Mohammed Rasooldeen, Arab News
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama addressing reporters in Riyadh.
RIYADH, 26 April 2007 Sri Lanka has imposed restrictions on the recruitment of housemaids, which includes a total ban on hiring women who have children less than five years of age.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, who wrapped up a three-day visit to the Kingdom, told reporters yesterday that female domestic workers who have children below five would not be sent abroad as housemaids. his is not only because of their discontented life here but it also creates social problems back home,?he said.
Homesickness has been identified as one of the primary causes of labor problems among housemaids working in the Kingdom. housemaid who came here leaving a five-month-old baby ran away from her workplace because she desperately wanted to see her child,he added.
The Sri Lankan government has initiated programs to look after the families of housemaids, by providing scholarships for their children in government schools, but infants still need to be with their mothers, the minister said, stressing that in future only women who are above 25 years of age would be granted permission for overseas deployment.
Speaking about the problems of runaway housemaids, Bogollagama said this is only a fraction of the housemaid population in the Kingdom. he problems are mainly due to misunderstandings between the employer and their employee, non-payment of wages and ignorance about the cultural environment in the host country,he said.
While stressing on his government stance to blacklist job agents in Colombo that send unskilled women as domestic aides, Bogollagama requested the Saudi National Recruiting Committee to check on local recruiting agents who are behind such nefarious activities.
Saudi Ambassador in Colombo Muhammad Mahmud Al-Ali and Sri Lankan Ambassador A.M.J. Sadiq were present at the press briefing held at the Royal Conference Palace.
Bogollagama said a second Sri Lankan airline would start services to the Kingdom. esides SriLankan Airlines, the government is keen on introducing Mihin Air to the Kingdom to serve the Sri Lankan expatriates here,the minister said, pointing out that the new airline, which began operations early this year, is a government-owned budget airline. e are negotiating to modify our bilateral aviation agreement with the Kingdom to accommodate this new airline,he said.
Mihin Air, which is fully funded by the state treasury, will cater not only to migrant workers but also to the tourism industry as a low cost carrier. his will be a great boon to low-income migrant workers who would like to save money on their travel. It would also provide customers with an opportunity to travel at prices 50 percent cheaper,he said.
The minister described his talks with Saudi officials as successful and said that his government is interested in strengthening political, economic and cultural relations with the Kingdom.
Bogollagama said they had agreed to negotiate and finalize bilateral agreements on avoidance of double taxation, combating terrorism, extradition, prisoner exchange and investment protection. Earlier at a meeting at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the minister said the country offers an attractive package to foreign investors.
Sri Lanka, an investment hub in Asia, has attracted a large clientele of investors from all parts of the world since the country has abundant natural resources and cost-effective labor for viable projects,he stressed.
He pointed out that the Free Trade Agreement with India would give free access to a larger market in the sub-continent to products manufactured in the island.