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 Post subject: Police Free Sri Lankan Maid From Virtual Prison
 Post Posted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 6:55 am 
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Police Free Sri Lankan Maid From Virtual Prison

Mohammed Rasooldeen, Arab News
Monday, 25, July, 2005 / Copyright: Arab News

RIYADH, 25 July 2005 — A Sri Lankan housemaid who essentially had been imprisoned and unpaid by her sponsor for the last six years will be heading home soon thanks to the detective work of Saudi police.

Authorities handed over Shanthi Menike Herath to the Sri Lankan Embassy here yesterday following her rescue from a Saudi home near the Kuwait border, some 800 km from the capital.

Shanthi Menike, 42, who hails from a rustic village in the district of Kurnegala, 70 km from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, was virtually imprisoned for the past six years in a remote suburban household.

Although she was prevented from leaving the residence, she reported no abuse, and family members at the home actually had tears in their eyes when she left.

The Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh reported the situation to Saudi authorities after officials in Colombo passed on word of a complaint from her 22-year-old son alleging that his mother was in distress at her workplace and had not corresponded with her family for more than three years.

“I came here in June 1999 to earn some money to educate my three children since my husband was sick,” Shanthi Menike said, recalling that her husband developed heart problems following an industrial accident in Sri Lanka.

Shanthi Menike said her sponsor prevented her from sending letters to her family and kept her within the four walls of the house without any outside contact.

“Due to my persistent efforts, the sponsor gave me his mobile phone to call home for a few minutes, and I made use of that opportunity to inform my relatives that I was in a virtual prison and requested them to pursue action from Colombo to rescue me from this troubled home,” Shanthi Menike said.

Shanthi Menike had no complaints of ill-treatment; however, she said her sponsor once tried to assault her when she tried to flee the house. “I had enough food to eat, and there was no harassment whatsoever. But the workload was heavy since there were 10 children in the family,” she said.

Throughout the six-year period, the sponsor paid her only SR4,000 in cash and purchased her gifts worth SR3,000, which she wants to retain. After deducting these payments, she said her sponsor is in arrears to her in the amount of SR22,000.

P.R.L. Wickremesinghe, second secretary (labor) at the Sri Lankan Embassy, said it was a herculean task to find the sponsor since neither the mission nor the maid’s family had the location of her sponsor.

“The police helped a great deal in tracking the evading sponsor,” Wickremesinghe said, adding that embassy officials were successful in getting his mobile telephone number, which eventually helped the police to locate her workplace.

The diplomat said the interesting part of the whole rescue operation was that the sponsor’s wife and children were in tears when the maid was leaving their house. “She seemed to have won the hearts of all the family, and the children were practically begging the maid not to leave their home for good,” Wickremesinghe said.

After police mediation, the sponsor has agreed to pay SR9,000 within a week. The balance SR13,000 is to be paid within three months from the date of the maid’s repatriation to Colombo.

Currently under the custody of the Sri Lankan Embassy, Shanthi Menike will be repatriated shortly to Colombo on receipt of the partial payment of her accumulated salary arrears, the official said.

More than 70 percent of the 350,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom are housemaids.

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