Eye-opener for all: Tragedy at Kalutara
Posted on March 21st, 2010

by Shanika SRIYANANDA  courtesy Sunday Observer

The entire nation weeps, their minds focused on a single prayer – “breathe boy … breathe”. Lying like a vegetable, the frail, bony little boy is fighting for life. (Amila died yesterday at the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital in Colombo) One would think that people are immune to shocks after all these years. But not to heartless acts like these!

It was a shocking story of a young mother allegedly trying to kill her son of two and a half years by throwing him into a river. This is a story that unearthed many social problems that need attention and calls for greater public vigilance and responsibility to stop more innocent children from becoming similar victims.

“Chooti malli, mama oyata aluth andumakuth gaththa. Ane nagitala as arinnako” (I got a new suit for you brother. Please get up and open your eyes), cried 13-year-old Sudeera, standing by his younger brother Amila, who was lying on a hospital bed of the ICU of the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital (LRCH).

Every one, including LRCH Director Dr. Aruna Rajamanthree, could not hold their tears when they saw Sudeera pleading with his brother to open his eyes.

“My parents were fighting with each other every day. I had stopped schooling and worked at the market. The day before my mother threw him into the Kalu Ganga, I had bought a new shirt for him”, he cried again.

“Will the little boy smile again?” This is the question on everyone’s lips. The telephones at LRCH ring incessantly.

March 11 was yet another bright day for the pilgrims at the sacred Kalutara Sri Maha Bodhi temple but it suddenly turned gloomy when they saw a small boy floating in the Kalu Ganga, seemingly dead.

All flocked to the bridge. A young lorry driver, Sampath Janaka Silva, voluntarily jumped into the river to rescue the boy.

“When I saw the boy, I could not just look on as I remembered my son. I jumped to save his life”, he, who felt a surge of love for the unknown boy, said.

“Amma… amma” the way little Amila kept running behind his mother Malani, clinging on to her skirt each time she tried to abandon him near the sacred Kalutara Bo tree haunts Malani every second. While the entire nation is criticising her and is waiting for her to be severely punished for her sinful deed, which no mother on this earth could do, her conscience is already punishing her.

How can a mother forget how she held and fed her baby? How can she forget the way the baby ran behind her when she tried to abandon him in an alien land? How can she forget the way he cried? Finally, how can a mother ever forget throwing a baby, who was in slumber, into a deep river?

Thirty-year-old Malani is suffering for what she did while her ‘Chooti putha’ is fighting for life.

The decade-long struggle by Malani to raise her five children with her mere income from selling lottery tickets may have reached a boiling point on that day when she could not light the hearth to boil a pot of rice for five starving children!

Breadwinner of the family

She became the breadwinner of the family the day her husband, Suranga, ran away from home, abandoning the family as he could not pay his debts as a lottery seller. Poverty had shut the doors for the children’s schooling and the eldest son – Sudeera – had started shouldering the economic burden by doing odd jobs at the market.

Malani too started selling lottery tickets to feed her five children. The small children were mostly fed by the neighbours.

As her daily income was not enough to sustain them all, she started begging for a few rupees or a packet of lunch near the Kalutara temple with her small children including Amila. But she could not do that for long and tried several times to hand over the children to a children’s home.

“My husband ill-treated us. He abandoned us several times. We had fights. As I could not bring up my little son I tried to give him to a Home but they refused to take him saying that they only accept orphans. I tried again and they asked for the birth certificate, but my husband refused to give it,” Malani, who married at the age of 16, said.

She said that on March 11 she didn’t have any plan to kill her son, but had decided to abandon Amila at the temple premises, hoping someone would take him for adoption or hand him over to the police.

“I tried to leave him there several times, but he came crying after me. I walked along the bridge and thought of jumping into the river with him. Then I saw he was sleeping and threw him into the river”, she said. She later told the other children that Amila was handed over to a Home.

The incident shown on TV led the neighbouring residents of the tsunami housing scheme to identify the boy as Amila. They inquired from Malani. She said that she had given him to a Home. But the residents complained to the Kalutara police which took Malani into custody.

The shocking act of their mother had shattered the family. According to the Women’s and Children’s Unit of the Kalutara Police, two of the girls are now at the Vishaka Children’s Home, Kalutara and the elder boy is in the Jayanthi Orphanage in Payagala.

The OIC of the Unit, Malka Thushari said the children were not treated well and were neglected by their parents. They were left to beg and find food.

Miracle

Can a miracle aid the medical experts who are battling to save Amila’s life? Dr. Rajamanthree said that the LRCH which caters to hundreds of critically ill children annually and is credited for saving their lives, has now channelled its efforts and expertise to save the life of innocent Amila.

He said the hospital spends over Rs. 200,000 per day to keep him alive. Two nurses monitor him round the clock.

“The child is in a serious condition. He is unconscious and is supported by an artificial ventilator. He suffers from brain damage from oxygen deprivation”, he said.

According to Dr. Rajamanthree, the coma scale of a normal man is 15 points but it is less than three points in Amila.

The Hospital Director said that this unfortunate incident is an eye-opener for the authorities and the public to be more responsible. He said when the first line of guardians – the parents – fail to protect their children, a greater responsibility lies with the kith and kin, neighbours, public officers and religious groups to take care of helpless children who are vulnerable to such inhuman acts. “When children are not looked after properly and not sent to school, is it not the responsibility of the public to inform the police? If they acted responsibly, Amila’s fate wouldn’t be like this”, he said.

He said the best medicine and best medical expertise had been given to Amila.

Dr. Rajamanthree said that this tragic story shows the level of deterioration of the traditional Sri Lankan mother and family structure.

“I still recall my mother’s endless love. Sri Lankan mothers have been role models and symbols for mothers the world over. This story compels us to rethink their role and how best we could help unfortunate mothers and children overcome their problems”, he said.

When impossible things happen, when doctors have given up all hope and suddenly with no scientific explanation, if a child gets well… we call it a miracle. Every one awaits with fingers crossed for such a miracle to breathe life to Amila.

It is time for ‘organisations’ which are mushrooming to take care of children and women, clamouring for ‘equal rights’ during Children’s Day and Women’s Day with annual tamashas, to kick off their programs to educate the public on their social responsibility to prevent more children falling prey to such incidents.

It is time to make parents aware that there are institutes that take in unwanted children.

We all await to see Amila walking and running again! Let’s join hands to stop another Amila suffering such an act of cruelty.


[If your child is a burden to you…]

“Hand over your child/children to the nearest police station, without just abandoning them or killing them”, said the Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), Dr. Jagath Wellawatta.

Dr. Wellawatta said Amila’s story would be a turning point in measures to safeguard the country’s children. “It is not just a tragic story but we need to look deeper into the social and economic reasons behind it. It questioned the responsibility of many public officials towards preventing such occurrences”, he said.

Malani’s complaint against children’s homes that refused to take care of her children has prompted the NCPA to conduct an investigation to probe her allegation.

Dr. Wellawatta said under Section 34 (1) and (2) of the Child and Young Ordinance Act, children who don’t have parents and those who have parents could be sent to probationary care.

“We will investigate why the children’s home refused to take care of her children”, he said.

He said Malani had married at the age of 16 and the mid-wife whose responsibility is educating couples on birth control had not acted with responsibility. “Then the inaction of the Grama Sevaka and the Samurdhi Officer is questionable. Why didn’t the neighbours who saw these children being neglected, poorly fed and left alone in the house complain to the police or any other responsible authority? This shows that people need to be educated more on these matters”, he said.

Dr. Wellawatta said the most valid complaint that people could lodge was that children were not been sent to school. Sending children to school is compulsory and if the neighbours and public officers knew this and lodged a complaint, they could have prevented this unfortunate incident”, he said.

Five children, whose parents had undergone severe economic difficulties, had been handed over to the NCPA last year. They were handed over to Children’s Homes after obtaining a Court Order.

3 Responses to “Eye-opener for all: Tragedy at Kalutara”

  1. Nihal Fernando Says:

    It is great that you have published this article. It is definitely an eye-opener. Kids are not killed by kids but by the adults. Floating bodies of the kids, dumped bodies of the kids in culverts and thrash bins, strangled bodies of the kids, etc. all done by the adults. Many kids are suffering a lot by their own parents all over the world. The parents have their joyful copulation and blame the kids as the misarables when they are born.

    It is very pathetic that the latest news said that the innocent kid was unable to survive his battle for life. May he be born to better, caring, loving parents in his re-births in the cycle of transmigration!

    Many thanks to the doctors, nurses and the staff of the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital for their efforts.

  2. M.S.MUdali Says:

    This is a sad news. But we are failing to identify many social problems. Counselling Centers to be created for families who face similar situations like the mother involved in this matter.

    I observe the society is not concerned much about the needs and education about the traumas caused by father or mother in a family!

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    While I feel great sympathy & concern about this tragedy, might I ask what religion this woman Malani belongs to ? If anyone knows the answer, please post it to the Lankaweb. It is a pity that such a person as Malani could find no one to turn to in her hour of need in the entire island of Lanka which is composed of nearly 20 Million people. It is also time that the GoSL stepped up Family Planning offices all over the island, so that no unwanted pregnancies occur.

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