Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sane Voices in The Sandbox

Nice to see a couple of sane voices by two lone individuals, on a couple of issues...

First, we have Ms. Mishkhas who asks "How About Punishing the Guilty?" What a novel idea! And why is it that the guilty aren't being punished? A search at Arab News for "Miyati" gives thirty-two results on the plight of this unfortunate housemaid, horrifically abused at the hands of her employers. Their punishment? That of the employers? None. Whatsoever. Abeer Mishkhas writes:

"Having been tortured by her employer and denied her wages, Noor, the Indonesian maid, not only has to suffer the loss of her fingers and toes due to a lack of medical attention but also the blame at first for allegedly changing her statement - although her employer initially confessed and then retracted the confession. No one criticized the employer for changing the statement; after all, the employer is Saudi and Noor isn't."

Well said, Ms. Mishkhas. Well said. Doesn't that give some indication insofar as answering the question "How About Punishing the Guilty?" Hmmm. Yes. I think it does...

The article continues to examine the facts [quite similarly, I might add, to the way I detailed them], but asks more questions than I did:

"... we must ask the reasons for the changed verdict. Why did the court clear the employer of all charges? And if the employer is innocent, why is there any compensation, let along such a pittance as SR2,500?"

"SR2,500 is a slap in the woman's face and an insult. Dare I ask why we have not heard what the employer is saying? Why don't we have more details ofhis and his wife's explanations, and why is this case taking so much time?"

Ms. Mishkhas states:

"Arab News published the news of the latest verdict in Miyati's case and there was an interesting section that once again raises many questions. "Reviewing a previous ruling, the judge also dropped charges against the wife of Miyati's sponsor, who had admitted abusing the maid, and overturned the 35 lashes she was sentenced to. Meanwhile, the sponsor was found innocent due to lack of evidence."

"Now the sponsor's wife was cleared although she had confessed earlier and had been sentenced to 35 lashes. If she had confessed, how could she then be cleared later?"

"The story goes on to say that the sponsor was found innocent due to a lack of evidence. What sort of evidence is the court looking for? Surely missing fingers and toes are more than evidence of something being wrong! To say nothing of gangrene and facial injuries!"

[Emphasis, all mine.]

My thoughts, exactly. We will just have to wait and see if the case is appealed and what the verdict of that court is before we find out if justice will mete out punishment to the guilty and compensate Nour Miyiati for the abuse and injuries she received while being a "guest" worker here in The Sandbox.

And on the subject of "guest" workers, we have the second sane voice. That of Tariq Al-Maeena who says, "After reading enough in the local press about the threat to and the ill-effects on our society from the presence of a large number of migrant and semi-skilled workers in this country..." and then asks this question: "Can we really get by without their presence?"

I've stated that the ratio of "guest" [migrant] workers to "locals" is an astounding 31:1! Of those 31 workers, which Mr. Al-Maeena calls "migrant" workers - I'm calling them "guest" workers - there are laborers, semi-skilled and professional workers. By far, however, the majority of them, these "guest" workers, are laborers. And this article puts into perspective exactly what these laborers are doing for this Country:

"... municipal workers ... industriously engaged in keeping ... roads and cities clean, and ... trash carted away. ..the amount of litter and garbage that has to be catered to ... is being judiciously done by migrant workers."

Yes. It is. Six days a week. By men who have come to The Sandbox to make a living from other countries where they are not able to, for incredibly low wages and in conditions that are unfathomable [it was 120 degrees in my back yard two days ago!].

"... construction has placed a high demand on the number of workers required - some to carry cement sacks, others to shovel and dig, and still some more to prepare the ground for the foundations [of] the structures..."

And, again, no matter what the weather - hot or cold - rain or sunshine - these workers, all from other countries do it to the sole benefit of this Country.

"... perched precariously high on the scaffolds of ... tall buildings, these workers daily put their lives at risk. ... there is no safety net of a comprehensive medical insurance..."

Hell, these workers would likely be thrilled with some basic safety requirements in lieu of medical insurance! There is no OSHA, here, in The Sandbox.

"...streets and roads ... being dug ... for laying out a sewage network ... and setting of the massive pipes."

Manual, physical labor. Extremely difficult tasks, in my opinion, when you factor in the weather, lack of safety regulations, the long work days; it goes without saying that this is all done for a minimal wages.

"Trees get pruned and grass in public parks mowed and watered... The waste from ... septic tanks is flushed out and carted off by tankers and operators... ...owing to the highly inefficient water distribution network, potable water ... is delivered..."

Jobs, according to Mr. Al-Maeena, done primarily by those from African countries and Asians.

"... taxis or limousines ... are ... expatriate drivers. ... when ... personal vehicles need to be serviced or repaired, they are generally accomplished by expatriates."

The list goes on to include those who bag groceries and purchases and deliver them to waiting cars; plumbing and electrical work; installing window treatments and upholstering furniture... All of them expatriates, to "do the work quickly and effectively." And, factory workers, along with other industries who employ "a large number of migrant workers, often resigned to pitiful living and working conditions and very low wages, but yet the job gets done without complaint." What good would it do these workers to complain? They know when the "deck is stacked against them," it is always "stacked against them," so they persevere AND accomplish their duties, whatever they may be.

Finally someone dares to call a spade a spade; Mr. Al-Meena says, "Most of these tasks are being undertaken by migrant workers because Saudis will not do them." [Again, emphasis, all mine.] This is the first time I've actually seen this in writing; oh sure, a lot of us think it, but no one ever actually says it! According to the article, there is a

"[G]rowing legion of Saudi writers and commentators who are quick to point our ills at the direction of this group of workers... Let us not delude ourselves into believing that Saudis today would readily fill in these posts and professions. One would not stumble upon a sizeable number of Saudis queuing for such professions..."

"Instead of criticizing their presence, let us appreciate their contributions. Many leave homes and families behind to eke out a meager existence and save a little every month to send home. Many are subjected to deplorable living conditions, their rights violated in every form and yet they remain faithful to the task and perform it uninterrupted and without protest."

"They stick to themselves, rarely intrusive and more often abused..."

So true. So true.

"The real threat lies in the lazy and sluggish attitude exhibited by some of our Saudi work force whose expectations of salary and benefits far exceed their abilities."

[Yep. All mine, the emphasis.]

Oh. My. Gosh. I can't believe he actually said that - put it in writing! And then he writes:

"Let me put a rest to all who call for action against the migrant workers. They are not pariahs or rejects, but the silent and rarely acknowledged stalwarts that oil the machinery that helps run the rest of us. Let us show some gratitude for a change."

I have a profound new respect for Mr. Al-Maeena. And, as much as I [obviously] agree with SO much of what he has to say, conversely, if Saudis start doing the jobs for which so many of us have been imported to do, whether they be labor, semi-skilled, or professional positions, all of us here as "migrant" or "guest" workers will be out of our jobs! I'm not quite ready to see that happen, either, but I'm pretty confident that that is WON'T happen anytime in the immediate future. Nah. Like everything, here, in The Sandbox, baby steps are taken to accomplish anything. Baby steps. [And only a few of those!] My guess is that NONE of the jobs above [and many jobs that are not mentioned] will be filled with Saudis in the short term. Perhaps at some point Saudis will decide that in order to truly be a part of this Country's growth that they will need to actually get their hands dirty and get to work. When? Probably about the time women are allowed to drive here [as if!?!]... It is going to be quite interesting to see what type of responses are elicited on the opinion pages of the Arab News in the coming days. I'll try to remember to keep you posted.

UPDATE: Sometimes I just hate using Blogger! Formatting is about impossible. I tried to "block / indent" the quotes, above, but every try just made everything look awful and it got worse and worse. So, I put them in italics instead of blocking them to try to save myself just a little frustration - I have enough of that, living here, thank you.

Anyone else hate trying to format with Blogger? How easy is it to switch to something else???

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