PETALING JAYA: A crying seven-year-old hung on desperately to a grandaunt who had cared for her for three years as her paternal grandmother, who had been earlier accused of abusing the child, tried to pull her away.
In a strange twist, the grandmother was granted custody of the child in a Sessions Court.
However, the girl refused to go with the older woman and a heart-wrenching 20-minute tussle ensued before the girl was dragged into a car and taken away.
The seven-year-old had been cared for by the grandaunt over the past three years after members of her immediate family were accused of abusing her.
The case came to light in 2013 when the grandaunt (the father’s aunt) lodged a police report against the father and paternal grandparents, claiming the then four-year-old girl had complained to her that she had been sexually abused.
A medical examination found injuries in her private parts and anus, China Press reported. The grandaunt then sought custody of the girl. A court granted her temporary custody between 2013 and June 2016.
Police eventually dropped the sexual abuse allegations against the three family members due to a lack of evidence.
On Nov 3 last year, a magistrate’s court ordered that custody be returned to the girl’s father and paternal grandmother, with the 22-year-old mother’s consent.
This was despite the Welfare Department’s recommendation that the grandaunt and granduncle continue caring for the child.
Child rights activists have now offered their help to the 62-year-old grandaunt to regain custody of the girl.
“I miss her very much. I’m really worried for her safety.
“I haven’t been able to get her on the phone,” said the grandaunt yesterday. “I cried the whole day after she was taken away from me.”
“We were very happy when the department took the initiative to locate the mother and secured a statutory declaration from her to give the custody to the grandaunt and granduncle last year,” said lawyer Jacky Loi, who represented them in the custody battle on a pro bono basis.
However, he claimed the mother backtracked later by saying that she actually intended to surrender the custody to the girl’s father and paternal grandmother.
Loi also said that the girl had been given counselling at a public hospital for the past three years.
Yesterday, Dr Hartini Zainudin, co-founder of NGOs for child rights, Voice of the Children and Yayasan Chow Kit, offered to raise legal fees for the grandaunt and granduncle if they wanted to appeal against the court’s decision.
Madeleine Yong, committee member of Protect and Save the Children, also said her organisation was willing to provide counselling.