Saturday, March 15, 2014

If I am in a Cambodian jail on 2nd April this letter to the Global Development Group's lawyer might provide some clues as to why and how this came about

Brisbane based Global Development Group disburses $25 million a year to NGOs around the world. One of these NGOs is Brisbane-based Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ – the NGO that illegally removed Rosa, (below) and her sister Chita from their family in 2008.

The removal and detention of Rosa and Chita by Citipointe has taken place with the blessing of the Global Development Group – despite it being a breach of Cambodian law and  breach of the Australian Council for International Development’s Code of Conduct (ACFID).

The forced conversion of children is also contrary to AusAID guidelines but this fact is of no interest to AusAID, to ACFID or Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

When I received an email from a lawyer employed by the Global Development Group on 28th Feb I figured that there was likely to be a dramatic new development soon. There was. On 2nd April I have to appear in court to be sentenced for having threatened to blackmail Citipointe church.

The court proceedings were conducted without my knowledge, without my being invited to attend, without my being provided with any evidence in support of the charges against me.  In anticipation that something like this might happen I had, placed the following letter to Billie Jean Slott on file on 9th March.

If I wind up with a custodial sentence on 2nd April and an intrepid journalist is trying to figure out how I came to be detained in a Cambodian jail, this letter to Billie Jean might provide some clues.

A few months after Rosa was illegally removed from her family by Citipoitne, in July 2008, church staff gave this photo to Chanti to leave her in no doubt at all that her daughter was a Buddhist no longer but would be brought up, until she was 18, as a Pentecostal Christian. Quite apart from the illegality of Rosa and her sister Chita's removal, the forced indoctrination of children into the Christian faith is a breach of the ACFID Code of Conduct and a breach of AusAID rules.  

Billie Jean Slott
Legal Advisor
Sciaroni and Associates No 24, Street 462
Sangkat, Tonle Bassac

9th  March 2014

Dear Billie Jean

It is now 9 days since I received the following email from you:

Dear James

I have been engaged by GDG to review documentation that has been reviewed by the organization.

Please note I am instructed to have no further correspondence with you. I will not respond to any emails that you write nor will I feel obligated to report to you as you are not the client.   

Best regards


I do appreciate that you have been asked, by the Global Development Group, to play a role in this matter at the last minute – at the end of a process that began more than five years ago. And yes, there is a lot of correspondence to wade through. However, as a lawyer, you know that the only correspondence that matters here is that which relates to the legality of Citipointe church’s actions in 2008. As for the rest of the correspondence, let the Spin Doctors have their fun with that!

Rosa (right) and Chita (left) in 2005 - two very happy (if poor) children whose parents - Chanti and Chhork - struggled to make ends meet but loved their daughters dearly.
As resident in Cambodia, as someone practicing law here, you will have a better understanding of the judicial system than I do. However, I have had enough experience with it to know that it is hopeless and incompetent. And that is putting it mildly and politely. It has been suggested to me many times this past five years that I might like to meet with ‘the police’ who would be able to arrange for the release of Rosa and Chita. I have declined all such offers, perhaps foolishly.

The question I ask myself now is this: Have you been employed by GDG to provide a legal opinion regarding Citipointe’s actions in 2008 in terms of Australian law or in terms of Cambodian law? Actually there is little difference between Australian law and Cambodian law in the matter of Rosa and Chita’s removal. There is a world of difference, however, between the two counties in the administration of their respective laws.

Rosa, 2005. Chhork is not the biological father to Rosa but has been the only dad she has known and Chhork loves her very much. A quietly spoken, shy and gentle man, Chhork is as close to a perfect father as I have ever met in my life. He has borne the suffering he has endured at the kidnapping of his daughters with great dignity - pouring his love into his other four children. My many invitations to the Global Development Group to have one of its three Cambodian staff meet and talk with Chhork and Chanti in February this year have been ignored. The Global Development Group board knows full well that Rosa and Chita were essentially kidnapped by Citipointe church in 2008 but couldn't care less. All the evidence I have at my disposal suggests that Geoff Armstrong, Executive Director of the Global Development Group, is a member of Citipointe church.

As you will see from the attached letter to Ms Sam Mostyn, the Cambodian legal system can be abused by the likes of Citipointe church to present to a court whatever nonsensical allegations it chooses to. Facts and evidence are not required. Allegations will suffice. And the person against whom these allegations have been made (myself in this instance) do not even find out what they are until 17 months later and only then because Judge Phou Pov Sun allowed me to look at the file.

No doubt you will have seen the court document dated 30th Oct 2012. I hope that the following questions arose for you – as I am sure they would have if it were me you were representing and not Citipointe church. Yes, Billie, in reality you have been brought on board to defend Citipointe. I did not, as my mother used to say in situations such as this, come down in the last shower! In order to appear credible itself, the Global Development Group must stand by Citipointe and do all t can to stop people such as myself asking questions.

- Is anything in this statement by Nicole Roberts true? Any evidence at all in support of any of her allegations?

- Why has James Ricketson not been provided with any information at all regarding Ms Roberts’ allegations this past 17 months?

- Why has this warrant sat on Judge Phou Pov Sun’s desk for 17 months and only been executed two days after Geoff Armstrong wrote to me in terms that now clearly refer to this document?

- How is it that Geoff Armstrong knows of the content of the warrant but the person against whom the allegations have been made does not?

Rosa's new dancing doll - a still from my documentary, CHANTI'S WORLD. This is about a year prior to Citipointe church's kidnapping of Rosa and her sister.

The answer to all of these questions is, of course, “This is Cambodia!” If you have money and power you can do what you like in this country!

In your advice to the Global Development Group will you be taking any moral considerations into account? Will you be applying any of the legal principles that would apply in Australia?  Or is your job to find each and every loophole within the Cambodian judicial system to thwart Chanti and Chhork’s attempts to get their daughters back? It would, for instance, be very easy to see to it that the allegations against me, which have sat in a file this past 17 months, can sit in a file for another 17 months; that Geoff Armstrong or his replacement (there are a few good reasons why he should be sacked) can write a curt letter to me in two years saying that due process necessitates the completion of the police investigation etc. You could orchestrate all this, Billie, with ease. I have no reason to believe you will or that the though would cross your mind but I have been coming to Cambodia for too many years to discount the possibility.

Chanti turned down many offers from Cambodians and foreigners alike to buy Rosa from her for $10,000. She did not even seriously consider these offers. "I love my daughter," she says in CHANTI'S WORLD. Citipointe managed, however, with a phony 'contract' to steal Rosa from her -  with the blessing of the Brisbane-based Global Development Group and corrupt Cambodian officials in the Ministry of Social Welfare.

It is, of course, imperative now that GDG do all it can to prevent the return of Rosa and Chanti to their family. For the girls to be returned to the family would be de facto admission that Citipointe should not have kept the girls for any longer than a few months – until Nov 2008 when the family lived on a house boat and the parents had two income streams. The return of the girls would raise questions about GDG’s complicity in the illegal detention of Rosa and Chita, which in turn would raise a whole host of questions about GDG that I am sure it would not want discussed openly in any public arena.

You know full well, Billie, that behavior of the kind manifested by Citipointe church would, in Australia, see Pastor Leigh Ramsay, Helen Shields and Rebecca Brewer charged and in court before a judge. They would be forced to answer serious charges relating to the document these three women (pretending to be from LICADHO) induced Chanti to sign on 31st. July 2008, amongst many other charges. Legal proceedings would also involve Pastor Brian Mulheran being asked, under oath, questions relating to his letter of 21st Feb in which he issued scarcely veiled threats against me. And, of course, questions relating to the failure of the Global Development Group’s monitoring and assessment processes to detect and then deal appropriately with the illegal removal of children by a GDG-funded NGO – an NGO run by a church which, the evidence suggests, GDG’s Executive Director, Geoff Armstong, is a member of!

Rosa and Chanti a couple of years before Rosa's kidnapping by Citipointe church

I imagine that there must be times when using Cambodian law (or the lack of it, in reality) to help your clients, whilst at the same time obeying the dictates of your own moral conscience, must be challenging. What do you do if, in order to fulfill the brief provided to you by your client, you must turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses that will inevitably flow from the advice you give, if taken up? If indeed GDG has brought you on board to find legal loopholes, to find ways of using a corrupt  and incompetent Cambodian judiciary to prevent Chanti and Chhork getting their daughters back, you may well succeed in the short term. In the long term, I have the footage – graphic evidence of what has taken place that no number of spin doctors and lawyers is going to be able to refute.

In this instance, Citipointe church was, in 2008, in clear breach of laws that would apply in Australia if the church had fostered Rosa and Chita. In 2008 Citipointe was also in breach of Cambodian law since, as I am sure you know by now, the MOU with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not give the church to hold Rosa and Chita against their parents express wishes after August 11th 2008.

Rosa, at home with her family a year before she was stolen by Citipointe. Her grandmother, Vanna, is cooking for the family on a stove in the background and her mother, Chanti can be seen at the left. This was a happy but materially poor family - ripe to be exploited by an unscrupulous NGO such as Citipointe's 'SHE Rescue Home' - with the blessing of the Brisbane-based Global Development Group.

I now know the contents of this MOU but do not have a hard copy of it – a hard copy that I will require to commence legal proceedings against Citipointe church in Australia. There are numerous ways that I can acquire a copy of this MOU, including asking the Hon Julie Bishop to provide it and, if this does not yield results, making a suing Citipointe in the Supreme Court of Queensland. This would involve considerable time and expense on my part to acquire a document that the Global Development Group has in its possession.

This letter to you, as a lawyer, is to place on record that I have, several times now, requested that the Global Development Group provide Chanti, Chhork and myself with a copy of this MOU. The Global Development Group not only refuses to do so but refuses to provide any reason for not doing so. Natural justice demands that any organization (government or non-government) that removes children from their family, must provide a reason for doing so. Natural justice demands that the parents be provided with copies of any and all documents relating to the legality of the organizations removal of their children – both government and non-government. Natural justice demands that the parents be informed as to the reasons why their children have been removed; be provided an opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them that have led to the loss of their children and lodge an appeal; to be informed as to their visitation rights with their children; to be informed as to the rights of the children to be brought up, if justifiably institutionalized against the parents wishes, in accordance with their own religion, customs and traditions; that the parents be informed as to what they must do to have their children returned to their care.

Chanti, unable to either read or write, but with a basic knowledge of the English language, wants her children to have the education she missed out on growing up as a beggar on the streets of Phnom Penh. Here. from CHANTI'S WORLD she is teaching Rosa to count to 10.

Citipointe church has abrogated all of these parental and children’s rights. The Global Development Group has, since it entered into a funding relationship with Citipointe, been complicit in these human rights abuses. In March 2014 the Global Development Group is complicit in the illegal removal of the girls in 2008 and their continued detention in 2014. Regardless of what the family’s circumstances might have been in mid 2008, today they are land-owners with a home, a rice paddy, a tuk tuk and 3 children in a private school. There is no reason for them not to be returned to their family.

You may well have the Global Development Group as your client, Billie, but you also have a responsibility, under Australian law (if not Cambodian law) to see to it that the human rights of Chanti and Chhork are not further abrogated as a result of your advice.

Rosa in school, around a year before she was kidnapped by Citipointe church with the blessing of a Global Development Group board that has evinced no interest at all in the illegality of Citipointe's actions but has employed a lawyer, Billie Jean Slott, to make their public relations problem go away.

My letter of today to Ms Sam Mostyn, attached, will fill you in on at least one of the behind-the-scenes developments of the past few days.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Father of the Year, Chhork. With baby # 6, Poppy. Citipointe, with the blessing of the Global Development Group, with the indifference of AusAID and DFAT, stole his two eldest daughters in 2008. Their skin is brown, their religion is not Christianity and they are poor and so not worthy of DFAT, ACFID or AusAID even adhering to their own guidelines or Codes of Conduct. Welcome to Australia, March 2014!

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