What About The Other Orphans?
By Dr Asoka Thenabadu - Retired Consultant Paediatrician
A Tale of Three Orphans in the ‘Sunday Leader’ of 20th May had a very sad start but a very happy ending! It was enlightening and encouraging to see how they have now reached a good life in spite of their pathetic start in life. It is also very encouraging to note that the three siblings were not separated as sometimes happens even in enlightened countries with good social service support. They fitted in well with their foster family, learnt the new language and got a good education and a good life. I am sure they had excellent Karmic forces! However, what about the orphans who do not have such good Karmic forces or “Luck” as some others may call these circumstances?
What about most of the orphans who are incarcerated in orphanages in Sri Lanka and do not get the love, care, emotional support and nourishment that they deserve? This can lead to serious difficulties in later life. It is well known that children from homes are highly traumatised psychologically. Most criminals, murderers and rapists come from broken homes and have lived in homes like ‘The Bernados Homes’. In the UK. Having been involved as a Consultant Paediatrician with many children’s homes in the UK where I lived and worked till I retired to Sri Lanka, I feel that our orphanages and the social services that support them could do much much more for our Orphans’ is in our homes. Firstly, the allowance paid per child, per day is so miniscule that it is a shame even to mention it to readers of en enlightened newspaper like “The Leader” I have visited and supported several orphanages in Sri Lanka and have helped them in many ways, morally, financially , administratively and with medical advice and assistance. The majority of the staff of the homes are motivated, caring warm human beings doing a very difficult job to the best of their ability, with the limited resources available. Occasionally, some “nasties” have got themselves involved with the usual problem of milking the accounts, pilfering the dry rations and engaging in child physical and sexual abuse.Well meaning social groups , individuals and families provide “danes” , clothes and dry rations to keep these orphanages functioning. Sometimes these good gestures are misused. I donated a TV to a children’s home for the benefit of the children. On my next (unannounced visit) I found the TV in the staff room with the staff engrossed in a Tele Drama! There are a large number of families in Sri Lanka and overseas who are looking to adopt a child or a set of siblings. I believe that this is a laborious administrative process beset with many pitfalls and administrative obstacles. I strongly believe, as a parent and a Paediatrician that children should be with loving families, not in orphanages.
Then everybody benefits. The child is the most important person in the equation who will have a stable home and a set of loving parents. The adoptive parents have been suffering with childlessness and would be delighted when the adoption process goes through. The state would benefit by not having to devote their limited resources and it is they who finally have to foot the bill for looking after these orphans in the “Children’s Homes” as they are called now. This should be the prime objective that must be motivated, encouraged and enforced administratively. ‘The Leader’ has taken the lead (as in most matters of social, moral and political injustice). However, the other print and electronic media must take up this important social and humanitarian issue and give it the priority that this heart rending subject deserves. But are we as a Sri Lankan society and a slow moving admistrative system doing this?
If not, why not?
Adoption is not an easy process. In the dim and distant past, poor children in large families from the villages were adopted and brought up as servants and faced a lifetime of unpaid slavery. Thankfully, that era has now passed. The adoptive parents must be vetted carefully to ensure their financial viability as future parents. Are they young enough to bring up a child and perhaps see them through school and university? Are they healthy? If not, a sudden heart attack of the father may leave a grieving adoptive mother to bring up a child on her own with little money, moral support and physical help.
Are they psychologically capable of being adoptive parents? This is a very important but difficult area to assess due to the lack of suitably qualified staff. All these aspects and many more are looked into in the United Kingdom before a couple is deemed suitable for being adoptive parents. I have very little experience in the adoptive process in Sri Lanka but I am sure these aspects are looked into. If not, the British model (Which we as “Ceylonese” have adopted in many areas) can be used to make the system effective, fair and workable. I have come across many families that are desperate to adopt a child and the path must be smoothened for them. I am sure that the orphanages can be cleared very easily, if more enthusiasm and money is invested into our social services system. About twenty years ago, hundreds of Sri Lankan babies were adopted by foreigners. The front two rows of the Air Lanka flights at that time were filled with these happy families going back to the United Kingdom and Europe.
However, this system of adoption by foreigners was stopped as malpractices and corruption set in as expected by ‘Adoption Agents’ ‘Adoption Lawyers’ and ‘Baby Farmers’ who all got on the band wagon. I met a Dutch family living in Essex, United Kingdom in the 80’s who has adopted two Sri Lankan boys via a Dutch-Sri Lanka adoption society. It was very amusing to hear our boys talking with the distinctive ‘Essex Accent’ . They had a lovely life and a great set of adoptive parents.(Strangely, although unconnected, they both had a medical condition common in Sri Lanka but very rare in the UK!) However, our own Sri Lankan parents who are desperate for a child must be given top priority. Will this happen? Will palms have to be greased to get through this elaborate procedure? Will our social Services Department get their act together and expedite the adoptions instead of incarcerating them in homes? I hope so! It will bring a lot of joy to the children and adoptive parents.
Most of all, Sri Lankan society will benefit immensely.
D. A. Rajapakse Must Be Turning In His Grave
There is no doubt that Hon. D. A. Rajapakse, the father of the President was a simple human being. Though he was a Junior Minister it is said that he travelled to Parliament by Public Transport. However, the life styles of majority of the present day MPs are unbelievably luxurious. An example is a present day MP from down South who travels to his electorate, about 40 miles away from Colombo, by helicopter. This MP overlooks the affairs of a very prominent Ministry. Soon he is expected to be a Junior Minister. He once headed a government owned organization which lost billions of rupees and the State had to bear the brunt of the loss. In the year 2000 this person was criminally charged for cheating a couple. Details of this case were reported in the esteemed News Paper, the Sunday Leader
As he had no-recognition in Sri Lanka he left the country and worked for a freight forwarding company in the Middle East. While there a ruling party leader had gone to that country and met this controversial man. Today he is one of the richest people in Sri Lanka. The interesting thing is that the Inland Revenue Department never question such political characters because of the power they wield. Most of the Government Ministers and MPs own assets far beyond what they can explain and their life styles are unbelievable. The opposition shows a blind eye to the corrupt life styles of the ruling party and never question them in Parliament or outside. Remember the only person who questioned these crooks was the Late revered Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga but he too had to pay with his life for exposing the corrupt!
Sri Lankan Stamps
Sometime back there was a joke on the frequency of the issue of new Sri Lankan stamps. It seems that there was an international exhibition of postage stamps which was held in Geneva. It was held in a huge building complex where provision had been made for all the countries to exhibit their stamps. A Sri Lankan minister visiting the exhibition noticed that no provision had been made for the exhibition of Sri Lankan stamps. Annoyed at this, he questioned the organizers, who explained.
“Sri Lanka issues new stamps so frequently that we found that it was not possible to provide a stall in this complex large enough to accommodate these issues. So we have a special building for the exhibition of Sri Lankan Stamps and furthermore we have provided a courier service to bring in the new stamps as and when they are issued.”
I must say that the modern Sri Lankan stamps are issued at the drop of a pin. They have no standards. Their sizes and shapes vary like nobody’s business. We have square stamps (various sizes) rectangular stamps, triangular stamps and even circular and trapezium shaped stamps. The latest Rs. 5 is so big that it does not allow sufficient space to write the name and address of the receiver.
Once I went to a sub post office to post three letters to Australia. They didn’t have stamps of the correct denomination and I was given three stamps to be affixed to each letter. I didn’t mind that but one of the stamps stretched through half the envelope!
I receive letters regularly from Australia, USA., UK and South Africa. The stamps are of a regular size and never big as ours. They do not change unless it is for a very special occasion and even then the number of stamps printed are limited so that they are not issued for long periods.
I wonder who authorizes the issue of new stamps and who decides on the design, the size, the shape and the quantity to be printed. The printing of new stamps must be costing the state additional expenditure and somebody must be getting paid. Who cares? This cost can be recovered by increasing the price of some commodity used by Citizen Perera!
W. R. De Silva