Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ACFID complicit in AusAID approved NGOs stealing the children of poor Cambodian families? Why does the Australian Council for International Development refuse to ask Citipointe church and its funding partner, the Global Development Group, for evidence that the church's removal of children from their families in 2008 was legal?

An open letter to:

The Executive Committee of the "Australian Council for International Development"

Chhork, Chanti and five of their children - the first time the whole family has been together in almost six years.

Nigel Spence, CEO ChildFund Australia
Ian Wishard, Plan International Australia
Julia Newton-Howes, CEO Care Australia
Dimity Fifer, CEO Australian Volunteers International
Adam Laidlaw, CEO, WaterAid Australia
Melanie Gow, World Vision Australia
Christian Neilson, Executive Director, Live and Learn
Brian Doolan, CEO, The Fred Hollows Foundation
Helen Szoke, CEO Oxfam Australia
Joanna Hayter, CEO, International Women’s Development Agency
Mathew Maury, National Director, Tear Australia

Dear Members of the Executive Committee of ACFID

It is now almost four months since I first wrote to Ms Sam Mostyn, President of ACFID in relation to the illegal removal of two Cambodian girls from their family by Citipointe church in 2008:

Chhork, Rosa and Chita 2 days after the girls' release from Citipointe's 'SHE Rescue Home'

Many letters later I have yet to receive answers to any of my questions. The same applies to the letters sent by me to Dr Sue-Anne Wallace and the ACFID Code of Conduct committee.

ACFID has decided, at the highest level, to refuse to request of Citipointe church and its funding partner, the Global Development Group (GDG), that they provide documented evidence of the legality of the church’s removal of Rosa and Chita. Why is this?

Both Citipointe and GDG claim that they are in possession of such documents, in the form of MOUs the church entered into with the Cambodian Ministries of Foreign Affairs (2008) and Social Affairs (2009). If so, why have copies of these MOUs never been provided to the parents, Chanti and Chhork?   Given that these MOUs would clear Citipointe of any wrongdoing if they do exist and if they give Citipointe and GDG the rights the two NGOs assert, why do they refuse to show them to anyone?

Rosa and her youngest sister,  Poppy
In my letter to Ms Sam Mostyn of 3rd March I wrote the following:

“Does the Australian Council for International Development believe that parents whose children have been removed by an NGO have a right to be given copies of any agreements of contracts the NGO (in this instance Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’, funded by Australian tax-deductible dollars), has entered into with a government department in the country in which such a removal has occurred?”

Ms Mostyn did not respond to this letter. She has not responded to any of my letters. This question goes unanswered to this day. It is hard not to escape the conclusion that ACFID does not believe that the parents of children removed from their families have any rights at all. Alternatively, could it be that ACFID is more concerned with protecting Citipointe and GDG than it is with the rights of poor parents whose children have been removed, without their consent, by Australian NGOs? This is not a rhetorical question.

Chita, with Rosa in soft focus

Threatened with legal action in relation to the illegal 2008 removal of Rosa and Chita, Citipointe has recently returned the girls to their family, along with a 50 kilo bag of rice and two second hand bicycles. This is the extent of Citipointe’s commitment to the future of Rosa and Chita! Just as the church has provided no documents to prove that the removal of the girls was in accordance with agreements entered into  with the Cambodan Ministries of Foreign and Social Affairs,. Nor is there any documentation to suggest that the Ministry of Social Affairs was involved in any way with the return of Rosa and Chita. Does ACFID believe this total lack of documentation to be appropriate? If so, parents such as Chanti and Chhork can rely on no protection at all from ACFID if an unscrupulous NGO tricks them into giving up their children.

Rosa and Chanti

Given that neither Ms Sam Mostyn nor Dr Sue Anne Wallace or the ACFID Code of Conduct Committee will request of Citipointe and the GDG that they provide copies of the MOUs to Chanti and Chhork, I am now appealing to the Executive Committee to do so.  I am appealing to you as a committee and as individuals committed, one would hope, to both the letter and the spirit of the ACFID Code of Conduct.

If the Executive Committee does not request the release of copies of the MOUs to Chanti and Chhork (and to myself as their legally appointed advocate) I think it fair to assume, and for audiences for CHANTIS WORLD to assume, that NGOs such as Citipointe and GDG are under no obligation to abide be the ACFID Code of Conduct; that the Global Development Group can fund NGOs which flaunt the laws of the host country in which they are working with ACFID’s tacit approval; that GDG-funded NGOs  are under no obligation to adhere to the rules and regulations that apply to AusAID approved charities taking advantage of the tax-breaks available to them under Australian law?

Chanti and Chhork happy to have the family back together at last
I trust that the Executive Committee will realize, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a commitment to the precepts of natural justice, that Chanti and Chhork have a right to know whether or not their daughters were removed from their care in accordance with Cambodian law, in accordance with the AusAID Code of Conduct and the various international human rights conventions that Australia is a signatory to.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Chhork and James

Srey Ka

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