Tortured to Death in Kuwait
By Leon Berenger
She was scheduled to return to her family in Moratuwa for Christmas when fate decided otherwise and so another Sri Lankan female domestic aide was brutally killed at the hands of her Arab sponsors.
The nightmare for 43-year-old M. Sudarshini Silva is believed to have started on 9 September inside the basement of a plush household in Amiri close to Kuwait City and had lasted for a full three days until her death on Friday (11) last week.
Local investigators have found out that the victim had been deprived food and water while the suspects are alleged to have poked burning iron rods on various parts of her body while at the same time tearing parts of her skin open with sharp instruments.
Her body also bore marks caused by heavy blows caused by a heavy blunt weapon when she was wheeled into the Amiri Hospital in a critical condition by her very own tormentors who initially claimed their innocence.
Barely two hours after the victim was admitted to the hospital she succumbed to her multiple injuries at the ICU without providing a statement to the relevant authorities.
The hospital for their part immediately alerted the Police and subsequently a message was wired to the Sri Lankan Mission and a probe was initiated starting from the victim’s employer’s home where the sponsors became the prime suspects without much hesitation.
The Kuwaiti couple initially denied any hand in the killing but subsequently broke down after much interrogation and the husband allegedly told Police that his wife was responsible for their maid’s murder.
He further told investigators that they had also unsuccessfully attempted to hang the battered body of the victim inside her washroom and make it look like a suicide before removing her to hospital.
The couple was promptly arrested and is currently being detained facing charges of first degree murder and face the death penalty if convicted. Executions are carried out by firing squad in Kuwait.
The victim’s body has now been referred to the forensics department for a complete report and to determine the surrounding circumstances of physical injuries.
Having said all that, the victim’s family in Moratuwa is in a state of shock and bewilderment saying that Sudarshini never spoke of any ill- treatment, harassment or whatever from her sponsors.
So much so the victim was always in full praise of her Arab boss saying that she was being treated equally like a family member and that she was very happy with her work.
“There were no complaints from her side at any time and that is the reason we are shocked and saddened as to the fate that has befallen her in a strange land and so far away from home,” her husband, K. Sumith said.
“The whole incident is surrounded by mystery and that is why officials both at the Sri Lankan Embassy in that country and in Colombo should look into the matter without delay and seek fair play and justice for my wife’s murder,” Sumith who works as a painter on a daily wage said.
He added that his wife left for Kuwait through a licensed overseas manpower recruiting agent on 17 January last year and was expected to complete her contract within four months and therefore, it goes on to build a mystery as to what exactly took place.
“Not only that, we also lost all communication with her following the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sumith further said.
Only recently in August, a 40-year-old female Kuwaiti citizen allegedly inflicted various burns on the body of her elderly Sri Lankan maid leading her to be detained on charges of torture. It is believed her three underage sons were also participants in this heinous act.
The maid was rescued after she sent a distress call to the Lankan embassy, revealing her plight and was subsequently plucked out from the house by Police.
A forensics report later documented severe injuries and burnt marks on various parts of the victim’s body. The victim was tortured after she had requested her sponsor to return home since she was old. The victim in her statement to the Police said the sponsor’s three sons used to hold her down while her female sponsor used to heat various items to burn her shoulders, chest and various parts of her body.
The three under-aged sons were released after juvenile felony case was registered against them. In February 2020, the Criminal Court overturned a two years jail sentence with hard labour against a citizen who was accused of torturing his housemaid with a hot spoon in different parts of her body. The forensic report supported her complaints, and she had to undergo treatment for over 30 days.
However, it is not the first time that a maid has been killed by her sponsor in Kuwait. Earlier last year, a Filipina maid was killed allegedly following abuse by her employers.
On 29 December 2019, Kuwait Police received a report from Sabah Hospital where a deceased Filipina housemaid was found with bruises on various parts of her body.
According to the report, the maid’s sponsor, who had taken her to hospital, admitted during interrogations that his wife had beaten the maid until she fainted.
His wife, who was summoned, reportedly admitted to beating the maid but claimed that she had not intended to kill her. Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBEF) for their part is probing Silva’s case along with the Foreign Office in Colombo and the country’s diplomatic mission in Kuwait City.
“The Lankan Mission has taken up the matter at every level with the Police and relevant authorities in that country in identifying and punishing those responsible.
According to the latest reports the Kuwaiti sponsor, his wife and third unidentified person have been arrested in connection with the case and are being detained without bail”, SLBFE, Director/Programmes/Training and Media, Mangala Randeniya said.
He added that the victim was a documented worker who had been hired by a licensed recruitment agency that is sanctioned by the SLBFE and therefore, there were no violations of standard procedures and regulations.
The SLBFE also is seeking to go further and seek monetary compensation for the family of the murdered maid which is also known as ‘Blood Money”.
“This is not a normal death, we are talking about murder and therefore, every effort must be taken towards seeking compensation and towards this end the assistance from the Foreign Relations is much needed,” Director General Legal with the SLBFE, Keerthi Muthukumarana said.
“This incident has led to much concern in the foreign employment industry and we are all eagerly waiting for the legal outcome,” said Farouk Marikkar, President of the Association for Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA).
He said that the Lankan Embassy was yet to respond to an ALFEA request for a detailed report on the issue and it was the same case with the Foreign Office in Colombo.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Migrant Workers’ Sri Lanka (NUMWSL) hit out at the relevant authorities saying: “very little was being done in protecting the rights of Lankans taking up employment in foreign capitals.”
“Each time there is a death, murder or a case of torture involving a Lankan migrant worker the officialdom comes up with the promise of a full probe but at the end of the day nothing really happens,” NUMWSL President Atukorale said.
He added that the Sri Lankan authorities should work more closely with international workers’ rights organisations and be ready to professionally face the task whenever an incident takes place without any delay.
“But this is not the case at present and officials are far too slow to take action for reasons known only to them and this should never be the case.”
Many other developing countries have already banned females from taking up employment in the domestic sector in the West Asian region owing to complaints of abuse and harassment.
The time has come for the Government to turn the searchlight inwards, or else it must be ready to receive more and more body bags of dead Sri Lankan workers,” Atukorale further said.