Monday, April 8, 2013
Tears flowed and emotions ran high as the magistrate's court here allowed adoptive parents to take home 28 children rescued from a baby-trafficking syndicate.
The parents were granted conditional interim custody.
Before the proceedings started, the tearful petitioners who entered the courtroom at about 10.30am, were seen waving and trying to attract the attention of the children, some who were carried in by welfare officers.
The bus ferrying the children arrived an hour earlier and was greeted by the group of more than 30 adoptive parents and family members outside the court complex.
An excited parent who couldn't contain his excitement lunged forward to hug and kiss a toddler, catching the welfare officer carrying the baby by surprise.
The children were then brought into a waiting room before the proceedings started.
Even after the petitions were granted, groups of anxious parents were spotted outside the courtroom asking their respective counsel if they could really take the children home.
Magistrate Arif Mohamed Shariff made the order under Section 53(5) of the Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act 2007, which allows the children to be with their guardian/parent.
The adoptive parents had applied for the petitions in court for the children to be released to them, pending police investigations.
The children, aged between a few months and eight years, were previously under the care of the Welfare Department in Johor.
Counsel for four of the petitioners, Jason Khor, said his clients were granted interim custody and protection orders subject to several conditions.
“They can take the children home today.
“However, guardianship rights have been given to the welfare officer for two years,” he said, adding that the adoptive parents must notify a welfare officer of any change in address and that the latter would also have visitation rights at any time.
He said the adoptive parents must report to the nearest welfare office on a monthly basis.
Khor said the children must be properly adopted in accordance with the legal process in two years. Failure to adhere to any of the conditions could result in the order being revoked.
Three of the parents, when approached, refused to comment.
State Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said all assistance would be given to the families to formalise the adoption process.
It was reported on Feb 23 that 45 people had been arrested after the Penang-based child trafficking syndicate was busted.
On Feb 27, the magistrate's court also allowed two children, a nine-year-old boy and a nine-month-old girl, to be released to their adoptive parents under the same Act.
The court also issued an order under Section 58 of the same Act, stating that the children's identities and that of their parents would not be published in the media.