The president of Maltese NGO Drama Outreach Project (DOP) has stepped down after leaked WhatsApp messages showed him making Cambodian children the butt of off-colour jokes.
The now-resigned DOP president, Alan Montanaro, had led teams of volunteers to Cambodia since the charity’s foundation in 2013. Last September, he sent WhatsApp messages to four DOP staff and volunteers belittling the children they worked with. One child, Meng, is referred to as “El Mingo” and other at times vulgar nicknames by Montanaro, who also suggests harvesting the boy’s corneas.
“Window washers or kidney-donors the lot of them,” Montanaro wrote.
In a message to the Post, Montanaro insisted that the remarks had been taken out of context and were a “coping mechanism” to deal with the “very sad situations” he encountered while in Cambodia.
However, this defence did not cut it with Malta’s NGO regulating body or DOP’s Cambodian partner organisations.
“It’s unacceptable that someone who is going out there to help children is making those kind of remarks,” the Maltese commissioner for voluntary organisations, Kenneth Wain, said yesterday. “I think that after everything that’s happened . . . I don’t think his position [with DOP] was sustainable.”
Ngov Chhiv, director of local DOP partner organisation Les Restaurants des Enfants, said yesterday that no one participating in the WhatsApp conversation would be allowed back at his NGO, although donations and other DOP volunteers are welcome.
“Those in the WhatsApp group are at fault, too,” Chhiv said. “Even the one who leaked it to journalists, why didn’t he reveal it at the time? Why wait until they had a conflict and use our children as the subject?”