The Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh has collected SR 56 million in compensation for Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom during the past three years, a diplomat told his countrymen at a reception held in Riyadh recently.
Sarath Kumara Weerasinghe, deputy chief of the Sri Lankan mission in Riyadh, made the statement at a farewell accorded to him on the eve of his departure from the Kingdom.
The send-off was arranged by the Sri Lankan Expatriates Society (SLES) in Riyadh in cooperation with a good number of community groups based in the capital and in Dammam.
More than 400 community members gathered with their family members at the mission's premises to say good-bye to the diplomat who had rendered services to the welfare of the Sri Lankan community living in the Kingdom and as well as on the island.
Weerasinghe, who officiated as a minister at the embassy, said that he had collected these large sums as compensation for the island's workers who died here in the Kingdom or who became disabled due to industrial accidents. “We were able to achieve this target solely because of the unstinted cooperation rendered by the Saudi officials,” Weerasinge said, thanking the security and medical authorities and the officials at the Foreign Ministry.
The diplomat, who was in charge of prisons, death and compensation during his tenure at the embassy, said that during this period he was able to clear a backlog of 600 cases and brought it down to 24 at the time of his departure.
He said a fair number of Sri Lankans are in 11 jails that came under his purview. He hoped that they will be released in the course of time since most of them are convicted of petty offenses.
He explained that there are some 550,000 Sri Lankans working in the Kingdom, which is the largest concentration of workers in the Middle East. “We get only two deaths per week and on average 10 runaway housemaids,” he noted. He also said that during his period no Lankan was sentenced to death.
“When compared to the Sri Lankan population in the Kingdom, the volume of complaints is negligible,” he noted.
Paying rich tributes to the outgoing diplomat, SLES President Ravika De Silva said that Weerasinghe was one of those diplomats who worked round the clock for the welfare of his countrymen. “His mobile phone was never off and he used to answer every call to help Sri Lankans in any part of the Kingdom,” he said, adding that Weerasinghe's services will be written in golden letters in the annals of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh.
Members from various religious groups also expressed their sentiments about the outgoing diplomat. The groups also presented mementos to Weerasinghe, whose services will be remembered by his community members.