Thursday, May 29, 2014

(K) letter to Pastors Ramsey and Mulheran re secret agreement entered into by Citipiointe, 2 village elders and one policeman

Dear Leigh and Brian

As always, my letter speaks for itself.

I leave for Australia today and trust, if it is true that Citipointe intends to release Rosa and Chita, that this will happen in a timely fashion and in accordance with an agreed-upon reintegration program.

I trust also that, in accordance with the requests made many times this past five years, that Citipointe and/or the Global Development Group will supply MOUs to verify that the removal of the girls in 2008 and their detention since that time was legal.

best wishes

Pastors Leigh Ramsey and Brian Mulheran
322 Wecker Road
QLD 4152

29th May 2014

Dear Pastors Ramsey and Mulheran

Chanti has, this morning, provided me with a copy of a document drawn up by the “Head of Ponley Nekom Village, Ba Poung Commune, Peam Rour District, Prey Veng Province.” It is dated 26th May. I have attached a copy of the document in Khmer and a translation of it.

This 26th May document makes reference to an agreement that has been witnessed by (1) Police of Peam Rour District and (2) Head of Ba Poung Commune, in addition to the signatory of it - the Head of Ponley Nekom Village.

There is no reference in this document to the nature of the agreement that has been entered into between these three men and Citipointe. There is no reference to Chanti and Chhork having been a party to this agreement – the terms and conditions of which Chanti and Chhork have no knowledge of.

In the preparation of whatever agreement has been entered into, Chanti and Chhork had no opportunity to be advised by anyone.

As Chanti and Chhork’s legally appointed advocate I would have been in a position to provide some advice but had no knowledge of the agreement until after it was struck. As Chanti and Chhork’s legally appointed counsel, Mr Michael Johnson would have been the person best suited to provide Chanti and Chhork with advice regarding whatever agreement Citipointe was proposing on 23rd May.

Before asking Chanti and Chhork to enter into any other contractual agreements regarding Rosa and Chita, could you please provide copies of these to Chanti and Chhork, to myself and to Mr Michael Johnson.

If it is Citipointe’s intention to return Rosa and Chita to their family, as intimated in this 26th May document, the re-integration process needs to be carried out in a way that minimizes the potential damage done to both Rosa and Chita and the family by their sudden transfer from a Christian institution in Phnom Penh to a Buddhist family in a fairly remote village in Prey Veng.

As Citipointe is aware from previous correspondence, I am in the process of trying to find a school that is appropriate for Rosa and Chita to attend such that they can continue their education at the level to which they have been accustomed this past six years. I do not know what this level is, what subjects they have been studying or any other particulars regarding their education. Could you please provide me with as much in formation as possible about Rosa and Chita’s education to date such that I can find the best possible school for them?

If Citipointe intends to return Rosa and Chita to their family it would be in the interests of both the girls and their family that this occurred during a school vacation. And it would be preferable if sufficient time elapsed between Citipointe’s decision to release the girls and the commencement of the new school term for all the necessary arrangements for the transfer to be made with a minimum of disruption to their lives. As I may well be in Australia it would be appreciated if you could give me sufficient warning that the transfer is to take place so that I can travel to Cambodia and assist the family in adjusting to the new state of affairs.

Regardless of our differences, the re-integration process is one that Citipointe and I must work on together. There needs to be an agreed-upon time-table, in writing, such that Chanti and Chhork know what their rights, responsibilities and obligations are; such that both Citipointe and I know what our respective responsibilities are vis a vis Rosa and Chita over the next few years.

The first step in achieving a smooth transition for Rosa and Chita back into the family is for Citipointe to let Chanti, Chhork, myself  and Mr Michael Johnson know precisely what the nature of the agreement is that has been entered into between Citipointe and the three men referred to in the document signed by the Head of Ponley Nekom Village on 26th May.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Events moved very fast this day, as I was packing to leave for the airport. There was some confusion (a lot, as it transpired) as to what was going on; what had already gone on. Shortly after sending the above letter to Pastors Ramsey and Mulheran, I sent the following note.

“Closer questioning of Chanti revealed that yesterday, after promising me that they would sign no more documents without first showing them to Mr Johnson and myself, representatives of the church arrived at their home and told them the must place their thumb prints on certain documents if they wanted to get Rosa and Chita returned to their care. 

Given Chanti's promise to me yesterday, she was reluctant to admit that she had a copy of the document she and Chhork signed. I am having it translated now but it seems that Citipointe has decided to intimidate Chanti and Chhork into signing a document that will see the release back into their care of Rosa and Chita.

If this is what the translation reveals, I would like to point out that for five years Citipointe has been maintaining that the decision to release the girls was one to be made by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

As soon as have an accurate translation I will write again - either from Cambodia or Australia.

best wishes

An hour later I had a translation:

            Reference on request of YEM CHANTHY, dated 31st July 2008 to International C T Phnom Penh Organization of Recuse and Care in order to accept my two children to adopt and take care and studying ago and also I still recognize for official because of I made in without forcing from any person.
Date, May 28, 2014
                        Witness                                                           Thumbprint of Spouse
Chief Office of Peam Ror District                Husband                                Wife

CHEA SOKHA                                        PHUN CHHORK              YEM CHANTHY

       Head of Ponley Nekhom

               TEP PHUN

Having seen applicant
has made in front of us in genuine
Date: May 28, 2014
Head of Commune
(Signed and Sealed)

Upon talking to Chanti and Chhork with a proper interpreter I learnt, to my shock, that Citipointe had dumped Rosa and Chita with their parents the day beforehand – a fact I had not picked up because Chanti (whose English is rudimentary) had used (or it seemed so to me) the future tense, not the past! I now wrote the following:

Dear Leigh and Brian

When Chanti and Chhork told me this morning that Rosa and Chita were to be returned to the family they used the future tense. Upon conducting an interview with them just now, with a competent translator, I learnt that representatives of your church turned up yesterday with Rosa and Chita and presented their parents with an ultimatum. Here are the girls, if you want them to stay, place your thumb prints here.

Under these circumstances I can understand why, after so many years of false promises, Chanti and Chhork took the opportunity and placed their thumb prints of a document which attempts to provide retrospective validity to the 31st July 2008 'contract'.

The speed with which this has happened, the total lack of a reintegration process, of consultation,  is clearly a response to the legal letter from Mr Michael Johnson. Citipointe knew that whilst it could ignore me it could not ignore a barrister prepared to take this matter to whatever court was required for it to be resolved in accordance with the law.

Two points need to be made here:

(1) Citipointe has yet to provide any evidence at all that its removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008 was legal and

(2) Citipointe's dumping of Rosa and Chita at the drop of a hat, in the total absence of due process, and with no offer to assist them from here on in in their lives, reveals the true motives of the church in keeping them this long. From what Chanti and Chhork tell me the sum total of the church's assistance to the reintegration of the girls back into the family is one 50 kg bag of rice and two bicycles - with a total value of around $100.

(3) Citipointe will now be free to trick some other materially poor parents to give up their daughters to fill the beds vacated by Rosa and Chita. Given that it has taken me close to six years to get Rosa and Chita back (with the vital help of Mr Michael Johnson) these poor Cambodian parents have little or no chance of getting their daughters back.

Whilst it is good that Rosa and Chita have been returned to their family, the circumstances surrounding their return leaves so many questions unanswered - the key one being: "Where are the MOUs that gave Citipointe the right to take the girls in the first place?"

best wishes

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