SL Govt. Turns A Blind Eye To Paedophile Monk
By Nirmala Kannangara
Child development and women’s welfare minister Tissa Karaliyadda in a shocking statement says he is not concerned about the welfare of children in an orphanage run by a monk who was recently convicted in England of child abuse and named in the sex offenders register. “So what can we do when a Buddhist monk was convicted in UK? Don’t you have any other work than asking me as to what action I would take to safeguard these children? Why won’t you write about monks who have taken care of many children who lost their parents and family for tsunami? This has happened in a UK court and we do not have anything to do with it,” said Karaliyadda disconnecting the telephone line abruptly.
The Chief Sanghanayake of Great Britain and the Chief Incumbent of Thames Buddhist Viharaya Ven. Pahalagama Sri Somaratana Thero was convicted by a UK court weeks ago.
The priest runs the Pahalagama Orphanage in Pahalagama, Gampaha since 2009 and has 20 orphans between 8-16 years of age. According to the Gampaha District office of the Probation and Child Care Services Department this is not a registered orphanage. “There are certain limitations on what the department can do with such unregistered orphanages. It is the ministry that must take action,” a Probation officer said.
Although that is the case the Minister in charge of Child Development and Women’s Welfare in the country appears to have no concerns about the orphans in an unregistered orphanage run by a monk convicted of child abuse.
According to the Probation and Child Care Services Department Gampaha this is the only orphanage in the Gampaha district that is not registered with them although many reminders have been sent to Ven. Pahalagama Somaratana Thero requesting to obtain registration.
“All the orphanages have to be registered with the Probation and Child Care Services Department. We have visited this orphanage several times and have requested the monk –in-charge to register with us but he says that there is no necessity for him to do so as all these young boys will be ordained after coming of age. We have informed this to our head office in Colombo and is up to the Commissioner to decide as to what action we could take against the Chief Prelate and the orphanage,” said the Officer-in charge.
According to her, there are certain guidelines that all orphanages have to follow but in this instance, since it is not registered with the department, they are unable to take any action against the orphanage in the event if found that the condition of this orphanage is not suitable for children.
Meanwhile Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services Department Western Province G.P.D. Somaratne said that this case could be referred to court if there is a written complaint to his department. “My department is not aware of Somaratana Thero’s conviction by a UK court for child molestation until you informed me now. Once we receive a formal complain we could certainly take immediate action to find out about this orphanage and could inform court for necessary action,” he said.
“We are only supervising these orphanages and there is a must for registration although this orphanage has not registered with us. We could first find out whether this place is not safe for the underage children and inform court. It is up to the court to decide as to what we could do and on its directive we can transfer the children to registered orphanages under our care,” Commissioner Somaratna added.
He said however that his Department have the authority to check whether the orphans are well looked after. “We could check whether funds are utilised for the betterment of these orphans or not. In the event we come to know that the orphans are not benefitting from these money, we could take stern action against those who run the orphanage,” claimed Commissioner Somaratne. Meanwhile Ven. Premaratana Thero of Pahalagama Sri Somaratana Pirivena when contacted did not wish to furnish any details about the orphanage and it’s Chief Incumbent who is now convicted in UK.
“I do not know anything about the orphanage. Our Chief Incumbent has gone abroad and beyond that I do not know any details. The temple has nothing to do with this orphanage and it is a Board that run it. Ask the Board members for whatever details you want. I do not have time to talk as I am busy at the moment,” said Premaratana Thero.
However he refused to give any contact details of the Board members of the orphanage.
Dissanayake(refused to give her first name) – the matron of the orphanage said the orphans were sent by government officials. “This is run by Somaratana Thero and most of these children are from rural areas and are sent to us by the respective Government Agents,” said Dissanayake. Although matron Dissanayake claims that these children are sent by government officials what is not clear is why these government officials send children to an unregistered place when there are large number of registered orphanages in the country.