18 April, 2024


Child Labour: Serious Lapses On The Part Of State Authorities

By Tassie Seneviratne

Tassie Seneviratne

Much hype has been suddenly generated over the employment of children as domestic aides. The reason for this sudden awakening is the suspicious death of a 16-year-old girl who was a domestic aide employed at MP Rishad Bathiudeen’s residence.

Investigations are underway and hopefully those responsible will be brought to book. But what about those who were tasked with the responsibility of preventing employment of children? What have the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and the Police Children and Women Protection Bureau (PCWPB) been doing until this ghastly death was reported? Should not action be instituted against these authorities tasked with protection of children from this very type of abuse, for their abject failure?

Now, after this event, all the State’s authorities are agog over ‘Child employment’. As reported in the media: “Police investigations have tracked down eleven domestic aides who had worked at Mr. Bathiudeen’s household since 2010.” – “Police in Colombo and suburbs this week carried out raids on suspected households which employed underage children as domestic aides.”

Ponniha Bandaram, an accused in this case, is on record admitting to providing domestic aides from the upcountry. He has further stated that the practice is common in the upcountry. He has also stated that, in this case, it was the mother of the child who had called over and asked to help find a job for her daughter. He is foolishly narrating all what he is doing, in full belief that he is doing a great service. He is not alone in this lucrative business. 

It is quite clear that all these transactions have been taking place over a long period of time and very openly too. There has been no secrecy whatsoever over it. For all intents and purposes, this practice has been permissible by all concerned. Even a semblance of intelligence gathering by the police would have revealed this despicable practice of employing children and the cruelties the children have to undergo. It is not only the police that is to blame. All the State authorities tasked with the protection of children, have reacted only after the media hype. State authorities have not taken any steps to create awareness in this regard.

State authorities have been activated, as usual, only after the crisis was highlighted in the media, and even then, the action has been to change Heads of the NCPA. The motive behind that action is perhaps to placate the media, and in fact nothing else can be expected beyond this knee-jerk action. The State authorities do not appreciate the fact that the problem is long drawn over the years as annual statistics show. The problem is then the failure of using the intelligence that is available and is glaring in the face. These instances should have been dealt with at very early stages before the worst has happened and complaints made and media hype generated. It is not a problem that can be solved by rotating Heads of NCPA. It is quite likely that none of these Heads, including the new one, knows of it and has the capacity to set intelligence in motion. This is not a big deal if you only apply yourself to it with plain common sense. In fact, common sense is becoming a rare commodity as a result of not being used. Plain common sense coming down from over one hundred and fifty years ago when the intelligence system was much in place, brought results. But, from about 2019 and later, and now, are heard sounds of intelligence sections with a difference; more expressive in the Sinhala term, buddhi angshaya, which sounds more like a hit squad than as an intelligence coordinating bureau. As a result of this secretive arrangement the normal legal intelligence function of the police at grass root level, and GS division level, which involve every single police officer, top to bottom, is lost to all. To some political authorities this is convenient and useful., because intelligence at grassroots level don’t make way for politicking.

This clandestine arrangement, not targeting child labour as such, may continue for quite some time yet, putting child labour on the back burner. Therefore, those authorities tasked with preventing child abuse, will have to fall back on simple intelligence gathering as laid out above.   

You can fathom the level of importance the Government as well as the Opposition place on this problem of child abuse, when you listen to them trading charges as to who should be held responsible. They don’t seem to know there is a law book known as the ‘Code of Criminal Procedure’. And what of the Police? They seem to be waiting for directions!

All that is now happening is superficial. It may remain so till the next child crisis is reported.

*The writer is a Retired Senior Superintendent of Police. He can be contacted at seneviratnetz@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 4

    “Police investigations have tracked down eleven domestic aides who had worked at Mr. Bathiudeen’s household since 2010.”

    What is the point of investigating one person’s house?
    Did the police investigated the houses of all Member of Parliaments, Ministers and President?
    Did the police investigated the houses of all Directors of Departments and Military Heads, Doctors, Engineers, University Staff etc?

  • 3

    Police investigations have tracked down eleven domestic aides who had worked at Mr. Bathiudeen’s household since 2010.”

    One who supplyed the eleven domestic s tasked to supply had he not heard any mistraeting because he has not heard any mal practice happening from residents, and why were the parents allowing as house maids they also knows the reponsibily. this bonded agreement Eradicate hanger, Even in lock down hunger due to no food people unlock to visit the town for food.

  • 2

    He is foolishly narrating all what he is doing
    What do you want him to do? Deny it?

  • 3

    Politicians are freemasons who are the cause of child trafficking.
    They not only molest children but even sacrifice them to satan
    in their masonic rituals behind closed doors.

  • 5

    Most of the lawmakers, the rich and the powerful, police bigwigs and others are employing under-aged domestic servants. This is one reason why the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and the Police Children and Women Protection Bureau (PCWPB) turned a blind eye to the employment of children as domestic servants. I won’t be surprised if the NCPA chief is employing children.

    Richard Baduideen has taken pains to defend himself against all accusations laid against him. But he failed to explain why he as a lawmaker failed to check the age of Hishalini at the time of employment. He also should explain who brought the can of kerosene into the house. These days people depend on electricity or gas or both for cooking and not kerosene. Before Hishalini, not less than 12 servants have been employed as servants by the Baduideen family. The turnover seems to be high and Police should interview them to find the reason(s).

    It is a national shame that a child who should be in school have died in suspicious circumstances while employed as a servant by a high-profile politician.

    • 2

      Thanga is quite right. “Most of the lawmakers, the rich and the powerful, police bigwigs and others are employing under-aged domestic servants.” He should know better because the first to tap into this market for cheap child labour, abuse and exploitation were the Jaffna Tamils – junior partners in the colonial plantation economy. They were the school teachers, chief clerks, shroffs, tea-makers, doctors, apothecaries, accountants, station masters, railway guards, and the worst scum of all, the PWD overseers – who worked loyally for their white master in the up-country areas in the heyday of colonialism. During this period many Letchumis and Sarojas, not even 10 years old, were drawing water from Jaffna’s deepest wells and washing the underwear of men of their masters’ households. Of course, after 1948 the Jaffna Durais were sidelined by the new Sinhala-Buddhist Swabasha Mahathayas in recruiting Wathu Demala children. And now in the era of globalization, it is the nouveau riche, which includes a sizable number of shady Muslim businessmen, who continue the tradition of employing children as domestic servants to show off their new social status. .

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