Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CHANTI''S WORLD - letter to Australia's Ambassador to Cambodia, Penny Richards

My battle with Screen Australia, the battle that has led to my being banned, begins with a documentary film I have been working on for 18 years now. The central character of CHANTI'S WORLD is Chanti - two of whose daughters were, close to five years ago, stolen by a Brisbane-based Christian church by the name of Citipointe. For close to five years I have been advocating on Chanti's behalf to have her daughters Rosa and Chita returned to her care. Citipointe has refused to do so or to provide any reason why it refuses to do so.

The following to Australi's Ambassador to Cambodia speaks for itself.

NOTE I have no idea why some of what I write is in white letters and some dark letters! One of life's mysteries! Easily resolved, in terms of reading, by highlighting.

Penny Richards
Ambassador, Cambodia
No 16B National Assembly St
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

20th Feb 2013

Dear Ambassador Richards

Please find enclosed copies of five letters that I have written this past two weeks to Senior Pastor Leigh Ramsay, whose Brisbane based church, Citipointe, operates The She Rescue Home in Phnom Penh – a refuge ostensibly committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of girls that have been rescued from the sex trade.

Citipointe has ‘stolen’ the two eldest daughters of a poor family (Rosa and Chita) that I have been associated with for 18 years and has refused, over a period of close to five years now, to return them to the care of the family.

I use the word ‘stolen’ in the same sense that we use it in Australia in relation to the generations of Aboriginal children who were removed from the care of their impoverished parents (impoverished in a material sense) in Australia – a misguided form of social engineering that caused immense heartbreak for children and parents alike and for which Australia made a formal apology in 2007.

‘Kidnapped’ is actually a more appropriate word to describe the actions of Citipointe when, in 2008 and 2009, the church retained custody of Rosa and Chita for 15 months against the express wishes of the girls’ parents  - Chanti and Chhork. Despite many requests by the parents that the girls to returned to the care of the family and in contravention of Cambodia’s ant-trafficking laws, Citipointe retained illegal custody of the girls.

Kidnapping is, I know, an extreme charge to be leveling at an Australian church. It is one that I do not make lightly and one backed up by verifiable facts, however. It is also a crime that Citipointe could quite easily prove itself innocent of by releasing a copy of any document it has in its possession that provided the church with legal justification for refusing to return Rosa and Chita to their parents over a period of fifteen months in 2008 and 2009.  Citipointe church refuses to release a copy of any such document to either Chanti or myself, as Chanti’s legally appointed ‘advocate’. This is unsurprising given that no such legal document exists.

Only after 15 months did Citipointe obtain permission, from the Ministry of Social Affairs, to retain custody of Rosa and Chita. Citipointe has refused to provide Chanti with a copy of the agreement reached between Citipointe and the Ministry and has ignored my many requests, acting as an advocate on Chanti’s behalf, that she be provided with a copy of the agreement or contract or whatever it is that Citipointe is using to provide it with justification for holding Rosa and Chita against their parents’ wishes. The Ministry has likewise refused to provide Chanti with a copy of this agreement or contract, leaving Chanti with no idea when, or even if, her daughters will be returned to her. This causes her enormous distress and has done for the past close to five years. The Ministry did, however, write the following in a letter to me 15 months after the removal or Rosa and Chita:

2)       For the SHE resuce project, according to the agreement made with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, the organization has projected to help victims of human trafficking and sex trade as well as families which fall so deep in poverty. After questioning directly, the ministry believes that Rosa must have been in any of the above categories.

That the Ministry ‘believes’ (as opposed to knows) that Rosa must have been in any of the above categories’ does not suggest much in the way of thoroughly of research or the asking of questions. Certainly, the Ministry never spoke with Chanti or her husband Chhork. At the time of the Ministry’s letter Chhork was running a boat on the Bassac River for tourists and Chanti had a stall by the river selling sacks to tourists.

The girls, Rosa and Chita, now aged 11 and 10 respectively, have never been involved in any aspect of the  sex trade - a fact acknowledged by Citipointe church and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The only reason why Rosa and Chita were placed in temporary care by their mother in the She Rescue Home in mid 2008 was that the family was very poor and in the midst of a financial crisis – ‘fall so deep in poverty’. This crisis passed within a few months but Citipointe refused to return the girls. In so doing the church abrogated promises made to Chanti and myself.

In Feb 2013 the family is no longer poor. Indeed, by Cambodian standards it is comfortably well off.  It now owns a house in Prey Veng province (acquired last week) and rents a small house in Phnom Penh. The father, Chhork, works as a tuk tuk driver to support the family  - his income supplanted by Chanti and her mother,  both of whom make and sell bracelets to tourists. Chanti also sells scarves and books to tourists. The two other school-age children (James and Srey Ka) attend school every school day. In short, a fairly typical Cambodian family. And yet Citipointe church still not only refuses to return Rosa and Chita to their family but refuses to provide any explanation or reason for not doing so. Leigh Ramsay does not respond in any way to my letters.

A close-to complete record of how Citipointe came to take custody of Rosa and Chita can be found on my blog at:

It seems from the church’s actions that Citipointe now considers Rosa and Chita to be church property. It does not acknowledge that the parents have any rights at all and has demonstrated a total lack of regard for the welfare of the rest of the family. This has been well documented this past four years in the documentary record I have kept of Chanti’s life over the past 18 years and the book I am writing – both of which are entitled CHANTI’S WORLD.

Worst of all the human rights abuses visited upon the family by Citipointe  is that Rosa and Chita are prime tourist attractions for visitors to the She Rescue Home – a point to which I will return shortly.

Leaving aside the legality of Citipointe’s position regarding Rosa and Chita, let’s look briefly at how Citipointe church is described by Wikipedia:

The She Rescue Home is in Cambodia and a place where trafficked and prostituted girls can find a safe haven to live their lives. In a She Rescue Home they receive counselling, medical attention, education and vocational training. It was started by Citipointe and Leigh Ramsey in 2006.

Two salient points are worth making here:

- The majority of girls resident in the She Rescue Home have not been trafficked and have never worked as prostitutes. They are the daughters of poor parents who have ‘fallen so far in  poverty.’

- It cost, on average, eight times as much money to support a child in an ‘orphanage’ (or similarly run refuge) as it does to support the child within his over her own family.

Given that only 27% of the ‘orphans’ in Cambodian ‘orphanages have no parents at, it follows that 73% have at least one parent. This raises the question: Why don’t the operators of these ‘orphanages’ support eight of the kids in their care within their own families and communities for the same cost as keeping them in an institution/ This, perhaps, something for AusAID to think about the next time it provides financial support to Australian-run ‘orphanages’ in Cambodia.

Rosa and Chita have never, at any point in their young lives, (aged 6 and 5 when kidnapped by Citipointe) been involved in any aspect of the sex trade. They are simply the daughters of poor parents who were offered short term help from Citipointe, were lied to, duped into signing a worthless contact, told then that they had given up their daughters until they were 18 and lost custody of Rosa and Chita.

And what does Citipointe’s own website say about the She Rescue Home:

Girls we receive have been trafficked, raped, prostituted, or are at risk of these things.

Rosa and Chita have never been trafficked, raped or prostituted. Nor have they ever been placed at any greater risk of these things happening to them than any poor girl child in Cambodia.  Given that one third of Cambodian children live below the poverty line, one sixth of Cambodia’s female child population is eligible to be institutionalized in accordance with Citipointe’s flexible use of the word ‘risk’. In short, hundreds of thousands of girls. And, the laws of supply and demand being what they are, there are plenty of poor Cambodian parents who wish to provide their children with nutritious food and schooling who could well fall into the trap that Chanti fell into when she agreed to accept short term help from Citipointe.

As is well established from studies, the children of poor families are much better off living with their families, whilst children brought up in institutions are more likely to suffer from damaged or severed family connections and be prone to homelessness, exploitation, trafficking, drug abuse and behavioral problems – the very same problems that arose as a result of Australia’s misguided attempts to ‘rescue’ Aboriginal children from their materially poor parents.

In the case of Citipointe the church is also indoctrinating Rosa and Chita into the church’s own Christian belief system (against the law in Cambodia) and alienating the girls from their culture and religion by refusing to allow them to participate in any religious festivals or cultural events with their Buddhist family. The wedding of Rosa and Chita’s aunt this last weekend (which Citipointe refused to allow Rosa and Chita to attend) is yet another example of the church’s deliberate attempts to alienate the girls from their family and culture.

On the question of sponsorship, Citipointe tells potential sponsors:

You have the opportunity to sponsor either a girl who is currently residing in the SHE Home, or girls who have been safely reintegrated back into their communities.

Are Rosa and Chita currently being sponsored – despite being neither victims of the sex trade of from a family that has fallen so low in Poverty? Not only has Citipointe made no effort in close to five years to move towards reintegration of Rosa and Chita into their family (see extensive blog correspondence on this question this past year), nor has the church made any financial contribution at all to the family’s well-being – as exemplified the week before last when Chanti, 8 months pregnant and with pneumonia, received no assistance at all from the church.

What happens to the sponsorship money donated to Citipointe to help care for “girls who have been safely reintegrated back into their communities,”? How much money does the She Rescue Home take in each year in donations made by sponsors and how much does it cost to run the She Rescue Home? Is the church in fact making a profit out of the refuge whilst, at the same time abrogating the human rights of both the girls resident in it and materially poor parents such as Chanti and Chhork?

I believe that these are quite legitimate questions for yourself, as Australia’s representative in Cambodia, to ask Citipointe church. Australia does, after all, provide Cambodia with many millions of dollars to help combat the very forms of human rights abuse I allege are being perpetrated by Citipointe church. I do not expect you to take my word for this but do trust that you, or the relevant persons within the Embassy will look at the facts – the most pertinent of which is the existence or non-existence of a legal document giving Citipointe the right to hold Rosa and Chita against the wishes of their parents for 15 months back in 2008 and 2009.  The most important people in all this but the ones who never get consulted are Chanti and Chhork. It would be appropriate that someone from the Embassy speak with both parents without either Citipointe or myself present. Chanti has all the voluminous correspondence – signed with her own thumb prints and those of her Village Chief to verify the accuracy of what I write here.

Citipointe church’s website has the following to say about the tours it conducts in Cambodia:

Looking for somewhere a little different to celebrate the end of your school days? Keen to explore the world and experience new cultures? Spend ten unforgettable days in Cambodia doing just this. Cruise around Phnom Penh in tuktuks, try local delicacies (tarantulas...eew!), and squeeze into tiny river boats, all while impacting the lives of those around you. See tangible differences as you spread the message of hope and love to the people of Cambodia. Experience and be involved with the work that the SHE Rescue Home and other organisations are doing to stop the cycle of poverty and sex trafficking in Cambodia. 

Does Citipointe really believe that the children lined up in a row to have their hair washed in unison by well meaning volunteers (see photo on website) is an experience of value to them? Much has been written about the damaging effects of Orphan Tourism or, as I prefer to call it ‘Poverty Tourism’ and you will no doubt be familiar with the literature.  

But lets just say for argument’s sake that there are some girls in the She Rescue Home who have been rescued from the sex trade. They must, by definition, be young (less than 18) and traumatized by their experiences. What kind of Christians would invite anyone prepared to pay money to go on a tour to come and wash the hair  of a rape victim! Does the rape victim, the victim of trafficking or exploitation within the sex trade have any choice but to have her hair washed by cashed-up ‘poverty tourists’? Are they supposed to be grateful for having been lined up and had their hair washed in unison? Such cultural insensitivity smacks of 19th C colonialism and should play no role in Australia’s assisting Cambodian families out of poverty.

Another question that I trust you will ask of Leigh Ramsay: Are Citipointe’s ‘poverty tourists’ qualified to work with traumatized girls from another country or are tour group places open to anyone who is prepared to fork out the money? And how much do the Citipointe ‘poverty tourists’ pay for the experience of washing girls’ hair and generally hanging out with sex abuse victims for a few days? Were you to behave in this way back in Australia, had you not already been arrested for kidnapping, you would have child welfare and victims of sexual abuse advocate groups down on your head like a ton of bricks. Citipointe can get away with it in Cambodian, however, because here pretty well anyone with money can do whatever they like with impunity and are under little or no obligation to obey the laws of the land.

I trust that someone within the Embassy, someone within the Department of Foreign Affairs will take the trouble to read through all the correspondence and acquaint themselves with the indisputable facts of what has taken place over the past close to five years in relation to the removal of these children from their family, the fifteen months in which Rosa and Chita were essentially kidnap victims and the subsequent years during which the Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs has turned  a blind eye to fraudulent claims made by Citipointe in relation to its activities in Cambodia.

In the interests of transparency I am publishing this letter on my Citipointe blog.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A sudden visit to Cambodia

The message from Chanti, via a friend who has a friend who has access
to email, was that Chanti was sick and needed my help. Chanti is 8
months pregnant and had a high fever.

The Brisbane based Christian church that has effectively stolen
Chanti's two eldest daughters (Citipointe) were offering her no help
her at all. Citipointe refuses to help Chanti as a matter of
principle. It will only help the two children that it acquired from
Chanti illegally and which the church has, for four years now, refused
to return to her. A new Stolen generation!?

So, off to Cambodia I have flown to see what I can do to help Chanti
and to engage in yet another round of battle with Citipointe church,
in my ongoing attempts to get the church to return her daughters to
her care.

I have been documenting Chanti’s life for close to 18 years now in
CHANTI’S WORLD. The project has been 100% self-funded to date.
However, a few years ago, when I had no funds and needed to do some
filming, I applied to Screen Australia for a relatively small amount
of money. The relevant Screen Australia employees who should have
viewed my 7 minute ‘promo’ for CHANTI’S WORLD did not view it. A cock
up! It is from this cock up (admitted to by Claire Jager, Ross Mathews
and Julia Overton) that the dispute between myself and Screen
Australia arose – a dispute that has resulted in Ruth Harley and the
Screen Australia Board banning me from making any applications to
Screen Australia on the grounds that viewing a ‘promo’ of mine or
reading a screenplay of mine would place SA staff at risk! At  risk of
what, one wonders? At risk of what one asks. Frequently. No response
is forthcoming. The ban is based on a lie and motivated by a
combination of spite and revenge on the part of Ruth Harley. Ruth does
not like, will not abide, any criticism of herself or Screen
Australia. But I am repeating myself.

My letter to Leigh Ramsay, Senior Pastor of Citipointe church, speaks
for itself:

Leigh Ramsay
322 Wecker Road
QLD 4152

Dear Leigh

I have arrived in Phnom Penh to find Chanti sick and in need of
hospitalisation.  As you know, Chanti is 8 months pregnant. Her white
blood cells are, I discovered in my first 24 hours in Phnom Penh,
dangerously low as a result of a respiratory infection. The precise
nature of the infection will not be known until a second round of
blood tests have been done. What we do know at present is that there
is a build up of fluid in her body that, if it is not dealt with,
could place Chanti’s baby's life at risk. The cost of the hospital
will be $45 a day – a cost that I will, yet again, quite happily meet.

The prime issue here is not so much that Citipointe is mean-spirited
in offering no help at all to any other members of Chanti’s family
(though this is the case) but that it never occurs to you or your
staff to even make enquiries as to the health of Chanti’s family. It
would have been blindingly obvious to the Citipopinte staff who
visited Chanti’s home just a few days ago that she had a fever, was
not well and needed to see a doctor she could ill afford.  Did they
pas this information on to you? A couple of years ago it was a tumour
on Chanti’s wrist that was large enough that your staff could not have
failed to notice it. It cost only $60 to have the tumour removed – a
cost that Citipointe would not meet. I did. Have your staff been
instructed NOT to make enquiries about the health of Chanti and her
family? Are there any circumstances under which your church might
reach out and help Chyanti and her family? The potential death of her
unborn child, for instance! What sort of a Christian are you, Leigh?

Your total disregard for the well-being of Chanti herself, and for the
rest of her family, no longer astounds me. What does astound me is
that your fellow Christian NGOs, under the umbrella of Chab Dai, turn
a blind eye to your exploitation of the girls in your care – in
contravention of both Cambodian and Australian law and the basic
precepts of Christianity. It astounds me also that the government of
Cambodia allows an NGO such as Citipointe to operate in this country –
an NGO that engages in (at least) two varieties of human rights abuse
– of the children themselves and of their parents.

Poverty tourism, also known as orphan-tourism is the latest in a long
line of human rights abuses visited upon the poor Cambodian people.
This involves subjecting young girls like Rosa and Chita to the gaze
(and camera lenses) of  ‘well-meaning’ tourists who believe they can
demonstrate to others and themselves what ‘good’ and ‘caring’ people
they are visiting an orphanage, working in the kitchen and otherwise
hanging out with the children of poor parents. The bulk of these
children are not orphans at all, of course. They have families.  Poor
families. This is a scam and should end – both in the case of genuine
orphans and those who, like Rosa and Chita, have effectively been
‘stolen’ from their poor parents.

In the case of Citipointe there is another level to this
‘poverty-tourism’ scam – namely presenting girls like Rosa and Chita
as having been rescued from the sex trade. This is a bald-faced lie.
Do you ever tell your Citipointe ‘poverty tourists’ that Rosa and Srey
Mal have a mother and a father, a grandmother, siblings, a home and a
dad who earns enough money at a tuk tuk driver to support the whole
family? Do you tell your ‘poverty-tourists’  that you have refused
Chanti’s repeated requersts to have her daughters returned to her
care?  Do you tell your ‘poverty tourists’ of the enormous distress it
causes Chanti being able to see her daughters for only a few hours
each month? Do you tell your ‘poverty tourists’ that the ‘She’ refuge
is much less concerned with the welfare of the families the church
claims to be reintegrating the children in its care back into than in
exploiting girls like Rosa and Chita to raise money for the church?

Turning children into tourist attractions would not be tolerated in
Australia, as you know. Nor would the stealing of the daughters of
poor parents by tricking them into signing worthless contracts that
they could not read and did not understand. In Australia you would be
up on charges of kidnapping for what you have done – holding Rosa and
Chita for 15 months against the express wishes of their mother and

There is another new development in this ongoing saga but I will leave
off telling you of it until Chanti has been returned to health – with
no thanks at all to yourself or Citipointe church. You are the kind of
Christian, Leigh, that gives Christianity a bad name.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Blog readers interested in the full story of how it is that Chanti;s
daughters were stolen from her can visit:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

HONEY # 13 (final)

...continuing on from HONEY # 12...


HELEN looks at Honey’s present. She opens it. Inside there is a CD and

four cellophane packets with violin strings in them. HELEN stares at
them for a long moment.


JASPER sits with her back to the wall on Daniel’s futon. DANIEL,

Jasper’s Illustrated Biblical stories in his hands (he has been
reading to her) sits beside her.


Mum really does love you.


I know.


Almost as much as me.

DANIEL laughs, takes JASPER in his arms, hugs her tight. JASPER’S face

breaks into a radiant smile.


The room is empty. Violin music plays on the CD deck. Moving into the

room we see half a dozen small goblets of different coloured liqueurs.
The camera moves to the water damaged photo albums spread out on the
white ‘leather’ sofa. Resting on one is an almost empty glass of

HONEY sits on the sofa, picks up a photo album, looks at:

A photo of YOUNG HELEN, (9), violin tucked between her neck shoulder,

smiling happily for the camera.

HONEY looks up, sees HELEN walk into the room.


Couldn’t leave without having one last crepe, ay!

HELEN smiles.


Perfectly symmetrical, please.

HELEN  laughs.


HELEN drinks a small goblet of red liqueur.


Want a green one or a red one?

HONEY looks at the small goblets of liqueur.


One of each!

HELEN smiles, unscrews the top of the kerosene bottle, starts to fill

the base of the chafing dish.


DANIEL and JASPER lie together on the futon – JASPER’S head on

DANIEL’S chest. They both have their eyes open.


You thinking the same as me?

JASPER nods.


HELEN, more than a little drunk, dances around the room playing an

imaginary violin in tune with the up tempo violin music playing on the
CD. HONEY dances with her.


To beautiful lies!

HONEY and HELEN pick up glasses of liqueur, toss them back.


To beautiful crepes! Symmetrical crepes.

HELEN laughs, lights a long match.


DANIEL kick starts his Harley. JASPER puts on a crash helmet.


HELEN splashes Brandy straight from the bottle into the flambé pan.

Flames leap up. HONEY looks on, excited. HELEN splashes more Brandy
into the pan. The flames leap higher. HELEN laughs; HONEY is
mesmerized. HELEN sloshes a large amount of Brandy into the flambé
dish. There is an explosion of flames  - the fire backing up to the
bottle itself and igniting the fumes in it in a small explosion. HELEN
drops the bottle. Brandy sprays onto the carpet, the white ‘leather’
couch, igniting as it goes.


DANIEL drives his motor bike. JASPER clings on the back.


HELEN looks to her photo albums, arranged on the table by the burning

'leather' couch - in the early (and not particularly dangerous) stages
of a fire. She makes her way over to them, piles them on top of each
other and turns to rush from the increasingly smoky room. She bumps
into the edge of the table in her panic and knocks over the bottle of
kerosene. Kerosene spills from the bottle onto the table and then the
floor but does not, at this stage, come into contact with any flame.


HONEY stands in the smoky kitchen – mobile phone in hand.


Daniel, pick up. Please…

There is a flash of light in the doorway. The kerosene has ignited.


JASPER smiles happily as the wind whips the hair around her face.

DANIEL is driving fast. He leans the Harley over as he takes a corner.
The foot rest catches the bitumen, sends up a flurry of sparks. JASPER
laughs gleefully.


HONEY rushes into the room. HELEN is sprawled on the floor –photo

albums spread on the carpet in front of her. The fire is serious now.
HONEY helps HELEN to her feet, drags her towards the kitchen door.
HELEN looks back at her photo albums.


My photos!

HELEN pulls free of HONEY, rushes back to her photo albums.


CLOSE ON a footrest scraping the bitumen’; sending up an explosion of sparks.

CLOSE on JASPER laughing as DANIEL leans into yet another curve,

driving fast. Up ahead:

A fire engine. The glow of a fire in the distance

DANIEL overtakes the fire engine – siren blaring, red lights flashing.

Concern shows  in is face.


DANIEL and JASPER arrive a little ahead of the Fire Engine, get off

the motor bike and run towards the house. There is no sign on Helen or
Honey. JASPER screams.

HELEN and HONEY emerge from the front door – coughing and spluttering.

DANIEL and JASPER rush forward, hug them both. DANIEL turns, sees the
Fire Engine pulling up, runs to greet the FIREMEN.

HELEN and JASPER look back at the Fire Engine for a moment also and do

not notice that HONEY is staring at the fire –mesmerized. As FIREMEN
spill from the Fire Engine HONEY starts to walk towards the front door
– picking up pace as she goes. By the time HELEN and JASPER turn back
to the fire HONEY is walking fast now towards the front door.


Honey! No.

HELEN runs after HONEY. DANIEL turns, sees HONEY running now to the

front door. He takes off after her.


Honey, stop...

As HONEY disappears in through the front door, HELEN can see that

DANIEL intends to follow her. She intercepts him, grabs hold of him.



DANIEL struggles to free himself from HELEN. JASPER screams. TWO

FIREMEN can see what is going on and rush to the front door. They take
one look at the flames and decide not to go inside. DANIEL breaks free
of HELEN, arrives at the front door and tries to get past the FIREMEN.
They block his entrance.


No, mate…

JASPER runs into HELEN’S arms. HELEN holds JASPER tight – both of them

crying, hysterical.

JASPER (voice over)

There was nothing anyone could do. Honey had gone to meet her angels.


JASPER sits between DANIEL and HELEN in the church. The PRIEST waves

the thurible over the coffin.

JASPER (voice over)

At least that’s what we thought as we stood there,helpless…but God was
in that fire and he had his plans for Honey…

CLOSE ON the coffin.

JASPER (voice over)

Just like he did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abedigo.

The shot of the coffin tilts down to reveal, resting up against it,

Daniel’s portrait of Grant – his eyes blazing.


JASPER, clinging tightly to HELEN, watches the house burn – all three

in deep shock. Suddenly JASPER screams:



Behind an upstairs window, surrounded by fire, is HONEY.


HONEY, clutching something wrapped in a blanket, runs from the window

to the top of the stairs. They are on fire. She is trapped.


HELEN and JASPER are screaming; hysterical. DANIEL helps the FIREMEN

get a ladder from the side of the Fire Engine.


HONEY, seemingly mesmerized, stares into the flames leaping up the

stairway. She snaps out of it, runs to the window, tries to open it.
She can’t. It is locked. The heat is getting to her. She is surrounded
by flames now. She looks around for some escape route. Her eyes fall
on an antique chair.


HELEN and JASPER watch in panic as DANIEL and the FIREMEN run towards

the wall with a ladder.

The upstairs window shatters. In slow motion the antique chair flies

through the air. A moment later HONEY climbs onto the window sill,
clutching something wrapped in the blanket.

CLOSE on HONEY, framed by fire. She looks back to the fire, looks

down, closes her eyes and jumps. She falls, in slow motion, into the
arms of DANIEL and a FIREMAN - losing hold of the blanket-wrapped
object in her arms.

HELEN and JASPER greet HONEY with hugs, kisses, tears.

They watch the fire for a moment – all in various stages of shock.

HONEY’S hair is singed and she has some minor burns. An AMBULANCE
OFFICER rushes up to attend to HONEY.


HONEY sits at the back of an ambulance as the AMBULANCE OFFICER

dresses burns  on her arm. HONEY looks at

HELEN and JASPER watching the fire as DANIEL talks to a FIREMAN

nearby. JASPER turns, starts to walk back towards HONEY and the

HONEY takes out her mobile phone.

DANIEL rejoins HELEN and for a moment they look at the fire. HELEN

starts crying. DANIEL wraps his arms around her. HELEN looks back to
where HONEY sits behind the ambulance, mobile phone to her ear.


She risked her life for my silly photos.

HELEN smiles through her tears. DANIEL brushes them away. HELEN looks

at the house on fire – the FIREMEN now with hoses  playing on it.


Haven’t got a secret stash of marshmellows, I suppose!

DANIEL smiles, kisses HELEN lightly on the lips. They look at each –

deep into each others eyes. With flames leaping in the background
DANIEL moves to kiss HELEN again – his eyes wide open. They kiss –
their eyes locked on each others.

HONEY, mobile at her ear, waits nervously. In the background JASPER

stops alongside the object wrapped in a blanket.



There is no response.


I’m coming home, mum. A BEAT) I’m going to take care of you. (A BEAT)
I love you.

There is a long moment’s silence.


I love you too…(A BEAT) what’s your name these days?





JASPER finishes unwrapping the blanket. We do not see what is inside

it. She smiles, shakes her head in amazement, looks back to the
ambulance, sees HONEY talking animatedly on her mobile – her face
beaming with the happiest smile.

JASPER looks down at Helen’s battered violin case. She opens it and

takes out Helen’s violin – newly strung.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

HONEY # 12

...continuing on from HONEY # 11


HONEY, DANIEL, HELEN and JASPER walk towards the entrance to  the
court – outside of which awaits a media scrum. HELEN leans close to

HELEN (sotto voce)
Lie, deny, say nothing! Whatever you do, don’t tell them the truth, OK? Promise.


COURTNEY is in the witness box.

Miss Simpson, you told the arresting officers…

To one side of COURTNEY, in the dock, sits HONEY.

…that Miss Thomas, also known as Honey Williams, was in the car with
you that night.

DANIEL, HELEN, JASPER and REBECCA are in the court room.


But in your signed statement you claim that she was not with you.


And you will be aware that Simon Tremblow… Simmo… also insists that
Miss Thomas was not in the car that night.

Honey…I knew Catherine wanted to be locked up and…

You thought she’d appreciate you… dobbing her in?


A YOUTH WORKER is in the witness box.

I told her it wasn’t a holiday camp.

The JUDGE sighs, looks at the PROSECUTOR.

Do you wish to call any more witnesses?

No, your Honour.

What about me?

Is there something you’d like to tell the court?

HONEY looks to DANIEL and HELEN. HELEN shakes her head. HONEY looks at
the JUDGE, nods.


HONEY has her hand resting on a bible.

You do understand the importance of telling the truth, Miss Thomas?

The truth shall set you free, eh!

The JUDGE looks over the top of his spectacles at HONEY.

So help me God.

Can you tell the court anything about the events leading up to and
surrounding the attempted armed robbery of the chemist?

Yes, it was my idea. I got Simmo to write the note. He didn’t want to
do it. Nor did Courtney.

Miss Thomas, one of your ‘friends’ described you as a ‘pathological
liar’, isn’t that correct?

Yes, but, this time I’m not lying.

Isn’t that what a ‘pathological liar’ would say if she was hoping to
get herself locked up?

Maybe, but I don’t want to be locked up anymore. But I also want to
tell the truth and…

Miss Thomas, I suggest that it would be in your own best interests, in
this instance, to say no more…



DANIEL, glass of champagne in hand, proposes a toast.

 “The truth shall set you free.”

HELEN, JASPER, HONEY and JASMIN – seated around the dining table
(first course completed) – laugh, raise their glasses.

“The truth shall set you free.”

JASMIN has Honey’s journal open in front of her.

When I lie everyone believes me! When I tell the truth the Judge
thinks I’m lying.

HELEN stands, collects dishes as JASMIN turns a page and bursts out
laughing. CLOSE ON:

A caricature of Daniel.

JASMIN holds it up for all to see. Everyone laughs.


HELEN places a jug, desert plates, spoons and forks on a tray, glances
back into the Dining Room where she sees:

JASMIN turning a page of Honey’s journal, reacting with shock to what
she reads there. JASMIN looks up, tries to catch DANIEL’S attention
with her eyes.

HELEN freezes, thinks for a moment, composes herself, picks up the
tray, walks back into the Dining Room, places the tray on the table as
JASMIN hands the journal back to HONEY.


HELEN empties her glass of wine, lights the chafing dish with a long
match. Her eyes are on Honey’s journal. With the happiest smile she
can muster:

Can I get a copy of the caricature of Daniel?

HELEN holds out her hand.

Of course!

HONEY hands her the journal, smiles at DANIEL. HELEN  flips pages,
arrives at the caricature, keeps flipping until she finds the page she
is interested in. JASMIN turns pale. DANIEL wonders what is going on.
Suddenly, the tension at the table is palpable. HELEN reads, her face
hardening into a mask.

Anyone else have any secrets they’d like to share tonight? Daniel? Jasmin?

A look of horror crosses JASMIN’S face.

Lying is not an option tonight, Jasmin. “The truth shall set you free.”

JASPER turns to HONEY angrily.

You wrote it in your diary? Duh!

Wrote what?

Jasmin is just about to tell us, aren’t you, Jasmin?

HELEN glares at DANIEL.

Or maybe you’d would like to share yours and Jasmin’s little secret
with us…darling!?

There is no secret.

Fucking Jasmin’s not a secret! Excuse me! Am I the only one who doesn’t know it?

We did not…

HELEN cuts DANIEL off, turns on JASMIN angrily.

I thought you were my friend!

We didn’t fuck, Helen. We didn’t make love. We didn’t…

Kiss? Yes? No?

DANIEL and JASMIN’S silence speaks volumes.

Get the fuck out of my house. Both of you.


Yes, we kissed.

With your eyes open?

DANIEL and JASMIN exchange glances.


HELEN throws a plate at DANIEL. It hits the wall, shatters.

Mum, stop it…

HELEN  holds her hands up to quieten JASPER. DANIEL walks up to HELEN
in hopes of placating her. She steps back from him.

Just go.

Mum, don’t do this…

Oh, it’s me doing this, is it Jasper!? If you want to take your
father’s side, fine! I don’t give a fuck!


DANIEL signals to JASPER to stop. JASPER bursts into tears and runs
out the front door. HONEY looks on, distressed, moves to pick up
pieces of broken plate. HELEN stares into space; seems not to notice


HELEN pours herself half a tumbler of Brandy, takes a gulp, looks
through the front door to where HONEY sits on the front step talking
on her mobile phone. She turns to JASMIN.

Why are you still here?

I want to tell you something.

I don’t want to hear it.

I’m not going to lie to you, promise.

I want you to lie to me! The truth is too hard…

JASMIN walks up to HELEN, takes her by the hand, leads her to the
white ‘leather’ couch.

Daniel and me…

HELEN covers her ears. JASMIN uncovers them.


DANIEL sits in front of his computer. He has been using photoshop to
‘touch up’ the photo of Jasmin, but has turned and now faces JASMIN,
sits beside him. They are listening to Tim Buckely’s ‘Sweet
Surrender’. This is a flashback.

TIM BUCKLY (sings)
“Sweet surrender, surrender. If we could just surrender”

I wish, I wish, I wish…


That I could surrender.

Surrender what?

My heart, my soul…to the man I love.

Who’s the lucky man?

I’m still waiting! He’s running a bit late. (DANIEL LAUGHS) And you?

She arrived just in time.

JASMIN smiles, looks at DANIEL for a long moment.

Have you? Surrendered?

DANIEL hesitates for a moment, then shakes his head.

And Helen?

DANIEL shakes his head. JASMIN looks at him quizzically.

We’re both a bit scared.


DANIEL looks into JASMIN’S eyes for a long moment.

Saying ‘yes’, I guess. For better, for worse…bla, bla bla…

JASMIN nods, smiles, looks away, becomes shy, vulnerable, looks back
at DANIEL. DANIEL’S and JASMIN’S kiss starts tentatively but soon
becomes passionate. They both keep their eyes open – each with one eye
just millimeters from one eye of the other.

Helen is a lucky girl.

Daniel is a lucky boy.

JASMIN smiles, nods.


HELEN looks at JASMIN for a long moment.

Why is it so difficult to say ‘yes’?

JASMIN shakes her head.

I wish I knew!

HONEY (voice off)

HELEN and JASMIN become aware of HONEY standing behind them.

…you open your heart so wide when you say ‘yes’…your heart breaks when
all you get back is… ‘no’.

Why does Daniel talk to you about his heart, to both of you…and not to me?

Why do you talk with me about things you don’t talk to Daniel about?

HELEN looks at HONEY in shock – the relevance of what she is saying
sinking in slowly. The sound of a car horn breaks the silence. HONEY
picks up her backpack.

HONEY moves forward, kisses HELEN on the cheek, hands her a small
parcel wrapped in colourful paper.

Just a little…something…

HELEN, still in something of a daze, looks at the parcel.

Thank you for everything. See ya Jasmin.

Take care of yourself, Honey. Don’t be a stranger.

HONEY nods, glances at HELEN briefly, walks out the door. HELEN and
JASMIN look at each other. HELEN looks at the present in her hands.
Only now does it register for her that Honey has gone. She leaps to
her feet, rushes to the front door to see John’s blue car driving off
up the street.


A taxi pulls up. JASMIN opens the door, turns back to HELEN, standing
beside her.

You going to be okay?

Is okay enough?

JASMIN wraps her arms around HELEN, hugs her.


JOHN drives. HONEY, in the passenger seat, stares out the front
window, tears in her eyes. JOHN, registers HONEY’S mood, takes a vial
of pills out of his pocket, tosses them to HONEY. She catches them,
looks at the vial, unscrews the cap. be continued...