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Nothing wrong with Suaram receiving funding from foreign sources

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KUALA LUMPUR – Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) has come out in defence of NGO Suara Rakyat Malaysia following criticism directed at the latter with regards to the its foreign funding.

TI-M president Datuk Paul Low, in a statement today, said there was nothing wrong with Suaram receiving funding from foreign sources, provided that everything is done in a transparent manner.

He also disclosed that it wasn’t unusual for NGOs to receive foreign funding “in some form or other”.

“As a registered Malaysian NGO, we are aware of the difficulty and challenges faced by civil society in raising funds for our various projects and activities. In fact, many of our fellow civil society partners receive foreign funding in some form or other.”

Low stated that TI-M’s principle has always been to accept funding from legitimate sources that do not influence the objectiveness and outcome of the project, create any conflict of interest and risk its independence.

“Following these principles, we have received foreign funding from various sources over the years. A list of our funding sources is available on our website,” he said.

Low said foreign funding has been a cornerstone of civil society, especially in developing countries as many issues such as corruption, climate change and human rights are global and cut across jurisdictions.

“In fact universities, think tanks and even the Malaysian government continue to receive funding from various foreign institutions,” he said.

He added that NGOs have contributed to the betterment of Malaysian society through their work in various areas such as human rights, environment and gender equality.

“So long as the principles of accountability and transparency are followed, NGO’s should not be victimised on the sources of their funding,” he said.

Suaram had come under intense scrutiny since July when another NGO, Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM), had questioned

Suaram’s status as a registered company while touting itself to be an NGO.

Checks by JMM at the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) had revealed that Suaram was registered under Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd.

JMM president Azwanddin Hamzah had claimed that checks also showed that under the company, Suaram had earned nearly RM500,000 in 2009 and more than RM400,000 in 2010.

CCM later clarified that Suaram had received a total of RM600,000 and RM500,000 in funding in 2011 and 2009 from NGOs in Washington and New York, the German Embassy and the South-East Asian Centre for emedia while its trading income was 0.06 per cent of the overall income for the company.

Yesterday, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry revealed that CCM probes suggested that the NGO could be linked to currency speculator George Soros.

Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said they found emails which appear to link the money to Soros, and has pledged a full investigation on the matter.

The ministry is urging the Home Ministry as well as Bank Negara to take swift action against Suaram under the Anti-Money Laundering Act in a bid to cease its funding.

Suaram had raised eyebrows when it filed a case in the French Court alleging that there were corrupt elements involved when the Malaysian government purchased two Scorpene submarines from a French defence, DCNS in 2001.

Suaram has claimed that the investigation on them is political in nature.

 

— mD