking employment opportunities. I am happy to note that there are more than 350,000 Sri Lankan expatriates living in the Kingdom who are considered as the lifeline in furthering our bilateral relations.
I would like to mention that Sri Lankan community has earned a name for discipline, sincerity, talent, hardworking and law-abiding. I pray almighty Allah to accept at Him late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud for declaring General Amnesty to all undocumented expatriates to correct their status, through which thousands of Sri Lankans were benefitted.
At the same time, I congratulate the new King, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and on behalf of Sri Lanka Government, I thank him for offering General Pardon for some prisoners in the Kingdom which would benefit our Sri Lankans as well.
Sri Lanka is one of the leading manpower suppliers to the Kingdom. Our Sri Lankan compatriots working in the Middle East have remitted $6 billion in 2014 alone which is the highest segment of remittances received from Sri Lankans working abroad. Of this sum a significant portion surely comes from those Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia.
It is in this backdrop that both countries have signed a labor agreement which aims at regulating the employment of the Domestic workers and ensure their welfare, safety and security.
The Minister of Labour of KSA will be visiting Sri Lanka shortly to implement the signed agreement and if the agreement is fully implemented, I believe most of the problems faced by our domestic workers would be immensely sorted out.
As the ambassador of Sri Lanka, I was able to resolve most the long-standing labor related issues of this mission.
I must sincerely thank the minister of labor of Saudi Arabia for his kind assistance and cooperation in resolving such issues.
There is a lot of potential for Saudi investors in Sri Lanka and on the other hand for Sri Lankan exporters to Saudi Arabia. After my assumption of duty as ambassador, I had discussions with the Council of Saudi Chambers for the formation of Saudi-Sri Lanka Business Council.
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce would be the counterpart of the Council of Saudi Chambers.
Now we are in the process of signing the MoU. After it is signed, we will be able to form the council, which is going to open new gateways in the economic relations between two countries.
Visits of Saudi Nationals to Sri Lanka are increasing dramatically and our beautiful city of Kandy is one of the popular destinations for Saudi families. Saudis are fascinated by the beauty of our country’s waterfalls, tea gardens and wild life.
I am also working to obtain the observer status for Sri Lanka in the OIC, Organization of the Islamic Cooperation which represents 57 Muslim countries. It is also is considered as a strong political bloc in global politics.
There are efforts to establish a fully-fledged Sri Lankan Mission in the Diplomatic Quarters in Riyadh which will be achieved very soon.
The embassy in Riyadh and our Consul General’s office in Jeddah carry out a range of duties. Among them, the two most important are consular and labor welfare services provided to the Sri Lankan community.
These have included the many mobile services that we provide at great cost with a view to rendering the best possible service to our community.

I would like to highlight a point expressed by the incumbent President that “all who is posted in public service are not the owners of the public but the servants of the public. It is the public who own the country and the government.”
I wish all brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia good health, happiness, and prosperity.
Mohamed Hussain Mohamed
Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Saudi Arabia


Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

Updated 2 min 18 sec ago
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Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

  • The Shoura Council that the King is addressing today has a vital role to play in government
  • Female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: When King Salman gives his annual speech that will open the third year of the Shoura Council’s seventh session today, it will set the tone for what lies ahead for the Kingdom, laying the groundwork for the consultative assembly to help to move the country forward.
“The King’s speech in the Shoura Council lays the road map to achieving Vision 2030,” said Lina Almaeena, one of its 30 female members. Women make up of 20 percent of the council, the same percentage of women who now hold seats in the US Congress.
While only midway through its seventh session, the roots of the Shoura Council date back to before Saudi Arabia’s founding. After entering the city of Makkah in 1924, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entrusted the council with drafting the basic laws for the administration of what was to become the future unified Kingdom.
In 1928, amendments were made as public interest grew. A new law consisting of 24 articles, which included the permanent appointment of a vice-president by the King, was issued to facilitate the council’s work.
In 1953, the council’s jurisdictions were distributed between the Council of Ministers and other government entities, reducing the Shoura Council’s power, although it continued to hold sessions until its mandate was once again broadened this century.
Its current format consists of a Speaker and 150 council members, among them scholars, educators, specialists and prominent members of society with expertise in their respective fields, chosen by the King and serving a four-year term.
The council convenes its sessions in the capital of Riyadh, as well as in other locations in the Kingdom as the King deems appropriate. Known as Majlis Al-Shoura inside the Kingdom, its basic function is to draft and issue laws approved by the King, as the cabinet cannot pass or enforce laws, a power reserved for the King to this day.
The Shoura can be defined as an exchange of opinions, and so another of its functions is to express views on matters of public interest and investigate these issues with people of authority and expertise, hence the 14 specialized committees that cover several aspects of social and governmental entities. From education, to foreign affairs, members assigned to committees review proposed draft laws prior to submitting them to the King, as they are able to exercise power within its jurisdiction and seek expertise from non-Majlis members. All requested documents and data in possession of government ministries and agencies must go through a request process from the Speaker to facilitate the Shoura Council committees’ work.
Female members are a fairly recent phenomenon. In September 2011, the late King Abdullah stated that women would become members of the council. In 2013, two royal decrees reconstituted the council, mandating that women should always hold at least a fifth of its 150 seats and appointed the first group of 30 female Shoura members.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a golden age for Saudis and, as women, we’ve come a long way,” said Almaeena. “We’re living an era of historical change, and we’re making up for lost time.”
As part of their roles, members of the council have the right to discuss general plans for economic and social development, particularly now with the Vision 2030 blueprint. Annual reports forwarded by ministries and governmental institutes, international treaties and concessions are also within the council members’ remit, to discuss and make suggestions that are deemed appropriate.
“Many positive changes have taken place in the past few years, and the Shoura Council’s role has always put social developments first and foremost,” said Dr. Sami Zaidan, a council member of two terms. “The appointment of women diversified and expanded the discussions and has added value.”
Major achievements were chalked up in this term’s second year. Many of the draft proposals discussed received approval votes. On Nov. 8, a proposal with 39 articles to protect informants from attacks, threats and material harm was approved by the majority of the council. The draft law, suggested by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, would provide whistle-blowers with protection.
In May, the Shoura Council also approved legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom. The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, backed the legislation, which required a royal decree to become law. Under it, perpetrators may face a jail sentence of up to five years and a SR 300,000 fine.
Draft regulations must go through a two-step process. The first, a chairman of a committee reads a draft of a proposal on the floor, and council members vote on referring the proposal to the designated committee. If members agree to the referral, each article is discussed thoroughly, studies are conducted on the aspects of the proposal, and after completing all the necessary checks, it reaches the second stage. The council then discusses the committee’s recommendations and a vote is set for each article proposed in an earlier session by the committee’s chairman.
Other proposals on the discussion table for this session include one that recognizes the importance of voluntary work in the community, in compliance with Vision 2030, which talks about one million volunteers in the Kingdom by 2030. The council has also asked the General Sports Authority to speed up the development of sports cities and to diversify its functions in different parts of the Kingdom to help the organizational level of women’s sports become an independent agency affiliated to the GSA chairman.
The council has also discussed a recommendation for women to hold leadership positions in Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions abroad, from a report by the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. With approximately 130 women working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended the necessity of an appointment as an affirmation that Saudi women are able to take over leadership positions as ministers, ambassadors and Saudi representatives in international forums.
Almaeena pointed out that Shoura Council members are the ears of society, playing an important role in relaying the public’s message to the designated committees. “The Shoura Council’s doors are always open, although not many know this,” she said. “The public is always welcome and can attend sessions, scheduling ahead of time. The doors to the council have always been and will always be open to all.”