Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Citipointe church's illegal removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008 has the tacit approval of Prime Minister Tony Abbott

In 2008 Citipointe church stole Rosa (right) and Chita, (left) from their materially poor Cambodian parents. The church then utilized tax-deductible Australian charity dollars to indoctrinate them as Pentecostal Christians for close to 6 years - presenting Rosa and Chita to donors and sponsors as ‘victims of human trafficking’ to raise money for the church. Citipointe has done so with the tacit approval of 4 Australian Foreign Ministers and the Australian Council for International Development.

The Hon. Tony Abbott, MP

Prime Minister

Parliament House


15th April 2014

Dear Prime Minister

You have decided, or those in your office who advise you have decided, to ignore my correspondence regarding the illegal removal in 2008 of two girls from their family by an Australian based NGO in receipt of AusAID-approved tax-deductible funding.

The same applies for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, for Cambodia’s Ambassador Alison Burrow and for ACFID’s President, Ms Sam Mostyn. Clearly a decision has been made at the highest level not to ask Citipointe church to provide documented proof of the church’s legal right of removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008 and of their detention to this day. Your collective refusal to ask Citipointe for the MOUs is open to a number of interpretations – none of which reflect well on the Abbott government’s commitment to the precepts of transparency and accountability.

I am as tired of writing letters such as this as you (and those to whom they are copied) as you will be of receiving them. I will continue to do so, however, to place on record my many attempts to get the Australian government, at some level, to start asking pertinent questions of Citipointe church and the Global Development Group. If, as seems to be the case, there is no will, no desire, at any level of your government to acquire copies of the MOUs, I will pursue the obtaining of them in other ways open to me.

If and when I obtain them, there will be egg on many faces within DFAT if the MOUs did not give Citipointe and the Global Development Group the rights the church has asserted this past five (close to six) years. The question will arise:

“Why is it that there has been no-one, whose job it has been, since mid 2008, to see that Australian aid is spent responsibly and in accordance with AusAID rules and the ACFID Code of Conduct,  prepared to ask Citipointe and the Global Development Group for contractual evidence that the church acted in accordance with Cambodian law in removing Rosa and Chita?”

Every afternoon, down by the Bassac River in downtown Phnom Penh, another Christian NGO in April 2014 is replicating the actions of Citipointe in 2008 - 'grooming' children and their parents in preparation for the offer too good to refuse. If these Christians were men grooming children for the purposes of sexual exploitation all hell would break loose and Christian NGOs would be falling over themselves to ‘rescue’ them. If, however, the intention of these Christians is to win souls for Jesus Christ and, in the process, alienate these kids from their families, their religion, their communities and their culture, it is deemed to be perfectly OK! It would not be OK in any of the countries from which these NGOs receive their funding, of course!

It is easy to understand why the Cambodian government allows the stealing of children to continue (the country is, after all, a corrupt dictatorship in which there is no effective rule of law) but why does the international donor community allow it to continue? Why does Australia maintain an undignified silence? Could it be because the business of 'rescuing' children is conducted, for the most part, by Christians in search of souls to save? Could it be that the turning of so many blind eyes within the Australian Embassy, AusAID, DFAT, ACFID and right through to the offices of Julie Bishop and the Prime Minister, there is a powerful Christian lobby group that believes evangelical Christians have a right, a duty, to save the souls of the children of materially poor Buddhist (heathen) parents in countries such as Cambodia?

This is a question, not a statement. However, I find it difficult to think of any other explanation for the refusal, on the part of so many whose job it is to ask questions about the expenditure of Australian aid, to ask Citipointe and GDG for evidence that the removal of Rosa and Chita was legal. For Evangelical Christians the question of legality is trumped by an adherence to the literal dictates of the Bible.

There is another reason why the MOUs are now important. A personal reason. A couple of weeks ago Judge Keo Mony sentenced me to a two year jail sentence (suspended) and a $1,500 fine for “threatening to dishonor Citipointe church.” In my subsequent conversations with Judge Keo Mony I have asked him to request of Citipointe that the church provide evidence that it had a legal right to remove Rosa and Chita in the first place. He refuses to ask for the MOUs, claiming that they are not relevant to the charges the church has brought against me!

In relation to the second lot of charges brought against me by Citipointe - ‘hindering’ and ‘profiting from prostitution’ (by selling a documentary in 1996 that deals in part with prostitution) – the Investigating Judge Phou Pov Sun, was initially prepared to ask Citipointe for the MOUs. He has subsequently changed his mind and told me that it is up to me to acquire copies of the MOUs.

So, in the not-too-distant future I will have to face yet another trial in court. Hopefully, this time around I will be served with a summons and notified of the date of the trial. My most powerful defense (perhaps my only defense) will be presenting the MOUs to the Trial Judge (quite separate from the Investigating Judge) and asking him if they gave Citipointe the legal right of removal in 2008 in accordance with Cambodian law. If the MOUs did not, I have no case to answer today as I have, this past five years, done nothing other than request of the Cambodian authorities (along with a multitude now of Australian stake-holders) that Citipointe’s ‘illegal removal’ be investigated. I have not been ‘hindering’ Citipointe. I have been advocating on behalf of the parents to have their children returned by the church that stole them.

I don’t imagine that I will receive a response to this letter, or answers to any of the questions I have asked in this or in previous letters. However, my questions are on record now and the absence of any action on the part of your office will prove a challenge to your spin doctors if I do manage to acquire copies of the MOUs; if their contents reveal that I have been right this past close to six years and all those who have, wittingly or unwittingly, been protecting Citipointe church and the Global Development Group, have been wrong.

best wishes

James Ricketson


  1. Ricketson, what with the Abbott government wanting to offload refugees onto Cambodia and hoping to get as little publicity as possible in the process there is no way DFAT is going to address the questions you have raised. To do so would risk opening up a can of worms that it does not want opened as negotiations with the Cambodian government proceed to their obvious conclusion. Suck it up, man, and accept that you have, yet again, lost the battle. Admirable though your efforts may be there does seem to be an element of masochism in your continually engaging in battles that you should know in advance that you cannot win. Best of luck, anyway!

    1. Freddy, having little chance of winning in a battle to see justice done is not a reason to withdraw from the battle. It is a reason to think of more imaginative ways of engaging in a battle with an 'enemy' that is better connected and better resourced. Guerrilla tactics are required to counter Pastor Brian Mulhran's Gorilla tactics! The Fat Lady has not sung yet!

    2. Yes, but if 'seeing justice done' lands you in jail, don't expect any help from the Abbott govt at a time when it is trying to offload refugees onto Cambodia.

    3. Even if Australia was not trying to offload refugees here, I will not get any help from the Australian Embassy here. Australia does not interfere with the sovereign affairs of Cambodia: "A two year suspended jail sentence and a $1,500 fine for 'threatening to dishonour' Citipointe church? No worries, now about those refugees were were discussing..." Up top $100 million a year in foreign aid and the offloading of refugees is just another form of 'interfering' in Cambodia's affairs as far as I am concerned.