Friday, March 14, 2014

A 'defamatory' letter to Julie Bishop accusing Citipointe church of kidnapping

The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

14th March 2014

Dear Minister

On 12th March, on the same day that I wrote to you, on the same day that I wrote the enclosed letter to Citipointe church and the Global Development Group, I was supposed to appear in court in Phnom Penh on charges that I had defamed Citipointe. I learnt this only when it was pointed out to me in a newspaper article the following day.

I was served with no summons by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, there was no warrant and I have been appraised of none of the evidence in support of the charges brought by Citipointe. This is the way the judiciary operates in Cambodia, as I am sure you are very well aware.  The defamation charge is nonsense. It is yet another attempt on the part of Citipointe church to intimidate me.

It is my intention in this letter, to defame Citipointe as effectively as I can in hopes that the church will sue me in Australia and be obliged, by the court to produce the MOU it entered into with the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It seems that only in this way, in an Australian court of law, will it be possible for Yem Chanthy (Chanti) and Both Chhork to be provided with copies of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that the church claims gave it the right to remove their daughters, Rosa and Chita, from the family in 2008.

It should not be necessary for me to be courting a defamation suit in order to force Citipointe and the Global Development Group to provide the parents with a copy of this MOU. It should be possible for someone with the authority to do so within DFAT, within AusAID to get on the phone and tell Citipointe church and the board of the Global Development Group that Chanti and Chhork have a legal and moral right to copies of the MOU and to provide them today. Both Citipointe and the GDG are able to take advantage of a tax-deductible status conferred on them by AusAID. It should be possible for AusAID to ask this question; to hold both NGOs accountable. Indeed, it should be of great concern to AusAID that Citipointe church, with the tacit approval of the Global Development Group board, has illegally removed two children from their family in Cambodia. If this is so, they have broken Cambodian law and breached the Code of Conduct of the Australian Council for International Development. If it is not so, they should be able to produce the MOU immediately; an MOU that Chanti, Chhork and myself, as their legally appointed advocate, have been asking for copies of for five years now.

Here are my ‘defamatory’ allegations.

(1) In July 2008 Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Helen Shields and Rebecca Brewer lied to Chanti and to myself about the help Citipointe church was offering to provide to the family during a financial crisis.

(2) On 31st July 2008 Citipointe staff, pretending to be representatives of LICADHO, a Cambodian human rights organization, lied about the contents of the document they tricked Chanti and her mother into signing with their thumb point.

(3) On 11th August 2008 Rebecca Brewer lied when, in an email to myself and in conversations with Chanti, she claimed that the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ gave Citipointe church the legal right to detain Rosa and Chita until they were 18.

(4) During July and August 2008 Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Helen Shields and Rebecca Brewer employed lies and deceit to illegally take custody of the children of two materially poor Cambodians. Or, to use language that might make a defamation lawyer’s job a little easier, Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Rebecca Brewer and Helen Shields knowingly, deliberately and in a conspiracy with each other, kidnapped Rosa and Chita from their parents.

(5) Over the years Pastor Leigh Ramsey has, on many occasions, promised Chanti and Chhork the imminent return of their daughters. This has never transpired. Pastor Leigh Ramsey is a liar.

(6) In my meetings with Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Rebecca Brewer and Helen Shields in July 2008, they assured that re-integration of Rosa and Chita back into the family was not only a top priority but that the church would be helping the entire family to become self-sufficient. This was a lie. In five and a half years Citipointe has not provided $1 of assistance to the family. Indeed, on a couple of occasions when Chanti has been ill, Citipointe has offered no assistance at all. The most extreme example of this lack of compassion is to be found in Feb 2013 when Chanti, 8 months pregnant, contracted pneumonia. ( Her elevated temperature posed a threat to the well-being of her soon-to-be-born baby(Poppy) but not even a potentially life-threatening scenario was going to deflect Citipointe from its determination to keep the family as poor as possible in order to be able to use this poverty as a reason to continue to detail Rosa and Chita. Let me quote from Rebecca Brewer’s email of 24th Oct 2008:

“Regarding continued support to Chanti, we are unable to assist with distributing this sort of aid. Our focus is to assist the children in our care as needed and the work we do with the parents is limited. If we were to be seen giving handouts to one individual parent it could prove very disruptive to the rest of the community.”

This was totally contrary to what Pastor Ramsey, Helen Shields and Rebecca Brewer had told both Chanti and myself. It is also contrary to what Citipointe claims on its website.

There is another aspect of this 24th Oct 2008 email that is of interest. At the time I was unaware of the fraudulent nature of the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’. Ms Brewer writes:

“Regarding taking Rosa and Cheata  out for a day with their mother, unfortunately we are unable to accommodate this request. Our policies require that the children in our care remain in the custody of our staff members at all times. I’m sure you understand the need for us to maintain strict guidelines and policies to ensure the safety of all of the children in our care.”

At the time she wrote these words, Ms Brewer knew that Citipointe had no legal right to be holding Rosa and Chita and, hence, no legal right to be refusing to allow the girls to go out for the day with their mother.

(7) Citipointe church, whilst providing not $1 in financial support for the family, has exploited Rosa and Chita by presenting the girls to the world as ‘victims of human trafficking.’ This is a lie. A lie of enormous proportions – perpetrated by Citipointe to raise money for the church through donations and sponsorships. Despite its being fraudulent, the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ makes abundantly clear that it was poverty and not victimhood of any kind that resulted in Chanti and Chhork being offered assistance by the church.

As for Pastor Brian Mulheran, I have already referred to him as a ‘Pentecostal thug’. If this is not enough to initiate defamation proceedings, perhaps the following will make it easier for Citipointe’s lawyers. First, a quote from Pastor Mulheran’s letter of 21st Feb 2013:

“Using the law is the last thing that we want to see happen, because for you to be convicted of a crime and serve a sentence may mean that you will never have the opportunity to re-enter Cambodia again.”

It is statements such as this that give mafias of all different kinds their deserved reputation for intimidation – “We would hate to see your shop burn down or anything unpleasant to happen to your children!”  The clear purpose of Pastor Mulheran’s letter was to intimidate me into silence. I was interfering with the church’s child-stealing scam.

The recent flurry of legal activity in Cambodia (in the form of spurious charges brought against me by Citipointe) is making real what Pastor Mulheran threatened – namely my potential arrest, jailing and being banned from travelling to Cambodia.
Pastor Mulheran has known all along that Citipointe had no legal right to remove Rosa and Chita in 2008 and so has been part of the kidnapping and detention scam from the outset. He, Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Rebecca Brewer and Helen Shields should all be charged with whatever the appropriate charge in Australia is for deceiving Chanti into signing a fraudulent ‘contract’, lying about its contents and then using a document with no legal standing to justify the church’s continued detention of Rosa and Chita.

Please, Minister, bring this five year long running farce to an end and insist that Citipointe and the Global Development Group provide Chanti, Chhork and myself with a copy of the MOU the church insists gave it the right to as it did in 2008. It is not appropriate that tax-deductible Australian dollars be used to break up families and to indoctrinate children into the Christian faith.

If Citipointe and the Global Development Group cannot demonstrate, by producing the MOU, that the church was acting legally in 2008, the tax-deductible status of both NGOs should be terminated by AusAID. If Citipointe and the Global Development Group can demonstrate the legality of the church’s removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008 I expect to hear from their lawyers in the not-too-distant future.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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