A pension scheme for migrant workers
One election pledge by Prime Minister
Mahinda Rajapakse which most progressive-minded persons are likely to
hope would be faithfully implemented when he comes to power is the
pension scheme for expatriate Lankan workers.
Today, the stark fact is that these migrant workers have become this
country's veritable bread-winners on account constituting a factor which
brings in a substantial amount of foreign exchange to the country.
It is only fair that the future of these workers is rendered stable
through the installation of at least a pension scheme which would stand
them in good stead in their twilight years.
The Premier has done right by highlighting this issue because it is
seemingly forgotten by most sections - including the ruling elite - that
it is these workers who are accounting for the bulk of our foreign
In fact, if it were not for these workers - a considerable number of
whom are women - overseas travels, jaunts and merry-making by the more
powerful and affluent sections of society, including the ruling elite,
would not be possible.
For, these migrant workers ensure that the Treasury coffers do not go
completely dry. There is always some cash coming in, thanks to these
workers who sacrifice almost their all for the sake of these jobs which
would in turn help in securing some of their vital needs, such as
building a homestead.
What do some of these workers, particularly women, get in return?
Humiliation and suffering. This was borne out recently by the horrifying
ordeal suffered by one of our prospective female migrant workers at the
hands of none other than some BIA personnel, within the precincts of
this international airport of repute, itself.
On Saturday we called for quick justice for this unfortunate woman
who was gang-raped and who had her womanhood thoroughly besmirched and
The disgraceful episode at the BIA proved the extreme vulnerability
of the Lankan woman in general and of the female migrant workers in
particular. We agree totally with Premier Rajapakse that the well-being
of these women must be quickly secured and that they be provided all the
facilities which would make their sad lot easier to bear.
Generally speaking, these workers must be provided intensive training
programs - through State intervention, of course - to enable them to
meet their future needs, job-related and otherwise. It is very doubtful
whether this is being done satisfactorily at present.
Despite frequent reports that the needs of these workers are being
met through the facilitation of State agencies, the "horror stories"
involving some of our women migrant workers which now and then come to
the attention of the public, prove otherwise.
What is being done, for instance, about tyrannical overseas employers
who reduce some of these women to the deplorable condition of sex
slaves? What is being done about employers who disregard with callous
disdain, the terms of their employment contracts, particularly in
relation to wages?
Therefore, our rulers who are democratically installed, are conscious
and duty-bound to ease the lot of our expatriate workers. They are a
major foreign exchange earner and their future must be secured through
the provision of at least better welfare measures.
There is no doubt that these workers must acquire better skills to
deal with present day challenges. A knowledge of the English Language,
for instance, is a must. Equally important are more implementable