MISSING THEIR MAN: Thushari Ponnamperuma and her children, Jazz and Jayden Jacenko.
MISSING THEIR MAN: Thushari Ponnamperuma and her children, Jazz and Jayden Jacenko. John Mccutcheon

Court fight with ex-wife strands father of two in Sri Lanka

WHEN Jayden Jacenko turned two yesterday, his father wasn't there to celebrate.

Instead, Dusan Jacenko was half a world away, trapped in a Sri Lankan legal minefield.

An ongoing dispute over maintenance payments to his ex-wife has left the former Sunshine Coast man virtually a prisoner in the island nation he has called home since 1999.

The dispute has become so bogged down in that country's legal system not even the Australian High Commission appears to be able to help.

Meanwhile, his partner, Thushari, and their two young children are living with Dusan's son and his family on the Sunshine Coast, hoping for a miracle.

Dusan sent them to Australia at the end of last year, saying he feared for their safety at the hands of his ex-wife.

More than three months later, Thushari says Jayden and his three-year-old sister, Jazz, still cry every night.

FLASHBACK: The Daily’s report on January 11.
FLASHBACK: The Daily’s report on January 11.

"Every night they talk to him (on Skype) and they are crying. It is just heartbreaking and it's not getting any easier for them or me.

"I am trying to be strong and not show them how much I am hurting too, but I don't know what to do."

It is a far cry from 2005 when Dusan was hailed a hero after using his own money to feed and clothe victims of the Sri Lankan tsunami.

Soon after, his marriage fell apart. Then, in 2013, the garment factory where he worked was closed down.

He also claims to have uncovered a plot by his estranged wife to have him killed.

After he met Thushari, he says his ex-wife began a campaign of harassment and assaults that forced him to send his young family to live in Landsborough.

"He told me we had to get out of the country for our own safety and he would join us in two months," Thushari said.

"His family has taken us in and looked after us, but we want Dusan to be here with us."

Dusan is caught in a Catch- 22 situation.

The Sri Lankan courts will not allow him to get a divorce and leave the country until he pays maintenance he still owes, but his visa does not allow him to work in order to make the money he needs.

He has made payment offers but is continually frustrated by unexpected court adjournments, language barriers and a questionable legal system.

Thushari said she now considered Australia her home and had no plans of returning to Sri Lanka, despite still having family there.

There was no way Dusan would consider returning.

"He hates that country," Thushari said. "He was always helping poor people, with food and everything, and then this is how they have treated him."

Wheels turning too slowly for Australian pleading for assistance

DUSAN Jacenko could be forgiven for feeling abandoned by his own country.

While he waits for a Sri Lankan court to decide his fate, the Australian Government appears to have done little to help.

When it became clear Dusan was being buried under the Sri Lankan legal system, his family in Australia took his case to Member for Fisher, Mal Brough, whose office alerted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

LOOKING BACK: Businessman Dusan Jacenko is seen in this photograph in his textile factory in Sri Lanka in 2005.
LOOKING BACK: Businessman Dusan Jacenko is seen in this photograph in his textile factory in Sri Lanka in 2005. Kevin Farmer

An Australian Embassy official advised Dusan it could not interfere in a court case but undertook to look into the matter and requested his court papers on March 27.

By April 8, when he had heard nothing, Dusan wrote, almost begging for news.

"Please give me an update on the situation.

"... why don't we just wait and you can ship me home in a box and explain to my children why they no longer have a daddy?

"I simply need to know."

On April 10, Mr Brough's office replied to a Sunshine Coast Daily inquiry with: "Dusan has received Consular assistance and this is continuing. Unfortunately the Consulate is unable to intervene in court matters. I am very pleased that Dusan has been able to engage legal representation to assist him with his court case".

At that stage, Dusan had no legal representation, could not afford an interpreter and was struggling to get information from consular officials.

On April 13, DFAT responded to a series of questions from the Daily with: "The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to provide all appropriate consular assistance in line with the Consular Services Charter to an Australian man in Sri Lanka."

A frustrated Mr Jacenko said the response was similar to others he had received in the past and "may as well be computer generated".


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