Thursday, March 20, 2014

Can't get a simple 'yes' or 'no' question from Ms Sam Mostyn, President, ACFID

Ms Sam Mostyn
Australian Council for International Development              

20th  March 2014

Dear Ms Mostyn

It is now more than a month since I wrote my first letter to you, on 18th Feb. You have not had the professional courtesy to even acknowledge receipt of this or any other of my subsequent letters. Yes, I have had some communication with an ACFID Spin Doctor (Chris Adams) but other than that, silence. No answers to questions. Not even those that require no more than a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer. As for Marc Purcell, his brief email responses to me reveal him to be little more than a Spin Doctor being paid, presumably, a higher wage than Chris Adams.

I have had sufficient dealings with Spin Doctors over the years to know what a waste of time it is communicating with them. Their job is to obfuscate and lie so that people such as yourself can avoid answering questions and appear blameless if and when the organization you head is found to be corrupt or incompetent. Such is the world we live in, based on the increasingly false premise that we stupid members of the general public will believe whatever nonsense Spin Doctors feed to us.

I have written to you quite deliberately this past month since, as President, you are the captain of the ACFID boat and, much as you might like to be able to blame someone further down the hierarchical ladder (Marc Purcell, say), this will not wash if it is you who have been asked the questions. And they are not difficult ones. Let me ask again:

“Do parents in the 3rd world whose children are removed by Australian NGOs (supposedly working in accordance with the ACFID Code of Conduct) have a right to be provided with documents relating to the legality of their chldren’s removal?”

In this case, the document in question is an MOU that Citipointe claims it entered into with the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008. This is an MOU that Geoff Armstrong insists the Global Development Group has a copy of.

Given that the existence or non-existence of this 2008 MOU goes to the very heart of the legality of the church’s actions, why does ACFID steadfastly refuse to demand of Citipointe that it provide a copy to Chanti and Chhork, to myself as their legally appointed advocate; to journalists now following this story?

Given that the Global Development Group is a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct, why do you, as President, steadfastly refuse to ask Geoff Armstrong, Executive Director of the Global Development Group, to provide you with a copy? Is this because Marc Purcell is a friend of Geoff’s? Or is the ‘Geoff’ Marc refers to in his email of XXX another Geoff altogether?

Let’s just say that, after five years of asking, an MOU appears that does give Citipointe (and hence other NGOs) the right to remove children from their families, the question still remains:

“Do the parents have a right to (a) be provided with a copy of the MOU, (b) be provided with reasons for their children’s removal, (c) be provided with an avenue of appeal against the decision to remove, (d) to be informed as to their visitation rights, (e) be able to request that their children not be indoctrinated into a branch of the Christian faith, and (f) of what they must do to get their children back?”

Or is it OK for an NGO provided with tax-deductible status by AusAID and ACFID to enter into any agreement it likes with a government department in Cambodia (and other 3rd world countries) and then use this MOU to do pretty much whatever it pleases, answerable to no-one? If so, of what use is ACFID? Of what use is a Code of Conduct that can simply be breached by an unscrupulous NGO entering into whatever MOU arrangement it likes with a corrupt government official in the 3rd world?

Does ACFID have any interest at all in safeguarding the legal and human rights of the parents whose children are removed from their families to take up residence in sham ‘orphanages’? Is ACFID concerned about the rights of the children so removed? It is telling, despite all of my correspondence to date, that no-one from AusAID, no-one from DFAT, no representative of the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, no representative of ACFID has even thought to talk with the parents of the removed girls – Chanti and Chhork. They are deemed to be irrelevant – the fate of their brown-skinned Buddhist daughters in the hands of bureaucrats (government and non-government) in Australia who cannot be bothered to even pick up the phone and speak with them.

At present Citipointe is trying everything it can do to shut me up, to shut me down. The church is putting into action what Pastor Brian Mulheran threatened on 21st Feb 2013 – to have me arrested, charged and banned from making future trips to Cambodia. The charges against me are so ludicrous (‘hindering’, ‘blackmail’, ‘profiting from prostitution’) that they would be laughable were Cambodia not a country in which a journalist can receive a jail sentence for suggesting that the hanging of fairy lights off Angkor Wat might not be such a great idea!

It will not surprise me at all if, when I arrive in Cambodia tomorrow evening if I am arrested at the airport on whatever new dodgy charges Citipointe may like to bring against me. In the event that this occurs and I wind up in court I would certainly like to have with me a copy of the MOU that Citipointe claims to have entered into with ‘Foreign Affairs’ in 2008. This could be my ‘Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free’ card. It would also provide cogent evidence as to why Pastor Leigh Ramsey should be charged with the illegal removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008.

If ACFID takes its Code of Conduct seriously, if ACFID has any commitment at all to the precepts of transparency and accountability you should be able to get on the phone to Pastor Leigh Ramsey and Geoff Armstrong today and say:

“Please scan and send a copy of the 2008 MOU in the next two hours.”

If the 2008 MOU did not give Citipointe the right to detain Rosa and Chita contrary to the express wishes of their parents, ACFID should immediately do whatever is in its power to close the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ down or, at the very least, strip the NGO of its tax-deductible status. ACFID should immediately insist that Citipointe provide copies of all documents relating to all of the girls the church has ‘rescued’ this past five years. How many other girls were illegally removed? How many other parents’ hearts have been broken as a result of placing their thumb prints on ‘contracts’ as fraudulent as the 31st July 2008 Citipointe got Chanti to sign.

At what point did the Global Development Group partner with (and fund) Citipointe? Did the Global Development Group ever ask Citipointe for documents relating to the legality of its actions in removing Rosa and Chita and other girls in 2008? If not, is this simple incompetence or is it a breach of ACFID guidelines? And if it is a breach, does ACFID have the power to give the Global Development Group anything other than a slap on the wrist?

A whole host of questions will arise if the 2008 MOU does not give Citipointe the rights the church has exercised this past 5 years? And these questions should be addressed in a very public context – not behind closed doors. And anyone (including yourself) who may be a friend of Geoff Armstrong’s or Pastor Leigh Ramsey or who is a member of Citipointe church should not be involved in any investigation that takes place.

If ACFID is not complicit in the illegal removal of children from their families, if only through its refusal to ask questions, prove it today by getting hold of a copy of the contentious MOU and making it public.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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