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Unsure of returning to Pakistan to resume work, says slain Sri Lankan's brother

Updated 07 Dec, 2021
Kamala Siri Santha Kumara, brother of Priyantha Kumara, speaks on Aaj News programme Spotlight. Screen grab/Aaj News.
Kamala Siri Santha Kumara, brother of Priyantha Kumara, speaks on Aaj News programme Spotlight. Screen grab/Aaj News.

Kamala Siri Santha Kumara, brother of Priyantha Kumara, has reiterated the family’s demand for a thorough investigation into the Sialkot incident and ‘strict action’ against the culprits.

Priyantha Kumara, a 49-year-old Sri Lankan who was working as a manager at a factory, was lynched and his body set ablaze by a mob in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations on Friday. The horrific incident drew widespread criticism from politicians, ambassadors, religious scholars and human rights bodies. The video footage of the barabric episode has been widely shared on social media.

“Action should be taken against the culprits. This [Sialkot incident] should not have happened,” he said while speaking from Colombo on Aaj News’ show Spotlight on Monday.

Similar demands for a thorough investigation were made by the slain man's wife Nilushi Dissanayaka.

“I appeal to the Sri Lankan president and the Pakistani prime minister and president to conduct a fair investigation so my husband and our two children get justice,” Niroshi Dasaniyake had told BBC Sinhala.

The host, Muneezeh Jahangir, before the start of the conversation, offered condolences to Kamal Siri Santha Kumara, who has been working as a factory manager in Faisalabad for 10 years.

“Every religion should be respected. Such actions of killing a man should not happen,” he said, calling it a “dangerous" development.

To a question on whether Priyantha was previously threatened by his co-workers or shared any concern regarding his well-being during his 12 years of service, Kamala said there had been no such instance. "He never mentioned any such episode or incident that stood out.”

He pointed out that there were minor strikes by factory workers, but added that they are are a common occurrence at Pakistani factories.

Kamala called for a thorough investigation into the incident, reiterating that strict action should be taken against the people involved in the killing of his brother as not just Sri Lankans but many foreigners were working in Pakistan.

Talking about the his brother's family, he stated that Priyantha leaves behind a widow and two children aged 14 and 9.

He added that the family has demanded compensation of the Sri Lankan and Pakistani governments to safeguard the family’s future and the children’s education.

To a question whether he would return to Pakistan and continue his job in Faisalabad, he replied in the negative citing family's reluctance. The family have expressed concern over working among 'ignorant' people, he continued.

Kamala added that he informed his family that all Pakistanis were not 'bad' and that he had met a lot of people who were friendly and polite. However, he expressed astonishment at “how people turned to such cruelty”.

“I don’t know whether I would return to work again as family members are very afraid,” said Kamal, who had returned to Sri Lanka two months before the Sialkot incident.

He said there were similar concerns among Sri Lankan expatriates working in Pakistan. “They all are afraid despite the fact that a few of them have been working here for 10-15 years."

Despite the fact that there has not been any such incident during their stay here, many of his his fellow Sri Lankan workers were thinking of returning home, he continued. “Now, they are afraid for their lives."

He said it was imperative that the country's top leadership, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, ensured there was strict action against those involved so that not just Sri Lankans but other foreigners as well feel safe living and working in Pakistan.

Kamal added that in the aftermath of the horrific incident, the only way to end the “sense of fear” that has taken root among foreigners planning to work in the country was action from the top.