Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

Filipino workers returning home from Kuwait arrive at Manila International Airport on February 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

MANILA: A bilateral agreement to provide protection to Filipino workers will be signed soon by the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments.
Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that after a brief impasse in the two-day negotiations held in Manila, officials from both countries finally concurred on a draft migrant labor protection pact Friday evening.
In a telephone interview, Bello said the brief impasse was due to two remaining ticklish issues - one addressing the issue on OFW (overseas Filipino worker) passports being withheld by employers, and the second about employment contracts.
Bello said that while the Kuwaiti officials agreed to the Philippine government’s proposal that passports of Filipino workers should be deposited at the Philippine embassy and not withheld by employers, they (Kuwaiti officials) did not want this to be put in writing.
“But we insisted on putting that in the agreement. Finally they agreed,” Bello told Arab News.
“The other issue is that they wanted the employment contract to follow the Kuwaiti standard contract form. We did not agree. Eventually we had a neutral formulation that the contract will be drafted upon the joint agreement of Philippines and Kuwaiti,” said Bello.
That way, the employment contract will be in accordance with Philippine laws, he explained.
Other provisions of the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the $400 net-per-month salary of OFWs, with the employer opening a bank account where the salary of the worker will be deposited. This will be proof that the worker is being paid.
It was also agreed that an OFW must give a written consent in case of transfer from one employer to another, and the transfer must also be approved in writing by the Philippine labor attaché.
Bello said the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines will see him on Monday morning to discuss and decide on the date and venue of the signing of the agreement and who will be the signatories.
Usually the signatories are the head of the Kuwait Ministry of Labor and the Philippines’ secretary of labor, Bello said. He said the signing of the MoU would be easier and swifter if it were between the labor ministers of both countries. “Then probably we can schedule the signing next week,” he said.
At the same time, Bello said the signing of the pact will not guarantee the lifting of the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“If you recall, the president imposed two conditions (for the lifting of the ban). First is that we have an agreement with Kuwait and second, Joanna (Demafelis) will be given justice. So we’ll have to wait for that,” said Bello.
It was the discovery of Demafelis’ body stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait that triggered the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.
Bello, however, said that this ban will not affect the Philippines-Kuwait relationship.
 


Dissolution of Sri Lankan Parliament ‘invalid,’ Supreme Court rules

Updated 14 December 2018
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Dissolution of Sri Lankan Parliament ‘invalid,’ Supreme Court rules

  • Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a tweet: “We trust that the president will promptly respect the judgment of the courts”

COLOMBO: The Supreme Court in Colombo on Thursday ruled that the dissolution of Sri Lanka’s Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was invalid and described it as unconstitutional.
The verdict also declared that the notice of dissolution announced in the government gazette was null and void and that the Parliament could not be dissolved until four and half years from the last general elections.
On Nov. 9, Sirisena dissolved the Parliament citing his own reasons for his actions. The president appointed the former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, replacing the incumbent premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The functions of the state were paralyzed when the Court of Appeal ruled this week that Rajapaksa and his team of ministers could not execute their official work until it issued a final verdict.
Thursday’s unanimous verdict was delivered in a packed courtroom by the seven-judge panel. Security was beefed up around the Supreme Court ahead of the verdict.
The petitioners argued the legality of the provisions of Articles 33, 62, and 70 of the constitution, which were subject to conflicting interpretations on the question of whether or not the president has a unilateral power to dissolve Parliament. Each of these provisions were amended by the 19th Amendment in 2015, and the changes went to the heart of the current disagreements over the power of dissolution.
Reacting to the verdict, Namal Rajapaksa, the son of Mahinda Rajapaksa and a parliamentarian, said: “We respect the decision of the Supreme Court, despite the fact that we have reservations regarding its interpretation. We will continue to stand alongside those calling for a parliamentary election, without which there is no real justice for the people.”
President of the National Unity Alliance Azath Salley told Arab News that while respecting the judgment of the court, he still believes that a general election will allow the people to decide the government they need.
Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, told Arab News that the verdict is a victory for democracy and a greater victory for minority communities on the island. “We are happy that the court has upheld democratic values and shown the world that Parliament is supreme and democracy is really people’s rule,” he said.
Udaya Gammanpila, a minister in the defunct Cabinet, said: “We respect the decision of the Supreme Court although we are not in agreement with its interpretations.”
Rauff Hakeem, a former minister, said that the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law have eventually triumphed. Hakeem, who is the leader of the Muslim Congress, has a good number of legislators from his party in the Parliament.
Mujibur Rahman, a legislator from the Colombo Central Electorate, said that the court verdict had proved that the country could not be run on the whims of an individual such as Sirisena.
“Sri Lanka is a democratic country which is governed by a constitution and people’s Parliament,” he said. He also insisted that Sirisena should gracefully accept his mistake and resign from his post since he had broken the trust of the 6.2 million voters of Sri Lanka.
Rahman also said that decisions taken in the parliament during the litigation are valid from the retrospective date of when the dissolution was announced. “It’s a great victory for people and it also proved that still judiciary is independent in Sri Lankan,” he said.
Ousted premier and UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a tweet: “We trust that the president will promptly respect the judgment of the courts.”