Save the children

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Much public censure has been directed at the use of 250 children to hold a saree at a wedding in Kandy, which is perhaps the latest sign of insensitive and lopsided use of authority. What is truly shocking is that the none of the teachers or the parents felt that they could take a stand against what was being done and protest to safeguard the children. 

A team of National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) officials have been assigned to investigate the use of school children in an attempt to make a Guinness World Record for the longest saree by a Kandy based beautician. The Ministry of Education has launched its own investigation into the same matter. 

Following a public backlash on the alleged use of 250 primary school students of the Alwathugoda Sarath Ekanayake Primary School to carry the three mile long sari along the Gannoruwa–Kandy Road in the hot sun, NCPA Chairperson Marini De Livera assigned a team of investigators including police officials attached to the organisation to carry out an investigation into the incident.

The NCPA also received a complaint on the matter highlighting the exercise amounted to mass child labour and child abuse. 

A complaint was made to NCPA by activist Kusal Perara highlighting that the incident amounts to child abuse, torture both physically and mentally, exploitation, harassment and irresponsibility on the part of the school administration and connivance on the part of the Chief Minister of the Central Province who is the Minister of Education for Central Province.

Urging the authorities to take immediate action, Perera highlights that failing to do so would create a precedent in using school children for publicity stunts of individuals with political power and connections, violating the rights of children at will.

According to interviews given by the Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake, the children were asked to come to the venue at 2 a.m. on the day of the event. Some children were recruited to the bridal retinue as flower girls. This is gross and pointless abuse of power over children but sadly this is horrifyingly becoming the norm. 

Recently Buddhist monks partial to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched an effort to collect money from the public to assist former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and former Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Head Anusha Pelpita after they were jailed. The procession of monks was confronted by provincial politicians in Kiribathgoda and in the resulting fray were extremely young monks who had been made to join the clearly political march for narrow political ends. 

Exposing children, whether they are monks or otherwise, to these sort of experiences is not in the interests of their wellbeing but authorities rarely make a distinction against the use of underage participants for such purposes. Taking children to protests, political performances, rallies, marches or getting them to hold a sari under the blistering sun are all instances of negligence, abuse and harassment. This level of gross politicisation and misuse of authority should be stopped immediately because children deserve to have their rights protected by adults. There can be no excuses to these excesses.