Monday, August 24, 2009

Mother seeks pardon for death-row maid

K.S. Ramkumar | Arab News

JEDDAH: A Sri Lankan woman is here to seek a pardon for her daughter who has been sentenced to death in connection with the murder of an elderly Saudi woman.

“I am here to perform Umrah and also plead with the Sri Lankan Consulate to use its good offices and save my only daughter from being beheaded,” a sobbing Rukiamma, 51, told Arab News on Sunday.

With tears flowing down her cheeks, Rukiamma, who hails from Thirugunamale, an eight-hour drive from capital Colombo, said she had already spent 20 days of her monthlong Umrah visa to meet with her daughter twice.

“I asked my daughter, Halima Lisa, who is 32, why did you have to do this? She cried saying ‘Save me, save me’. She regrets what has happened but wants me to try my best with the help of the consulate to save her,” said Rukiamma. “I met my daughter after 12 years.”

Rukiamma, who also has a son, worked as a housemaid in Riyadh for four years after she lost her husband in a road accident in Sri Lanka 10 years ago.

Halima worked as a housemaid with a Saudi family in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah district. Nine years ago, she ganged up with six others, including her Indian husband Naushad with whom she has two children, to stage a break-in with the intention of robbing the villa of its valuables. Halima has two other children from her divorced husband back home.

Halima was found guilty of suffocating the Saudi woman in her 70s to death with her husband and another Sri Lankan by the name of K.M.S. Bandaranaike, while four others, all Sri Lankans, were engaged in the robbery.

All of them were caught and the General Court in Jeddah sentenced in 2004 three of them to death and the other four to five years imprisonment and 500 lashes.

The case was further referred to the Cassation Court in Makkah, which upheld the General Court’s judgment. The case was next referred to the Supreme Judicial Council in Riyadh, but to no avail, according to the records with the consulate.

Rukiamma’s visit is being funded by the Colombo-based Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment, according to Sri Lankan Consul General Abdul Latiff Mohamed Lafeer. “We have been pleading with the aggrieved Saudi family to pardon the housemaid on compassionate grounds. After all, this is the holy land and the land of forgiveness,” said Lafeer. He said considering the fact that Rukiamma was underprivileged the bureau chose to send her for Umrah and enable her to see her daughter, who has been languishing in jail.

The consul general recalled another case involving a Sri Lankan who had killed an Indian worker following a financial dispute. “A generous Saudi responded to our appeal and furnished the blood money, and the Sri Lankan’s life was saved,” said Lafeer.

Sri Lanka names new envoy to Kingdom
Mohammed Rasooldeen | Arab News

RIYADH: The Sri Lankan government has nominated Ahmed Aflal Jawad as the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the island’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Foreign Ministry has nominated Director General for Economic Affairs Ahmed Aflal Jawad as the country’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia to the High Post Committee of Parliament for formal approval,” Bhaila said, adding that the new envoy would likely be approved and posted to Riyadh before the Haj in order to have an envoy in time to help Lankan pilgrims.

Last year, around 6,000 Sri Lankans performed Haj and this year the Colombo government has requested an increased quota of pilgrims.

Jawad succeeds Abdul Ageed Mohamed Marleen who died in his sleep on June 23 in a hotel room in Sanaa, Yemen, while attending a meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.

Jawad joined the Sri Lankan foreign service in 1988 as deputy chief of protocol and subsequently served in Stockholm, Paris and Beijing as third secretary, first secretary and minister, respectively. In 2004, he became the island’s ambassador in Oslo. In 2007 he became the director general of economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

An old boy of the Royal College of Colombo, Jawad excelled in his curricular and extra-curricular activities before graduating from the University of Ceylon. He is the son of prominent social worker M.F.A. Jawad, who was the personal assistant to Sir Razick Fareed, the acclaimed leader of the Sri Lankan Moors.

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