Made Arya Kencana
Denpasar. An American citizen embroiled in a bitter custody battle with his Indonesian ex-wife deserves custody of his four children, the head of the National Commission on Child Protection said on Wednesday.
“These kids should be returned to [their father],” commission head Arist Merdeka Sirait said. “The children asked me
[to be returned to their dad] when I visited them at the safe house.”
Eli Gattenio’s four children — Indigo Liliyan, Hope Elisabeth, Joy Elisabeth and Nadia Eve Gattenio — were placed in state custody on Feb. 28, 2012 on the recommendation of a police psychologist. The psychologist said that Gattenio was temperamental and impatient and told police that he should be barred from seeing his children.
It has been nearly 100 days since Gattenio last saw his children, he said.
Arist visited the children at the Social Ministry’s Safe House and Trauma Center (RPTC) and found the facilities lacking. While living under the state’s custody, the children have not gone to school or seen their friends, Arist said.
“They don’t have the freedom to get see their friends or to go to school,” he said. “There is no reason they should be staying there,
they should instead return home so they won’t lose their rights.”
The children previously lived at Gattenio’s large villa in Seminyak, Bali where they had access to a swimming pool, basketball courts and a playground, Arist said. The children would have better lives with their father, the National Commission on Child Protection head said.
“I came [to Gattenio's house] to see the real condition and compare it
with the [safe house] in East
Jakarta,” Arist said. “I have concluded that there has been violation of the
freedom of the four children.”
Arist plans to ask the Social Ministry to return the children to their father. He also said that he would support Gattenio if the father decided to file a lawsuit against the government.
Gattenio’s lawyer, Yohanes
Simon Trombine, previously said that he was going to file a lawsuit against the Social Ministry demanding Gattenio be awarded full custody of the children.
“We’re going to sue the Social Ministry,” Yohanes said.
Sari Soraya moved the children to Jakarta after the couple finalized their divorce in 2010. The move promoted a caustic
custody battle as both sides reportedly traded blows.
Sari allegedly refused to let Gattenio see the children, despite repeated trips to Jakarta, Gattenio said.
He responded by emailing Sari a picture of a tombstone inscribed with the words “Sari Soraya Ruka Gattenio: Born
26 Agustus 1975, Death: 5 Mei 2010. Mother and wife, you won’t be
missed.” The Jakarta Police arrested Gattenio more than a year later after a police expert determined that the email could be in violation of the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions Law.
Following the arrest, Gattenio was evaluated by a police psychologist. The psychologist told police that Gattenio — who has made a number of dramatic threats since the divorce — should not be allowed to see his children.
In March of 2011, Gattenio, facing deportation, locked himself in his villa and threatened to blow the place up, killing himself and his children, if he was forced to leave Indonesia without them. Patrialis Akbar, the Justice and Human Rights Minister at the time, canceled
the deportation order.
Eight months later, he placed a Rp 50 million ($5,300) bounty on Sari’s head, saying that she stole his immigration papers, the family’s passports and his money. He also reported her to the police.
Gattenio said that he would leave Indonesia, and let his ex-wife raise the children, if that is what they wish.
“If they want to live with their mother, I will accept it and leave this country,” he said. “To be fair, let them meet their mother and I, and ask them to choose. I won’t stop them if they want to live with their mother.”
The couple’s oldest child, Indigo,12, said the children were upset with their mother
“She is a liar and a thief. My sisters and I will never go with her. To us, she is dead. We will see her in court,” Indigo said.