|Lanka to approach baby’s
parents for maid’s pardon
Minister said he would visit Riyadh shortly to seek
a pardon from the parents of the four-month old
infant that Rizana Nafeek was found guilty of
murdering by a Saudi court.
Rizana has been sentenced to death.
“I am planning to come to the Kingdom to
personally make an appeal to the father of the
deceased infant, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi, to
pardon the convicted maid on humanitarian grounds,”
Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen
told Arab News recently.
The Minister said the Sri Lankan Government respects
the judicial decision and it is also in sympathy
with the bereaved family. However, he added that the
government thought it would be appropriate at this
juncture to make a final appeal to the aggrieved
parents whose decision could change the fate of the
Lankan maid who had come to the Kingdom in 2005 as a
minor with a fake birth date on her passport saying
she was of legal age to work in Saudi Arabia.
Hired as a maid, Rizana was given nanny duties
and claims the newborn she was given to take care of
choked to death during bottle-feeding during her
second week on the job. The parent alleged she
murdered the child and a local court found her
guilty. The Supreme Court later upheld this verdict.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an appeal to
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah
requesting clemency for Nafeek.
“Rizana’s case has generated a lot of sympathy from
Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri
Lanka. They are conducting special prayers to invoke
the blessings of God to rescue the maid from the
executioner,” the Minister said, adding that his
Ministry officials are in touch with Nafeek’s
parents in her hometown of Muttur to console them in
Bathiudeen is positive that the Saudi parents would
consider a pardon in favour of Rizana. “It is divine
to pardon,” he said.
The Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death
sentence given by a three-judge panel at the
Dawadami High Court on June 16, 2007. According to
the verdict, Rizana murdered the infant when she was
asked to bottle-feed the baby by the sponsor’s wife.
“We have no serious labour problems among (Lankan
workers in Saudi Arabia),” Bathiudeen noted, saying
that a few sporadic problems are only from a
fraction of the whole Lankan population in the
Basil Fernando, Director of the Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC), which has been active in this
case, said his organisation had sent an appeal to
all foreign missions based in the Kingdom to
exercise their influence to negotiate a pardon from
“We are trying all avenues to save the life of this
girl,” he said. “I am sure the parents will show
mercy on this girl, who was only 17 when the
incident took place.”
It is illegal for a foreign resident under the age
of 18 to work in the Kingdom. It is believed that a
facilitator in Sri Lanka forged Nafeek’s age in
order to send her to the Kingdom as a housemaid who
was then given nanny duties by her employers.
Nafeek’s passport stated her date of birth as
February 2, 1982. The certified copy of her birth
certificate indicates her actual date of birth as
February 4, 1988.
Respecting the Supreme Court’s final verdict,
Fernando said he had sought the United Nations
intervention with the Saudi Government to resolve
the case. He said UN officials would take up this
matter with the Saudi Government’s Human Rights
Commission to persuade the parents to consent for a
pardon on humanitarian grounds.