Editorial: Swift end needed to boy's plight - Courier Mail Queensland

Submitted by Editor on Wed, 20/10/2004 - 00:31

ONE thing appears certain about the appalling case involving the taking of a three-year-old boy from his Brisbane home to Malaysia as part of efforts by his father to inflict emotional pain on the boy's mother.

HUKO International (Australia)

Editorial: Swift end needed to boy's plight


Whatever the true circumstances of the relationship between his parents, whatever the reasons for the breakup of the family, the interests of the boy, Nicholas, are not being served by his continued presence in Malaysia, where neither his mother nor father are able to care for him.

It is Nicholas's interests which should be paramount in efforts to resolve this tortuous affair. The Family Court appears to have done everything in its power to reunite the boy with his mother, including taking the extraordinary step of jailing his father over his continued refusal to return Nicholas to his family home.

Justice Brian Jordan of the Family Court has referred to the "terrible torment" of the boy's mother caused by the "callous act" of his father to keep the pair apart.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it has known about the case for some months (the boy was taken to Malaysia about seven months ago) but appears anxious to do everything by the book.

Meanwhile, the mother, who has been in contact with the department, is trying to get on with her daily life wondering if her son, who she last saw at a childcare centre in early March, remembers her.

No doubt this case presents special diplomatic difficulties.

Malaysia does not recognise the international treaty that deals with child abductions. The boy is apparently living with his father's relatives in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. His father appears determined to do everything in his power to prevent Nicholas from being reunited with his mother.

Taped telephone conversations from Arthur Gorrie jail suggest he is urging his family in Borneo to lie to Australian and Malaysian authorities. Given all these factors, strict observation of process may well be the right course to follow provided the department is truly doing all it can to resolve this matter.

A department spokesman says its priority is to locate the boy and establish his safety, and is awaiting advice from the Australian Federal Police and Interpol.

This sad drama, which was played out in the Family Court for seven months before it became public, needs speedy resolution for the sake of Nicholas' wellbeing. The boy does not cope well with the heat and, plucked from familiar surroundings, is having to adapt to a entirely new social and cultural environment. It would be a pity if his interests ended up taking second place to stuffy international protocols.

The application of family law in Australia is fraught and, despite the unusual circumstances of this case, the emotions and conflicts which led to it are matters which the Family Court system has to deal with every day. Yet Nicholas is entitled to have his circumstances judged under that system, not any other.




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