Three arrested for child

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakarta Police arrested over the weekend three Indonesian women and are still hunting down two foreigners -- one American and one Irish citizen -- for their alleged roles in trafficking at least 60 babies out of the country in recent years.

City police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Bagus Ekodanto announced on Monday that they had arrested three women identified as RDN, MRT and ER for persuading poor mothers around their neighborhood in Ciputat, South Jakarta, to sell their children to foreigners.

""RDN has admitted to us that she sold between 60 to 80 babies to foreigners over the past few years. RDN is the main suspect, while MRT and ER helped her,"" Bagus said.

Bagus said the U.S. citizen identified as JW had acted as a middleman, contacting foreigners who wanted to adopt Indonesian children, while an Irishman identified as Joseph Dowse was one of the foreigners who adopted an Indonesian baby from the three women.

He said that JW was still in Indonesia, while Dowse had left the country.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Affairs Bachtiar Chamsyah said that surveillance over the trafficking case had begun in 2004 when his office investigated the adoption of Tristan alias Erwin by Dowse.

Dowse adopted Erwin from his mother Suryani through the South Jakarta Court and the Irish government officially declared Erwin an Irish citizen in 2001.

Bachtiar said that Dowse later neglected the child when his wife was pregnant.

""Dowse left Erwin in an orphanage and went abroad. The couple then asked the Irish government to take away Erwin's status as their child. The Irish government rejected the plea,"" Bachtiar said.

Concerned over Erwin's welfare, the ministry investigated the case and found out that many other children had been sold by RDN.

RDN, helped by MRT and ER, approached pregnant women in poor areas and persuaded them to give up their children, and reported to JW if a mother was willing to sell her child.

On the promise that a foreigner would look after their children better, many mothers gave up their children.

Bachtiar said the suspects would pay most of the mothers around Rp 1 million (US$105) for a baby, who they sold for between Rp 40 million and Rp 50 million.

The three women are now being detained at the city police headquarters.

Bachtiar said that police had sufficient evidence, including eight child victims of trafficking, documents detailing child transactions, pictures and JW's written statement, to bring the case to court.

""We have taken care of the eight children in our orphanage in Cipayung (East Jakarta). We are still tracking down other children. We will find their mothers and ask them if they want to rear their children. If they can't afford them, the state will take care of them,"" he said.

All of the suspects will be charged under several articles of Law No. 23/2002 on child trafficking and the Criminal Code, and could face a maximum punishment of 15 years' imprisonment if found guilty.

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