Mum of alleged sex abuse victim sued for defamation

THE mother of an alleged victim in a sex abuse case in Jakarta is being sued for defamation in Singapore by the Jakarta International School and three staff members.

The school and the trio - Ms Elsa Donohue, Mr Neil Bantleman and Mr Fedinant Michel - are seeking damages from the mother, a German, according to papers filed in the Singapore High Court in July.

Five of the school's outsourced cleaning staff are accused of sexually abusing two boys in an ongoing trial in Jakarta. One of the alleged victims is the woman's son, aged six.

The woman, now in Jakarta as a witness in the trial, said her son was due to testify at the criminal trial, which is not related to the plaintiffs in the Singapore defamation suit.

The 33-year-old said she did not know why she is being sued here.

She told The Straits Times: "I'm asking myself why they are suing me there, I was not even there. What's happening is in Jakarta, not Singapore."

She added she was a "protected witness" and her son "a protected victim" under Jakarta law in the ongoing trial in Jakarta.

She had lived for about two years till May in Jakarta, where her 41-year-old husband worked in a multinational firm.

The couple and their two young children spent about a month here on holiday in June and July this year, with plans to relocate to Singapore.

They later changed their minds and returned to Jakarta, pending a move to Europe.

Ms Donohue, an American national, is the elementary and kindergarten principal at the Jakarta school, while Mr Bantleman, a Canadian, is a school administrator and Mr Michel, an Indonesian, is a teaching assistant at the school's elementary campus.

The school, founded in 1951, is said to be the country's largest international school. It has 2,600 students, many of whom are children of well-off expatriates and Indonesians.

Media reports said Mr Bantleman, 45, and Mr Michel, 41, have been in police custody in Jakarta for more than 50 days, pending a probe into alleged sex abuse. Neither has been charged.

The school had in July made clear it stood by the duo.

The case has drawn wide interest from the media, as well as the British, American and Australian embassies in Jakarta.

The mother, who is the subject of the defamation suit, said her husband visits Singapore occasionally for work.

She added she had not been notified or received copies of the suit but had been told by a third party via SMS to expect a suit.

Lawyers from Tan Rajah & Cheah went to court last week and got approval to seek alternative ways to serve notice on her.

"We confirm that our clients have commenced an action in Singapore against (her) as the Singapore courts have jurisdiction," said lead counsel Chew Kei-Jin, without saying why the courts have jurisdiction.

The defamation claim is over statements she made against the plaintiffs which are false, he said, adding that the plaintiffs want damages to be assessed by the court. A notice was placed in The Straits Times last week to notify her of the suit.