By Janaka Perera
Colombo, 23 January, (Asiantribune.com):
Have all doubts about the case involving Blessed Teresa’s Home, ‘Prem Nivasa’ run by the Missionaries of Charity at Rawatawatte Moratuwa in Sri Lanka been cleared?
According to the Patriotic Bhikku Front, Chinthana Parshadaya and Sinhala Bauddhayo the speed in which the investigations were supposedly completed has given cause to strong suspicions since Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit had threatened to boycott State-sponsored Christmas festivities unless Rev. Sister Mary Eliza – the nun in charge of the home – was released before Christmas last year. In less than two weeks after the threat was issued the case against Sister Eliza was withdrawn on the advice of the Attorney General in time for the Cardinal to attend a Christmas festival held under the President’s patronage at Temple Trees on December 22.
The three organizations demand to know why there is no response yet on the part of the authorities to their appeal for reopening the case involving ‘Prem Nivasa.’
Earlier, they strongly condemned Cardinal Ranjit’s statement on the raid the National Child Protection Authority conducted on the home last November. The Cardinal’s reaction, they alleged, amounted to interference in the sovereignty of the people as guaranteed by the Constitution.
At a press briefing held at the Sri Lanka Foundation after the nun’s release, the three organizations issued a joint statement which attributed the withdrawal of the case to pressure from the Cardinal.
General Secretary, Patriotic Bhikku Front Venerable Bengamuwe Nalaka said that the even decision to close the case was not legal. According to him there had been 17 pregnant women, 73 children and 16-year-old pregnant girl and another young mother of the same age in the home at the time of the raid.
Professor Nalin de Silva representing the Chinthana Parshadaya expressed his strong disapproval of the investigations being suspended.
Professor Udaya Kumarasinghe, Professor of Criminology of Sri Jayewardenepura University said that the Cardinal should have acted with more restraint in responding to the raid on the children’s home. He called the blanket condemnation of such a raid an expression of indifference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention came into force in January 2002 and seeks to prohibit the sale of children for (1).sexual exploitation (2). organ trade (3) forced labour (4) illegal adoptions (5).prostitution and (6) pornography.
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD was also represented at the press briefing. It has shown a keen interest in combating trafficking of women and children for prostitution, forced labour and illegal foreign adoptions during the past two decades.
Executive Director LHRD, Kalyananda Thiranagama said that his organization had issued a report on illegal sale of children to foreigners after investigating the matter during a period of five years – from 2000 to 2005. The probe had revealed there were eight state-run children’s homes and 223 privately run institutions and that illegal trafficking in babies had been going in the country since the1980s.The report with its findings had been forwarded to State Agencies for necessary action.
Thiranagama added that children illegally sold to foreigners are mostly those born into poor Buddhist and Hindu families. Each child had been sold between Rs. 1.1 million and Rs. 22 million.
According to LHRD large scale trafficking of children had occurred in the decade 1980 – 1990 from Sri Lanka for illegal foreign adoptions. Every year between 750 and 1500 Sri Lankan children had been sold for foreign adoptions. During the period 1964 – 1991 altogether 11,562 children were given for foreign adoptions. Running baby farms and providing infants for foreign adoptions was a lucrative business.
After the laws relating to foreign adoptions were relaxed in 1979, the number of children given for foreign adoptions had increased yearly. By 1980, the number of children given for foreign adoptions within one year increased to 624. With the relaxation of the law, there was a heavy demand for children for foreign adoptions, which the existing children’s homes could not meet. This situation led to the flourishing of infamous ‘baby farms’ in many areas in the country where pregnant women were kept together for delivering babies. The number of children given for foreign adoptions continued to increase year by year, the number reaching 1629 in 1986.
One of these studies on this issue was done by Thomas Bibin, a reporter for the Swedish National Radio,. His Study titled “Adoptions and Black Money – The Colombo Connection,” was given publicity on all three national radio channels in Sweden on November 18, 1991.
Certain Sri Lankan government officials, businessmen with political links and even some ministers had been involved in this illegal human trafficking.
Testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on May 23, 1991 on the conduct of NGOs the then Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services Padma Ranasinghe gave a detailed account of children given for foreign adoptions since 1964 and the role of the private sector in this trade. Out of more than 10,000 infants given for foreign adoptions during the period 1977 – 1990, only 453 children had been given from State Children’s Homes. All the others had been provided by children’s homes run by voluntary organizations and private individuals.
On analyzing the material gathered for this study – though there was no direct evidence – LHRD came across material that strongly suggested trafficking of children for illegal foreign adoptions was still going on in a ‘legalized form.’ The following are some of the findings made in this.
There were names of certain organizations that transpired in the studies conducted prior to 1992 and in Parliamentary Debates. It was some of these same organizations that continued to provide bulk of the children given for foreign adoptions.
Among the baby farms cited in early studies were those at Tamil tenements in Kotahena and Maradana, Wattala and Hendala. Several children’s homes functioning in Borella, Moratuwa, Wattala and Kotahena admitted only orphans and deserted children.
In 95 out of the 121 cases that were perused for this study children were provided from four homes run by four religious institutions situated at Mutwal Nayaka Kanda, Borella and Moratuwa:
However Fr. Tyrone Perera the Parish Priest, Rawatawatte defending the role of Prem Nivasa told the press that the home had prevented abortions and the lives of many babies were saved. He strongly denied the home sold any child without parents’ consent and without proper legal approval.
The question that remains is not whether the Rev. Sister Eliza was personally involved in any illegal activity but whether no stone was left unturned in doing a thorough inquiry into the past and present activities of the home.
Illegal child trafficking and baby farms is plaguing the whole world and Sri Lanka is no exception. Although exploitation of children has been one of the most heinous crimes throughout history and continuing to this day so far no government or the UN has succeeded in effectively curbing this menace.
– Asian Tribune –