Subject: Plea for boy left behind by UN dad

The Age

Plea for boy left behind by UN dad

* Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin

* May 2, 2009

SIX-YEAR-OLD Marko Susnja has never seen his father, and probably never will.

Marko is one of dozens of children born in East Timor to impoverished Timorese women who have been abandoned by their United Nations-employed fathers.

"Please help me. I have no money to provide for my son," pleads Marko's mother, Lily Nheu, 31.

Three years ago, Lily wrote to the UN mission in Dili, asking for help to force her child's Bosnian father, Goran Susnja, to pay paternity support.

"I implore you to help me write an official letter to Goran requesting him to provide child support for my son, which I am legally entitled to by law," Ms Nheu wrote.

She received no reply.

But this week, after The Age submitted a series of questions about her plight to the UN, Ms Nheu received some good news.

Gyorgy Kakuk, the UN's spokesman in Dili, said the UN was now looking into her case.

He said the UN had a policy of tracking down employees who father children with local women while deployed in a foreign country, in order to assist the mothers in any civil claim.

The UN, though, has done nothing to trace more than 20 other UN personnel who have abandoned babies they have fathered in East Timor, leaving women to bring up the children without financial support.

Welfare workers say the women have been stigmatised, and in some cases ostracised, by their communities.

For years the UN tried to cover up perverted and outrageous behaviour by some of their 20,000 uniformed and civilian personnel who have served in East Timor since 1999.

This included the sexual abuse of children, bestiality and coercing women and children into prostitution.

When some UN staff resigned in 2006 after a report revealing a culture that covered up perverse behaviour in East Timor, the UN mission in Dili enforced a "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual exploitation by its employees.

Several staff were employed to enforce the policy, which resulted in the closure of several brothels in Dili.

But for more than three years the UN did nothing to help Ms Nheu, who has struggled to find work so she could care for her son, who is supposed to start school in July.

She travelled overland from the isolated East Timorese enclave of Oecussi to Dili this week, seeking advice from friends on how she could pressure the UN to force Mr Susnja to provide for his son.

He arrived in the isolated enclave in 2001, where Ms Nheu grew up, a good-looking UN civilian policeman earning more than $100,000 a year.

Some of the worst abuses by UN personnel occurred around that time in the enclave.

The UN has admitted ­ but no prosecutions were ever launched ­ that one of its employees from an unnamed country sexually abused two boys and two girls there.

In early 2001, two Jordanian soldiers were evacuated from the enclave with injured penises after attempting sexual intercourse with goats.

Ms Nheu told the UN in her letter that "Goran and I fell in love in October 2001, and we officially married in the Catholic church on 14 June 2002".

A few weeks after the marriage, the couple travelled to Bosnia, where Ms Nheu became pregnant.

She says she was happy and well treated at first and returned to Oecussi to be with her family for the birth.

Mr Susnja was redeployed by the UN to Liberia.

"When I left Bosnia, Goran promised to take his responsibility as a husband and father to my son seriously, saying that he will come back to Timor after his mission," Ms Nheu says. But he told her in March 2006 "that he has no intention of coming back here, nor interested in seeing his son".

Ms Nheu told the UN that "I am a single mother and it is difficult for me to raise my son alone. I want his father to be responsible, even if it means taking him to court."

Mr Kakuk said that serious disciplinary measures were in place for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel, and they did have paternity obligations under UN regulations.

He could not comment on specific cases such as Ms Nheu's, or explain why the letter she sent to the UN in 2006 went unanswered.

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