18 September, 2020

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Sri Lanka: Descent Into The Selling Of Children

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Deterioration of the legal intellect: (3) Descent into the selling of children

Last week, several news reports revealed the story of an 8-year-old child (reported as a 10-years-old by some media houses) from Ambathenna, Katugastota. The mother made the initial report about her missing child to the Katugastota police. Initially, the police ignored the complaint and did nothing to begin searching for the child. It was only after a tip-off from a woman who witnessed the sale of the child that the police intervened. According to the reports, the police officers that arrived at the scene were able to recover the Rs. 50,000 used to buy the child.

Further, according to reports, the child is the third one in the family that has four children. The father of the child is said to be disabled and bedridden for a long period of time and the mother has been unable to cater to the needs of the children.

The man who bought the child, and his sister, have been arrested as suspects and later have been released on bail. According to one report, the mother is also suspected as being involved in the sale of her child and has also been arrested. She has not been granted bailed as no one has come forward to stand as surety for her release.

Four years ago, in March 2010, another story made sensational news. That was when a mother of five children threw her youngest child into the Kalu Ganga (River), as she was unable to provide for the child. Before doing this, she had attempted to get her children admitted to an orphanage so that at least there they could find some food to eat, but even that attempt had failed. It was only after this pathetic story of the mother throwing her youngest child into the river received nationwide news coverage that the four elder children were admitted to an orphanage.

Now we have this story about a child being sold in the manner commodities are being sold. The manner in which this story has been reported did not suggest any shock on the part of the various authorities – such as police authorities and childcare authorities – or even among the reporters themselves. No one seems to have noticed the heinousness of this crime and the level of moral degeneration that this country has reached for it to have become possible that one neighbour would conspire to sell a child of another neighbour’s family and to make profit out of it. It appears that the Magistrate himself has not treated the matter with due importance and has simply allowed bail to the two culprits.

This author first encountered a child sale when a human rights organisation in Cambodia brought a male child who was about five-years-old to the United Nation’s Human Rights Centre’s office in Cambodia in the early 1990s. Some persons from the human rights organisation, having heard of a child sale, pretended to be buyers and offered a higher price than the other buyers, with a view to rescuing the child. The child was brought to the UN Human Rights Centre’s office in order to facilitate the possibility of finding a secure place for the child to be taken care of.

Hearing this news of a child sale shocked me, as I had never heard of any such thing before. In the environment in which I grew up, everyone in the neighbourhood considered their neighbour’s children as their own. When we made further inquiries about this child sale in Cambodia, we learned that it was a well-known affair in that country. Under Pol Pot’s regime (1975-1979), the entire country was devastated and over 1/7th of the population died, either due to political prosecution or due to starvation. Among those who suffered most were the children taken away from the parents when they were just infants; according to Pol Pot’s ideology, children acquired reactionary habits if they were allowed to live with their parents. To nurture them in revolutionary habits, the children were taken away from their parents. Though Pol Pot’s regime collapsed after four years, the terrible consequences of those catastrophic years were still manifesting in the early 1990s when the United Nations intervened with the agreement of all political factions in Cambodia in order to seek a political settlement by way of an election conducted under the supervision of the United Nation’s Transitional Authority for Cambodia(UNTAC). Child sales were a part of the legacy of those terrible times.

Now, this child sale at Katugastota, conducted so casually, shows that even such acts are not being considered morally disgusting and socially outrageous. The country’s legal system has become so dysfunctional that even an issue such as a child sale, does not lead to a ringing of alarm bells. Despite communication facilities being so enhanced and advanced in the country, there are no programmes or procedures established within the policing system to deal with a situation involving a missing child or a child sale.

Recall that the Kalu Ganga incident, when the destitute mother threw her child into the River, was soon forgotten. Even that incident did not lead to any political or a popular discourse on the ways to deal with such desperate situations. In comparison, however, the Katugastota child sale has not even received as much public notice as the Kalu Ganga tragedy.

When a legal system becomes so pathetically paralysed that the law enforcement authorities lose capacity to react with empathy even on issues such as child sales, it is a clear indication of a society that has lost any humane sensibility.

What sense does it make to talk about “yahapalanaya” (good governance) in a social environment like that which exists in Sri Lanka today? When even the basic capacity for child-care ceases to be the concern of the State, how could it proclaim to be pursuing good governance?

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Latest comments

  • 9
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    Basil Fernando,

    Well said,

    It appears that we are living in a decadent society with no respect for human lies.

    The so called Good governance is only a cosmetic change in the situation.

    Fundamentally nothing has changed much.

    • 2
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      Basil Fernando –

      RE: Sri Lanka: Descent Into The Selling Of Children

      “It was only after a tip-off from a woman who witnessed the sale of the child that the police intervened. According to the reports, the police officers that arrived at the scene were able to recover the Rs. 50,000 used to buy the child.”

      “The man who bought the child, and his sister, have been arrested as suspects and later have been released on bail. According to one report, the mother is also suspected as being involved in the sale of her child and has also been arrested. She has not been granted bailed as no one has come forward to stand as surety for her release.”

      “Four years ago, in March 2010, another story made sensational news. That was when a mother of five children threw her youngest child into the Kalu Ganga (River), as she was unable to provide for the child. “

      “Now we have this story about a child being sold in the manner commodities are being sold. The manner in which this story has been reported did not suggest any shock on the part of the various authorities – such as police authorities and childcare authorities – or even among the reporters themselves. No one seems to have noticed the heinousness of this crime and the level of moral degeneration that this country has reached for it to have become possible that one neighbour would conspire to sell a child of another neighbour’s family and to make profit out of it. It appears that the Magistrate himself has not treated the matter with due importance and has simply allowed bail to the two culprits.”

      The price the populace is paying for the Mahinda Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa Corruption. and other political corruption, bad governance and bad economic policies. Wonder of the many women who went to the Middle East as maids would have jumped into rivers with their children, if they had not gone to the Middle East?

      Print it out and Punlish as to what 10 years of Mahinda Rajapaksa Family Dictatorship has done to the Country.

      MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA MARA PALANAYA- The Price Sri Lankans Pay

    • 0
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      Thiru,

      The author himself has no respect for human lies!

  • 3
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    Sadly the selling of children is just another one of those goods that the WORLD should put a NO sign to. Weapons and Human organs are the other 2 goods that are “bad”. But it is absurd convicting the Mother of the kid as in most cases they are left with not much of a better choice. And by giving them for sale, the Mothers intention in most cases are that she yet wants a good life for that kid.
    The problem lies in the Governments and in those seeking commodities like human organs. Can a poor person afford a Kidney or a Heart? NO. It is only the rich.
    Child trafficking is widely spread in Europe too. There are more kids been killed in Europe than someone in SL can ever imagine.

  • 4
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    Very very sad.MR can spend 18 million for three dinners and his son can give a man in Dubai 1500 million, and stash away billions of rupees.This is why the politicians don’t want to educate the masses so that they can keep on exploiting them by buying a vote for rs.500 and a packet of briyani.I think Sri Lanka is the only country in Asia has descended to this level.Thanks to MR & Co,

  • 2
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    Basil ?

    What’s in a name !

    Brilliant article brings out the decadence of the people who boast of 2500 years of culture ( This includes ME too).

    We know the problem that the selling of children takes place Internationally –
    Where the child becomes a slave in one way or the other.

    However, there lies a few undercurrents that our 2500 years of culture should understand and cope with.

    Should the parent be unwilling or unable to care for the child what is the alternative they have – Killing is unacceptable !

    Giving the child up for adoption ? At this day and age most adoption agencies are profit oriented organizations – So the child is basically sold –

    In this scenario – what society is objecting to is that the parent should not make money in giving up the rights to the child?

    OR WHAT ?

  • 3
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    Another excellent expose by Basil on the pathetic state of morality and justice prevailing in Sri Lanka made worse by the Rajapaksa regime by their unsurpassed opulence enjoyed only by the members of their family denied to the rest. Bensen

    • 1
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      “Another excellent expose by Basil on the pathetic state of morality and justice prevailing in Sri Lanka……” Sorry Bensen, but Basil Fernando has no right to talk or right about morality or justice.

  • 1
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    Male children are being donated to the Maha Sangha, mainly to relieve the financial burden on poor families.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/child-ordination-through-a-mothers-eyes/

    This too is similar, but the child has been sold for a lump sum, as well as to relieve the financial burden on the family.
    We are not yet a Welfare State.

  • 1
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    Basil. This is English. In sinhalese or tamil selling ones parents and children is fair game. You wanted sinhala only. They wanted a separate tamil state. The politicans grew richer and more greedy. Now all of us face a terrible fate.

  • 1
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    “”Hearing this news of a child sale shocked me, as I had never heard of any such thing before. In the environment in which I grew up, everyone in the neighbourhood considered their neighbour’s children as their own. When we made further inquiries about this child sale in Cambodia, we learned that it was a well-known affair in that country.””

    Crazy it has been happening from the time of war in Afghanistan and presently its happening in Syria.
    Old oil rich arabs go there buy teenage virgins have marriage fun and go away after holiday- its all been in the news.
    Its been happening in eastern Europe for long – and they are sold.

    young Lanka boys are being advertised in European gay magazines by a gang of locals abroad like the women sent to the medieval middle east- Mahinda’s Mahawamse.

  • 0
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    This is something that Ms.Rosie Senananayake should address. Social Services, specially to the very vulnerable has been utterly neglected and continues to be relegated to less important level. As you rightly say, in a Buddhist or Christian country, we are called to take care of the poor, the homeless, fatherless and destitute. No government in my memory has ever done anything to truly alleviate the suffering of these people. Responsible staff with adequate funds must look into the needs of these people and find homes, food and some form of employment even cottage employment so that they can have a sense of usefulness. People who take no notice of the needy brethren can never expect to truly be blessed.

    What have we done in the last hundred days? Both the Private Sector including banks, the Ministries, and all tax payers must be made to understand the urgency of doing something for the helpless in our country and steps taken to do so. Or face the wrath of a Righteous God.

  • 0
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    Not only concern on legal system, sequence of variety of such incidents are an eye opener to that we have a severe complex social problem developed for years originating due to different conditions prevailing in the society. Really most part of the society are frustrated. For years politicians receive a super power we offer them voluntarily.They use them normally to collect thier future number of votes and pay gratitude to whom they voted them, Even they go up they should do whatever they know but nothing beyond that. But surely most of them do things below that level. No master plan to improve any sector as I observe. Plans are particular to a person or political party but not oriented for long term development of the society. There are abundant resources in our country that could be used effectively if sensibly planned including human but not used at present in full capacity (only a littly portion is used). Try to find fault with people but not to get advange of varriety of thier capabilities.People are devided, each category trying to achieve thier goals without concern of others.Good people are harassed until they become bad.There is is no where people could get protection reliably when they have a problem if there is no political or financial backing. When we go to a super market or any sales outlet we are not sure of the food we buy (whether they are fit to use according to the health aspect). It is my first hand experience.Firrst reason is qualities of most of the people are drastically deteriorated so that they earn money without least concern of other people. This is seen in every cross section of the society and has developed within recent few years drastically.

  • 1
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    I agree with Sriyani’s comments. Basil may have been shocked to hear about child sale and could have deceived himself into thinking that in SriLanka we lived in a caring society in the past but it is only an illusion. I worked in the District Hospital of Badulla in 1979 in the paediatric unit. Often Hill country Tamils from the surrounding tea estates were treated for poverty related medical conditions. A poor mother sold her child for Rs5.00 to another mother of Sinhala origin as she was distressed to know that the poor mother was eating the egg and the nutritious food that was given to her toddler by the hospital. The agreement was to take place once the child was discharged but the child didn’t survive. The nurses reported the matter to the paediatrician who was from the North and he counselled me that it is the extreme poverty that was driving the woman to do so and he didn’t take any action. I worked only for an year and there may have been more such cases outside the hospital.
    During the 1983 riots some Tamil kids were kidnapped from their families and were sent away from Colombo for household duties in Sinhalese households. One such girl was from an affluent family and they were able to locate the girl after nine months of intense search. She is married and settled in a foreign country but will never go out with this story in public out of embarassment and to avoid stigma. But could Basil initiate an inquiry into these distressing incidents that has been going on for years so as to dispel the myth that SriLanka was a caring country once. I shall agree that whatever happened in hushed whispers in the past has come out in the open now. There is a complex social problem that has been building on for many years and the current incidents should be considered as eye openers and acted upon as such.
    thank You

  • 1
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    Basil is busy selling [Edited out]

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