By Shanika SRIYANANDA
1929… the hotline of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) received two 'exclusive' complaints. The first was from a doctor, who treated a mother of a two-year-old baby, who found that the child was to be handed over to a children's Home in Moratuwa without going through probation procedures. The mother was not mentally fit to look after the baby, whose father had abandoned the family.
The second complaint was about the same children's Home which said babies were for 'sale'. The facts in the two complaints showed that there was credibility in the allegations and this prompted to draw a very secret plan to unearth the truth.
It was at 11 a.m. last Tuesday when a team of eight paid a sudden visit to the said children's Home.
Except the top official of the team, who masterminded the mission, the rest were unaware about why and where they were heading to.The mansion in a tranquil environ with a name board 'Prem Nivasa' at Rawathawatta, Moratuwa appeared to be a safe haven for children including mentally retarded children.
The pleasant staff seemed to be very caring. The pleasant environment truly cast doubts about allegations made against the Home. The team which stormed to raid the home after introducing themselves as NCPA officials ordered to bring the registry where only 26 records of babies were entered. When inquiries were made the office staff said there were some more babies but failed to give plausible reasons as to why the names of those babies were not included in the registry.
Then they showed another book with another 16 names of children. The officials who searched the premises found a separate section where pregnant women were accommodated . There were 31 pregnant women including teenage mothers and new born babies. "It is a registered children's Home registered with the Department of Childcare and Probation. Though it looks after children well, we found that children are being sold in this place violating the legal procedure of adopting a child", NCPA Chairman Anoma Dissanayake said.Dissanayake, who wanted to carry out a successful raid didn't divulge to the team what the mission was about.
Without directing her officials to conduct the raid she herself led the team.
The staff at the 'Home' did not know that the NCPA Chairman was questioning them but a 'local' who was with two foreign couples who had come to take the children away, identified the NCPA Chairman. Subsequently, staff panicked and according to Dissanayake they tried their best to hide the racket of selling infants to foreigners.
"I agree that the children's Home is a registered Home but how can there be children without being registered at the Probation Department. How can they so easily get custody of children born to teenage mothers who are being sheltered there. They can't just give their consent and leave the babies at the Home. What we found was there were children to be sold. It is a racket being carried out by someone with the help of some top officials, who ignore the stipulated legal procedure of child adoption", she said.
She said there were two couples, one from America to take a child for adoption and they didn't have any legal papers for adoption. The NCPA chairman said pregnant mothers whom were interviewed said that they would leave the child at the Home and go away after the birth as the children were born out of wedlock.Dissanayake declined to reveal further details as the CID inquiry is going on at the moment.
Dissanayake said she accepted the fact that the children's Home is one of the best that she has seen in the country."There is no doubt the children are treated well and all the facilities are there for them. The Home has a good number of staff and they are very kind to the children.
The environment for children is very calm and cleanliness is maintained.
Even pregnant mothers are treated well”, she said. Dissanayake said she was confident about what she had found about as to how they sold children mainly to foreigners.
“We have credible evidence to prove that someone or an organised group with the blessings of state officials are engaged in thisracket to sell new born babies for foreigners.
We have also found a website where they have advertised to sell children”, she said adding that there are mothers who have sold their ‘illegitimate’ babies for Rs. 35,000 each and return to their families.
“But there are no records of what has happened to those babies. No one knows whether they are alive or killed to get their parts abroad”, she said.
The Children’s Home runs as a charity of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation established in 1950 by Mother Theresa of Calcutta, which consists of over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries. If the local agents of this Home are engaged in the alleged ‘baby farm’ racket, will they be true ‘daughters’ of Mother Theresa, who vowed to give ‘Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor’.
However, a tug-of-war has commenced between the NCPA and the Department of Childcare and Probation over the issue.
According to informed sources, the NCPA alleges that this racket has been in operation for some years.
It is a matter of serious concern, if the NCPA ‘discovery’ is true, how those innocent tiny tots were made to fly with alien parents escaping the lengthy legal process.
The question which baffles the NCPA is: Whose blessings were given to operate this Home in a subtle way?