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Sunday, August 28, 2011

'We still hope they'll come back'

Sulaiman Kamal | 3:58 AM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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PETALING JAYA: For the past three years, the parents of Sharlinie Mohd Nashar and Ferris Mokhtar have been waiting for their missing children to return to their arms.
And for the last Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations, they have been... disappointed. Yet, they share a common trait - they will never give up hope.
Every Raya, the parents would buy new baju raya and lay it out neatly on their children's beds in the hope, if they miraculously return on the big day, they could immediately don the new festive clothes.

Three years and still counting

Mother yearning for return of son taken by foreign ex-husband

NEEDS FUNDS: Elis showing one of the paintings she needs to sell to fund
 her trip to Belgium to trace her son
GOMBAK: This will be the third Hari Raya Elis Syuhaila Mokhtar would be forced to spend without her only son, Ferris Mokhtar.
"I can't even say it's going to be a Raya celebration, ever since Ferris was taken away. A huge part of my life is missing. Everything I do feels incomplete without him," said the 36-year-old.
When The Malay Mail visited her Selayang home recently, she proudly showed the baju melayu she had bought for her son this Raya.
"I still buy him gifts and clothes for his birthday and Raya, hoping he will return. Despite each disappointment, I continue doing this as I know I'll get him back."
Elis' life has been empty ever since Ferris was taken away by her estranged Dutch ex-husband, Frank Theodorus Van de Ven @ Firdaus, after the couple had a fallout.
Her ordeal started when she and Van de Ven filed for divorce in January 2008. They took weekly turns looking after Ferris until March 5 that year, when the father failed to return the boy.
Later that month, the Shah Alam Syariah Court issued an arrest warrant for the computer programmer and even requested Interpol's cooperation to arrest and stop him from leaving Malaysia.
Elis had known the Dutchman since she was 16 and their friendship blossomed into love. They were married in 2001 in Malaysia and Ferris was born three years later.
For Elis, not having heard anything about her son, his whereabouts, and not having even seen a photograph of him, has been an excruciating and harsh reality.
"All I have is Frank's email address I write to almost every day, asking him to at least let me speak to Ferris over the phone, or send me a picture. But he has never replied," she said.
"I want to know how my son looks like now. It has been three years. He turns eight on Dec 7."
Although convinced Ferris is in Belgium, Elis does not believe he is being cared for by her ex.
"Probably Frank's parents are," she said.
Recalling her depression, Elis said at one point, she could only stay home and weep.
"When I was fighting to get my son back, I was busy meeting people, from ministers to police and non-governmental organisations, hoping they could help.
"When all my efforts failed, I didn't know what else to do."
She said even with the support of friends, cousins and her sister, especially, she still could not pull herself together.
But things changed last year when she dreamt of her boy.
"In my dream, Ferris told me he wanted to come home. I was confused, thinking which home he was referring to. I remember crying in the dream when Ferris said to me 'I am fine, Umi (mother)'," she said, holding back tears.
Elis said that dream started her working again so she could save money and go to Belgium to locate her son.
"I was a fine arts student, I started painting again, hoping to sell my artwork. I also started lecturing on the subject in a private college here since February."
She said she would need a lawyer when going to Belgium as there was a chance she could be detained upon entering the country.
"I don't know what Frank has told the authorities there. He had earlier claimed I kidnapped Ferris and fled to Manila in 2007. There's also the ongoing custody battle so I will need legal advice when I go there."
Speaking more to herself than to this reporter at this point, Elis said: "I need to save money and go to Belgium to find my son, that's my motivation every day."

Waiting for Nini to come home

HOPEFUL: (From left) Suraya, Sharliena and Nashar with a picture of Nini
PETALING JAYA: Today will be three years, seven months and 17 days since Sharlinie Mohd Nashar went missing.
And every year, her parents do the same thing before Raya comes.
"Each year, we buy her a new baju raya and lay it out neatly on her bed, so she can wear them immediately after she returns," said Mohd Nashar Mat Hussein, who strongly believes his youngest daughter will return to the arms of her family.
Speaking to The Malay Mail recently, he said he had been living in frustration since Sharlinie, or Nini, as she was fondly called by her family, went missing on Jan 9, 2008.
"About six months ago, I called the police to find out the status of my daughter's case, but all I managed to get from them was the matter was still being investigated and they had no leads yet," said the the 33-year-old technician.
"What disappoints me most is the cops have not kept in contact with me. I am the one who always has to pester them for information."
This anguished father asked: "Are they honestly still working on the case? Or have they lost hope? Why is it taking so long? How long do I have to wait for some news, any news?"
Mohd Nashar said he would settle even for "a gleam of hope".
"We will never lose hope in finding you, Nini. We know you are alive out there and we will do whatever possible to see you return to us."
When asked how the family had been coping, he said he and wife Suraya Ahmad had been residing at his father's home in Kampung Padang Pulut, Terengganu, together with their two other daughters, Nurul Amirah, 14, and Sharliena, 11, for the last two years.
They decided to move as the haunting memory of Sharlinie's alleged abduction at a playground in Taman Medan, PJS2, Petaling Jaya, was too much to bear.
"Earlier on, my wife was too depressed to do anything but she has since surrendered her fate entirely to God. She began working again in a factory and now helps with the family's finances. This keeps her occupied and helps her move on," said Mohd Nashar.
"But I know she will never give up hope on Nini's return."
On that fateful day, Sharlinie, then five years old, had followed Sharliena to a playground about 200 metres from their home. Half an hour later, Sharliena decided to return home. She called out to Sharlinie but did not get a response.
Sharliena rushed home and told her mother who frantically searched the playground.
Two hours later, Suraya lodged a report at the district police headquarters.
Sharlinie was last seen wearing a light blue dress with white stripes and her favourite pink slippers.
A massive nationwide search was mounted and even Interpol was notified. Her parents' plight was splashed in the print and electronic media, with individuals and organisations offering monetary rewards for her safe return.
Two men were arrested by police but later released due to lack of evidence.
To date, there has been no news of her whereabouts.

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