Court Schedules Tsunami 'Baby 81' DNA Test

A judge on Thursday set a date for DNA testing next week for a couple fighting to claim the tsunami (search) survivor known as "Baby 81" and said he might rule on the case early, raising hopes of a quick resolution to the couple's agonizing custody battle.

Judge M.P. Mohaideen on Wednesday had ordered DNA (search) tests to determine whether Jenita Jeyarajah and her husband, Murugupillai, are the parents of the infant, who was found on a beach amid bodies and debris nine hours after the Dec. 26 tsunami struck.

Mohaideen had said the child would remain in a hospital's care until he reconvenes the case on April 20. The couple were dismayed about the long wait and later barged into the hospital to claim the baby.

The Jeyarajahs and two supporters were arrested after being accused of roughing up nurses. They reappeared Thursday before Mohaideen, who let them off with a warning.

"Don't fight," Mohaideen told the couple. "Your baby is your baby. They will give your baby to you, but please get the test done. The government will give you the baby if the DNA test says it is your baby."

Mohaideen ordered the couple to travel to the capital, Colombo, for DNA testing next Wednesday. He said the U.N. children's agency would pay the expenses. The baby is to be taken to Colombo — an eight-hour drive from Kalmunai — under police protection.

S.H.M. Manarudeen, a lawyer for the authority, said that once tests are complete he would ask the court to reconvene sooner than April 20. The tests take about eight hours, said Harendra de Silva, head of the government's Child Protection Authority (search).

The judge said he would consider the fast-track request.

"At last God is smiling on us," Jenita Jeyarajah said.

The battle over the child has become a symbol of the anguish of thousands of families who lost children in the disaster.

Besides the Jeyarajahs, eight other women had stepped forward to claim the boy, called Baby 81 because he was the 81st hospital admission the day the tsunami hit. The Jeyarajahs are the only couple to file a formal custody claim.