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Child Abuse in Vavuniya

Child Abuse in Vavuniya

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Published by: Thavam on Oct 27, 2013
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10/27/2013

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By Nirmala Kannangara
 
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Following the latest sordid episode of childmolestation reported from Vavuniya where ayoung man in robes is accused of committing thecrime, questions have been raised as to whether there are loopholes in the law in the country that prevents or delays action being taken against the perpetrators.Sumithra Fernando, Attorney-at-Law, Women-in-Need (WIN) said that the laws are in placeand added that the laws cannot be implemented against the suspects because of the workload incourts.“The laws are in order but due to the workload in courts it has become difficult to take actionagainst the perpetrators immediately and it takes time,” said FernandoThere are many incidents reported from all over the country where perpetrators of child abuseor rape have been granted bail soon after they were arrested due to political influence but thesame laws have been promptly implemented to charge suspects who do not have any political backing.This is clearly evident with the latestchild molestation incident reported fromVavuniya. The victim, an eight-year-old boy, has claimed that he was sexuallyabused for over one year by a Buddhistmonk in the Etambagaskada Seth Sevanachildren’s home. The victim’s allegationhas also been confirmed by the JudicialMedical Officer’s report. However,neither the police nor the National ChildProtection Authority (NCPA), have takenany action to arrest the monk.The Police Department and the NCPAhave come under severe criticism bycivil society for their attempt to‘whitewash’ the monk who has allegedlysexually abused children who wereunder his care in Seth Sevana children’shome.The All Island Probation Officers’Association (AIPOA), which is up in arms against the NCPA for failing to discharge its duties
 
without prejudice, protested in front of the NCPA Head Office in Madiwela onThursday against the alleged failure by NCPA to take action.“Although we informed the NCPA on many occasions that the inmates of this particular children’s home are being subjected to physical harassment by this monk, they did not take anyaction. Without sending a flying squad to investigate the matter, they paid a visit to the homeafter informing the monk.The monk made all arrangements to give a good impression of this home to the visitingChairperson of the NCPA. Instead of taking any action on our complaints, they gave acertificate of recommendation to this home claiming it is a friendly place for the inmates. Whenwe first lodged the complaint with the Governor, Commissioner Probation and ChildcareServices of the Northern Province, the Government Agent Vavuniya, the police and the NCPAin 2011, we did not know that the inmates were being subjected to sexual harassment. It wasonly after this incident that we came to know that the children have been sexually harassed bythis monk,” said a senior spokesman of the AIPOA on condition of anonymity.According to the sources, when the Probation Officers questioned the NCPA and police as towhy the suspected monk has not been arrested, they were told that there wasd no proper evidence to make such an arrest.“When the NCPA has the authority to arrest a Probation Officer for reprimanding two boys,who were victims of the Nuwara Eliya Deputy Mayor in a sexual abuse case, asking them notto fall prey to such tactics in future, why couldn’t the NCPA arrest this suspect on the evidenceof the victim. If the same institution could arrest a Catholic nun who ran an orphanage inRawatawatte even before recording statements and arrest a Pastor of the Agape Children’sHome without recording the inmates’ statements, why do they drag their feet with regard to thismonk.Accusing the Buddhist monk of insulting the saffron robe to which Buddhists pay homage, thesource further said that this monk is accused of keeping children who have parents.“According to the rules and regulations of Probation and Childcare Services, none of the homescan keep children who have parents or family members. We are not allowed to take any actionagainst this home as the army and the Governor are preventing all our efforts. Although wehave reported these issues to the relevant institutions, they follow a deaf and dumb attitude. Of all the inmates, there was only one child who had been sent to this home by the courts. One of the Government Agents in the province once wanted to adopt the child that was sent by thecourts. When this particular GA went to courts to get this child officially, the monk threatenedthe GA and prevented him from taking the child. Today that child is suffering immensely,”added the source.According to the source, the monk got all the children from their families allegedly promisingthem land and other gifts. “In addition, the families have been told that the children would begiven a very good education and would find employment when they were old enough. Insteadof giving them a proper education, he got all the work done by them including paddy farmingon his 25 acre land. They had to plough the fields and look after them till the grain washarvested.It was these children that reaped the harvest.They were given one curry – either snake gourd or dhal curry with rice. These inmates havetold Probation Officers that they do not get enough food and they only get a good mealwhenever the temple gets alms,” said the source.The source further added as to how the monk in question does not allow Probation Officers to
 
make any adverse remarks in the log entry.“They are not allowed to make any adverse remarks and even if it is done the pages areremoved immediately. There are separate rooms in this home where luxury beds and other facilities are provided.Whenever the visiting dignitaries come to this home he (monk) shows these rooms to show thatthese children have been given all facilities but in reality the inmates are kept in rooms whereno facilities have been provided. They have to sleep on mats on the ground. No proper clothinghave been given to them. Once these visiting dignitaries asked as to why these children are inold clothes with mud all over on their bodies. The monk, who is supposed to follow the five precepts, without batting an eye said that he had allowed them to play as the children enjoy playing with sand and mud,” said the source.Meanwhile the source further accused the Police Department of providing a police guard to thetemple.The monk is also accused of obtaining food relief for 82 children from the World FoodProgramme when there are only 30 to 35 children in the home.The source further accused a police officer attached to the NCPA of following the NCPA’sdouble standards without arresting the culprit. “He is a government officer who has to abide bythe country’s laws. He too is biased and did not take any action to arrest the monk,” he added.Meanwhile Saroja (name changed on request) – mother of the victim told The Sunday Leader that she was saddened when she came to know that her child had been sexually abused by thismonk.“What an inhumane act was this? Knowing that I was going through financial difficultieslooking after five children after my husband’s death, this monk came and wanted me to handover my youngest child to him promising to look after him well. Since I was also going througha difficult period I agreed to give my child provided I was allowed to see him often and themonk agreed. I gave my child to the home in May 2011 and as promised I was allowed to seehim twice but not after that,” said Saroja.According to her, when she visited her son later, she was turned back without being allowed tosee the child.“Whenever I went to the temple to see my son I was told that either the children had been senton a trip or the monk was not in the temple. When I went to see my son after DeepavaliFestival last year with some kewum, some of the workers in the temple told me that the monk was in the paddy field.I was asked to go and meet the monk on any weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. When I saidthat I handed over my child to the temple and not to his office and I wanted to meet the monk in the temple, the PC scolded me and chased me from the temple,” added Saroja. Since shecould not give the sweet meats that she had brought, Saroja had decided to go to the schoolopposite the temple where her son was studying.“I went to see my child who was studying at the Etambagaskada Vidyalaya which was on theother side of the temple. When I met my son he pleaded with me to take him back home. Hisfriends too said that they could not stay in the home as the monk assaulted them. Since I couldnot take my son without informing the monk I went back home. I was sobbing all the wayhome thinking of my son. On my way home I met some villagers to get their support. It wasthey who wanted me to go to a Buddhist monk in another temple and to get his assistance to getthe child released,” said Saroja.

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