Since July of 2020 up to now, Sri Lanka has seen a total of 10 brutal deaths of children who lost their lives having greatly suffered at the hands of adults, often coming from their own community. Keeping in mind that what we are hearing about are simply those matters that get reported, it remains an unprecedented number for a country that is officially at peace, said Stop Child Cruelty Trust (SCC) Founder Chairperson of Dr. Tush Wickramanayaka, who shared that while we may expect this from countries in conflict, in Sri Lanka, it is simply baffling that things have been allowed to continue in this manner without any tangible changes being implemented.
She noted that in any other country, had it been one child who suffered in this manner, then there will be relevant institutions and persons in power held accountable. “But here, not even a stir from the State Minister of Child Affairs,” she noted.
Dr. Wickramanayaka stated that neither authorities like United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) nor the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), which is the most powerful authority in Sri Lanka appointed to handle matters of child protection, have made any statements regarding this matter, let alone take effective steps to implement change.
She noted that it is undeniable that child protection is a national crisis, and it should be dealt with as such, and despite the NCPA being vested with necessary powers to effect change, the authority remains a mere figurehead.
The ineffectiveness of the NCPA has long been discussed, with Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris making a statement in response to a question posed in Parliament with regard to the number of cases reported to the NCPA which have been subject to a complete investigation; the Cabinet Minister at the time admitted that the number is low and unsatisfactory and that there exists a need to implement a methodology which streamlines the process, as per 304/2020 Hansard.
A letter was submitted to the President copying the relevant authorities requesting that the Chairperson of the NCPA be an independent entity who is experienced and well versed in the matters of child protection. The letter alluded to the nature of these appointments and how it is often a political appointment, not given to a person who is a specialist in child rights, child care, or any such related fields. It also made a request that the NCPA work in partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) to reap more effective and practical solutions.
The letter was submitted by a number of notable rights advocates, including Dr. Wickramanayaka on behalf of the SCC.
However, Dr. Wickramanayaka noted that this is not the first letter that has been submitted to the authorities requesting that they implement changes to the system, and that it is incredibly disappointing to see that nothing has been done about it as of yet.
It is evident that there is a need for immediate action when it comes to child protection in the island, and if Sri Lanka is to achieve its 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.2 to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children, then things cannot continue in this manner.