Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sentenced to two years jail and fined $1,500 for ‘threatening to dishonour’ Citipointe church

On 2nd April, after “carefully considering the law,” Judge Keo Mony found me “guilty of threatening to dishonour Citipointe Church doing work in Cambodia by broadcasting accusations that the church sold children,” sentenced me to a two year prison term (suspended) and fined me six million riel  - Aus $1,500.

Threatening to dishonor!

I was not in court on 2nd to hear the sentence handed down, despite having flown all the way from Australia to attend. I had spent an hour in the morning talking with Judge Keo Mony in his office, requesting information about my case. More of this later. The good judge failed to mention that I was due in court in a few hours to be sentenced! Confused? Join the club! Fear not, this will all make sense in due course -  insofar as anything that happens in Cambodia makes sense.

Chanti and Chita as a baby

The following day, 3rd April, I read in the Phnom Penh Post that during my March 12th trial, which I had not been invited to attend and knew nothing about (I was in Australia at the time) Citipointe’s attorney, Kong Rady, had presented the court with the following proposition:

When Citipointe refused to allow Mr James Ricketson to interview Rosa and Chita for his documentary, CHANTI’S WORLD, he bribed their parents, Chanti and Chhork, to ask the church to return their daughters. Senior  Pastor Leigh Ramsey declined.

Chanti and Chhork have been asking for the return of their daughters for five years and I never asked Citipointe for permission to interview Rosa and Chita but facts such as these (along with evidence and truth) are of little relevance in a Cambodian court of law.

Rosa, in the early days of her indoctrination into Pentecostalism - funded with tax-deductible charity dollars provided to Citipointe church by the Global Development Group

Part of Pastor Ramsey’s March 2013 complaint had been read to the court during my 12th March trial, I learned from the Phnom Penh Post:  

"Ricketson has tried to get two girls who are vulnerable to human trafficking, whose mother was a victim......out of our shelter in order to continue making a film........for his  personal benefit."

The mother, Chanti, was never ‘a victim of human trafficking’ but why let this stand in the way of a good prosecution or, in the case of the Phnom Penh Post (whose journalist did not bother to interview me) a good story! As for Rosa and Chita being ‘vulnerable to human trafficking’, this vulnerability applies to pretty well every girl from a poor family between the ages of 8 and 16.

Despite their poverty, Chanti's family is a happy one - their happiness destroyed when Citipointe's offer to 'help' lead to Rosa and Chita's close to total removal from family life

The date Pastor Ramsey’s complaint, ‘March 2013’, is not a typo. The complaint had sat on Judge Keo Mony’s desk for a year. Only in late Feb 2014 did the Judge sign a summons – which was not delivered to me. I will leave the Reader to conjecture as to the reason for this lack of delivery of the summons,  the lack of invitation to attend the 12th March court case and Judge Keo Mony’s failure, on 2nd April, to inform me that he would be sentencing me in a few hours.

During this sentencing, Judge Keo Mony announced to the court that when Citipointe did not return the children:

"Ricketson threatened to broadcast allegations that Citipointe sold children abroad.”

I have never alleged that Citipointe ‘sold children’. The good Judge added:

“…when police attempted to serve Ricketson (with a court summons) he refused to accept it and threw a bowl at them.”

The police attempt to serve a man with a court summons, he throws a bowl at them and they do not arrest him and charge him with assault!

This story made for sensational reading in the Phnom Penh Post. It is factually incorrect in pretty well every respect but the journalist did not bother to talk with me before publishing it.

Rosa at school, 2007. Chanti never went to school and was keen that her daughters get a good education and be given opportunities in life that she never had.

The accusation I have been broadcasting for five years in countless letters to four different Foreign Ministers, the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, AusAID and ACFID (whose job it is to make sure that NGOs behave themselves and abide by a strict Code of Conduct)  is that Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ NGO stole the two eldest daughters of a materially poor Cambodia family in 2008.  Yes ‘stole’. ‘Illegally removed’. ‘Kidnapped’.

I have used all these words to describe Citipointe’s actions and all are clearly defamatory if I am not telling the truth. Why would the church charge me with ‘threatening to dishonour’ when I have been trying my hardest to defame Citipointe for five years!

Hold that thought for a while, and others like it, until the dots begin to join.

A year or so before she is 'rescued', Rosa dances in the humbler bamboo home that she lives in with Chanti, Chhork, grandma Vanna and baby sister, Chita.

In ‘illegally removing’ Rosa and Chita from their family, Citipointe broke Cambodia’s Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.” It also breached Ministry of Social Affairs guideline that read:

“The rights of parental authority over their children remain with the family unless it has gone through the courts and the family relinquishes all responsibility”.

Far from ‘relinquishing responsibility Rosa and Chita’s parents, Chanti and Chhork, have been asking that their daughters be returned to the family for five years now. And given that no Cambodian court has ever awarded custody of Rosa and Chita to the church, the question arises, or at least should have arisen for all of those within DFAT and ACFID whose job it was to ask such questions:

“In accordance with which Cambodian law, what legal processes, did Citipointe acquire custody of Rosa and Chita in 2008 and detain them contrary to their parents’ express wishes for close to six years now?”

Citipointe’s answer to this question is that the church entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008  and the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2009 that gave it the right to remove children from their families.  This assertion is backed up by Citipointe’s funding partner, Brisbane-based ‘Global Development Group’ (GDG) -.a $25 million a year NGO whose funds are almost entirely made up of tax-deductible Australian charity dollars.

Chita kisses her baby sister Srey Ka the day before she is 'rescued' by Citipointe church. These two sisters have spent virtually no time together this past five years. Close to six now

Now you would think that Citipointe, armed with two MOUs giving the church the legal right of removal and detention of children, would be keen to provide copies to Chanti and Chhork (who have been asking for them for five years now) and to myself, Chanti and Chhork’s legally appointed advocate – if only to get me off the church’s back. I have been badgering Citipointe for the MOUs for five years – annoying Pastor Leigh Ramsey so much that she has twice threatened to sue me for defamation. The church’s Pastor Brian Mulheran has also tried his hand at some good old-fashioned Mafia like intimidation – threatening to have me ‘forcibly removed’. In his letter to me of 21st Feb 2013 Pastor Mulheran writes:

“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.”

“The last thing we want is for your shop to burn down and for you to be charged with arson!”

Why, go to so much trouble to have me charged with a raft of absurd crimes (‘hindering’, ‘Threatening to dishonour’, ‘profiting from prostitution’) rather than just give copies of the MOUs to Chanti, Chhork and myself? One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out. The answer:

Citipointe does not have MOUs that give the church the right to steal kids and detain them contrary to their parents wishes.

Alas, there are not too many rocket scientist intellects gracing the halls of the now-defunct AusAID, the Australian Embassy in Cambodia or the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Two disabled men prepare to 'fight' each other for the amusement of onlookers and to earn money to survive. Rosa and Chanti look on. From CHANTI'S WORLD.

This may be unfair. It may not be an inability to connect the dots that has led Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia, Alison Burrow, (and a few of her predecessors) to NOT ask Citipointe for the MOUs. The same applies for our current Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, and three of her predecessors (including the unctuous God-bothering Kevin Rudd), to AusAID and to the Australian Council for International Development; another reason why no-one, at any level of the DFAT wants to know whether or not Citipointe steals Cambodian children!

Could it be that all those Australian government officials in a position to ask for proof of the legality of the church’s actions fear opening up a Pandora’s Box of questions that could result in egg on lots of bureaucratic faces? What if Citipointe is not a rogue NGO? What if there are other AusAID approved NGOs breaching Cambodian law, AisAID rules and the ACFID Code of Conduct? What if there are lots of them? Perhaps it is best not to ask how many other Australian NGOs working in Cambodia (and elsewhere in the world) are rorting the Australian tax office -using tax-deductible dollars to break up families, indoctrinate children  into the particular brand of the Christian faith adhered to by the NGO and, in the process, provide the Board Directors of these NGOs with free airfares all around the world to ‘monitor and assess’ their ‘projects’? This may be a Pandora’s Box that no-one wants to open.
There are no social services to speak of in Cambodia. If you are severely disabled, as these two men are, you make a living in any way you can. In this instance it is putting on a boxing/wrestling match for an audience - one that includes Chanti and Rosa. From CHANTI'S WORLD

I am not one given to conspiracy theories but there is some anecdotal evidence (a good deal, actually!) that the Christian Mafia has infiltrated the Australian ‘aid business’ and exerts enormous control over the spending of funds. An interesting starting point question for an investigative journalist with plenty of time on her hands:

“How much of Australian aid, either directly or indirectly, though charitable tax-deductions, is being used to win souls for Jesus Christ in 3rd world countries?”

Are there any Islamic NGOs in receipt of tax-deductible Australian dollars? I suspect not. If there were, imagine the public outcry if evangelical Muslims were using Australian tax-deductible charity dollars to indoctrinate child recipients of aid in the Islamic faith?

Imagine an Islamic ‘World Vision’. Sit with this thought for a moment. And another moment. Would you give money to a Muslim World Vision? If not, why do you give money to an evangelical Christian World Vision? To evangelical Citipointe church and to the many other NGOs harvesting souls for Jesus Christ throughout the third world?

More random musings arising from my being charged with ‘profiting from prostitution’, ‘hindering’, ‘threatening to dishonour’ and throwing bowls at policeman to follow when time, energy and inclination permit.

COMING UP: Flirting with Miss Love Words, sparring with Judges Poo and Keo Mony at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,  and the delightfully amusing lack of consequential thinking in the post-Khmer Rouge Cambodian brain!

Chhork, baby Srey Ka and Chanti in their hot humble home the day before Rosa and Chita are 'rescued'.

Chita at home with mum and dad the day before her illegal removal

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