About a boy

Date: 2006-02-24

THE general sigh of satisfaction that greeted the High Court judgment in relation to little Tristan Dowse must be tempered by questions relating to the enforcement of the orders and the monitoring of the large awards (in Indonesian terms) made to the child.
But first, the players who brought this extraordinary saga to a just conclusion are to be congratulated.

The perseverance of the Attorney General, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and the principal whistleblower, journalist Ann McElhinney, culminated in wise and humane rulings by Judge John MacMenamin.

The couple who adopted and then abandoned the four-year-old Indonesian boy have been ordered to pay more than €100,000 to secure his future.

Joseph Dowse and his wife Lala must pay an immediate lump sum of €20,000 to Tristan and a further lump sum of €25,000 when he reaches the age of 18.

They also have to pay maintenance of €350 per month until he is 18 years of age.

These are fortunes in Indonesian terms. They were based on the middle class lifestyle that the Dowses could have given Tristan.

Even though half the €350 each month will go into a fund controlled by the High Court until Tristan is 18, and even though Tristan has been given the protection of the Irish High Court as a ward of court, there must be concerns about what will happen in the years ahead.

Are the child and his mother to be left to handle their future on their own?

Little is known about Tristan's mother, Suryani, except that in the past she has proven vulnerable to unscrupulous people. She allegedly sold her son before he was born. She is a single mother with two other children. Now reunited, mother and son live in a working class area of Tegal, an industrial city north of Jakarta.

It appears obvious that Suryani is in need of advice and personal guidance in light of the awards to her son. It has even been suggested that perhaps some of the moneys awarded might have been directed towards direct support by qualified carers.

Happily, the Irish Ambassador to the region was able to report to Judge McMenamin that the four-year-old is in good health and good humour. Long may he remain so.A room for the night

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