Indonesian Teen Model Escapes From Malaysian Prince
|Our Correspondent||Jun 1, 2009|
After a dramatic escape from her Malaysian prince husband over the weekend, 17-year-old Indonesian-American model Manohara Odelia Pinot said she had been abused, tortured and subjected to sexual abuse in the prince's Kelantan redoubt, and that neither the Malaysian or Indonesian authorities bothered to help her.
Accompanied by her mother, Manohara told a packed press conference that she had escaped from the Royal Plaza Hotel in Singapore after she and her 31-year-old husband, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry had accompanied Fakhry's father, Sultan Ismail Petra Shah II, to Singapore after the latter had a heart attack.
Her escape to Indonesia, she said, was through the assistance of the United States and Indonesian Embassies in Singapore as well as the Singapore police.
"Their guards tried to catch me but they were afraid of having their action recorded by the escalator's camera that would leave their tracks, so they let me go," she said when asked how she could escape from the supervision of the Kelantan Sultan's guards.
After her arrival in Jakarta, Manohara and her mother, Daisy Fajarina, took to Indonesian television to tell a horrific tale of intimidation and torture including having her breasts sliced with a razor, forced drug injections and other abuse. The local media had a field day, running the press conference continually throughout Sunday. The media circus, however, didn't make it to Malaysia, where the story was studiously ignored by the mainstream press, which is controlled by the major political parties of the national coalition. The independent website Malaysiakini ran the story, carefully noting claims that Fajarina had attempted to extort RM600,000 from the prince.
"We are owned by a political party. We are not a foreign newspaper," said a reporter for one of Malaysia's English-language dailies. "Do you want us to get into trouble with the party? Do you want us to get into trouble with the palace?"
The jet-setting teen model, named one of Indonesia's "most precious people" by a fashion magazine, met her husband when she was only 16 at a gala dinner thrown by then-deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Her story was a dramatic counterpoint to the prince's claims in Malaysia earlier this month she was happily married and that her mother was demanding money from him.
A spokesman denied the story of Manohara's escape, saying Prince Fakhry had decided to divorce her. For her part, Manohara on Monday threatened to sue the prince.
"I am still traumatized by all that happened and it has left an impact on me," she told the press conference, accompanied by her mother, her sister Dewi Sri Asih and a staff member of the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore.
The plight of Manohara and her wrecked fairy-tale marriage raises grim questions for the Malaysian government, which refused to grant Fajarina and her second daughter a visa to visit the country to attempt to rescue Manohara. The mother claimed Manohara had been kidnapped in Saudi Arabia after a February visit to the Muslim holy land to and hustled back to Malaysia aboard a private jet, leaving the mother standing on the tarmac.
The refusal of the Malaysian immigration department to allow the two into the country again raises questions of the disappearance of the immigration records of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu and her two companions after she was murdered in 2006 by two of Najib's bodyguards.
It is also the latest blow to the credibility of Malaysia's sultans, who have been the subject of years of reports of abuse of the public purse and refusal to accept accountability. Many have been repeatedly accused of demanding that the states they rule pay huge gambling debts run up in casinos in London.
At one point in the 1980s, the Sultan of Johor was accused of beating a golf caddy to death with a golf club. He was also not brought to justice for shooting a trespasser on his property. Then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused the sultans, among other things, of giving away parts of the country to the British, oppressing the people, breaking civil and criminal laws, misusing the money and property of the government and pressuring government officials. , asking in 1993 that the body strip them of their immunity before the law. Mahathir used the incident in a parliamentary move to limit the sultans' prerogatives
It also poses problems for the United Malays National Organisation, which over the last six months has tied itself closely to the sultans. In a squabble over the dissolution of the legislature on the state of Perak, UMNO has made criticism of the sultans a bone of contention with the opposition, accusing them in effect of insulting the ethnic Malays' birthright, with UMNO membhers filing more than 100 police complaints against an opposition lawyer who filed suit against the Sultan of Perak. The sordid revelations now attached to the Kelantan royal house make it difficult to justify the sultans' immunity from criticism.
Manohara, in her press conference, called attention to other 'Manoharas' who got 'locked up' in Malaysia,presumably by other royal families.
"Sexual abuse and sexual harassment were like a daily routine for me, and he did that every time I did not want to have sexual intercourse," she said. "I could never think a normal man could do such things."
After the story blew up in April, Manohara was photographed smiling and at ease at a ceremony in Malaysia. However, she said, she was constantly guarded and spent most of her time in her bedroom in the palace.
"Every time I went out for events, they forced me to smile and would torture me if I did not do what they said," she said. She said she had tried to escape, but was caught by royal family staff and injected with drugs that made her vomit blood. "I was injected twice," she said.
When confirming a reporter's question about whether her husband had cut her nipples, she was reluctant to give details. "Yes it is true. Some parts of my body were cut by a razor," Manohara said.
Manohara said she had secretly called the Singapore police on Saturday night requesting help.
Police responded, she told the press conference, and confronted the royal family, telling them they couldn't prevent the girl from leaving, according to Teuku Faizasyah, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta. He said police then called the US and Indonesian embassies for assistance.
"After Manohara was secured by the Singaporean police, our embassy staff in Singapore processed all her documents at the hotel within only four hours from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Sunday so she could go back to Indonesia immediately," Teuku said.
Manohara confirmed that the police had helped her escape. "The police told Fakhry that he would be held in jail if he did not let me go. No one could force me against my will in Singapore and I knew I had a chance to escape here," she said, adding that she wanted a divorce and would file a police report against her estranged husband.
Manohara also claimed that Indonesian Ambassador for Malaysia Da'i Bachtiar had previously lied about her condition. "They made it worse by telling lies, saying that I was fine while I was suffering in Kelantan," she said, adding that no media in Malaysia had reported on her plight.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied allegations that its embassy in Malaysia had lied.