Lanka’s baby farms re-visited

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By 2017-10-09

It was in the mid 1980s that Lanka's shame trade was exposed and became notoriously known as the 'Baby Farms'. The sordid racket was uncovered following a Police raid on a sea-side resort at Waduwa. Journalist Leon Berenger was there on hand to record the incident.

They called it the Stamford Cabana--situated inside a coconut plantation bordering the seashore in down-town Waduwa. The so-called up market boutique hotel was surrounded by a high wall and security surveillance cameras were fixed at different locations.
Inspector S. Sumanadasa

The huge steel gate at the entrance to the complex was tightly bolted and the interior of the place or whatever was happening within the complex was not visible from the outside.

The Police party was led by Inspector S. Sumanadasa the officer-in-charge of the Minor Offence Desk at the Kalutara Police Station.
His orders were to raid the complex following information that Lankan infants were being sold to childless foreign couples for huge sums of money and the chief operative in the scam was a local woman married to a German doctor. IP Sumanadasa was a nervous man as he led his team towards the entrance of the resort. If the information came out to be a cropper Sumanadasa knew he would be in hot water since these kinds of scandals are not without influential clout.

The Police party was met at the entrance by two burly private security personnel who quickly withdraw into the hotel complex sensing trouble.

Legal Action

There were no questions asked as the Police officers swooped down on the hotel and room after room and other areas were thoroughly searched without success. There were no babies or mothers to be seen only a furious owner who was demanding several explanations from the Police with threats of legal action at the very earliest. And while this was happening a dormitory-type structure was spotted in a secluded area in the rear of the compound and this information was relayed to IP Sumanadasa.

The Police later discovered 22 infants and 20 women inside this building which had poor lighting and ventilation facilities.
IP Sumanadasa and his men had uncovered the tip of a sordid trade in human beings in this hotel complex that had been used as a lucrative and clandestine operation that could be likened to a slave trading post.

As the infants, mothers and the hotel owner were led away by the Police, infuriated foreign couples hurled various insults in their own languages while at the same time filming the entire incident while some of them were weeping. The anger and anxiety of the foreigners present were understandable since they were the buyers of the infants and apparently they had lost their investments and hopes of fostering a foreign child. The Wadduwa raid led to a string of more successful such operations in many parts of the country and it drew public outrage with many blaming the authorities at every level for failing to prevent such a shame in the country. As investigations followed it was later learned that the trade had been in existence for a considerable period of time before it was uncovered in January 1987.

It was established that each infant was sold for sums ranging from US$5,000-10,000 depending on the complexion, gender and physical appearance of the child.

Single Mothers

The mothers received a paltry sum of Rs 10 to 15,000 while other cash hand outs were provided to brokers that included junior staff in State hospitals, nurses, midwives, errant Police officials, lawyers and to a lesser extent even doctors and the list goes on.

The bulk of the babies belonged mainly to single mothers eager to let go their offspring owing to the social stigma they would have to face if they decided otherwise.

It is believed that between 10-15,000 Sri Lankan infants were sold to foreign buyers mostly from Western Europe although there are no records to uphold this figure. It also brought to an end a sordid trade in human beings.

The then Commissioner of Child Care and Probation Vinitha Jayasinghe said at that time:

"We have laws prohibiting slavery. We want to use them against all people involved in the buying and selling of humans.

"If this is not a slave trade, what is?"

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