Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M), a global anti-corruption watchdog, came out today in defence of human rights group Suaram which has come under attack for receiving foreign funds, pointing out that even the Malaysian government receives funding from institutions outside the country.
In a statement here, TI-M president Datuk Paul Low (picture) said that much like Suaram, TI-M has also received funds from various foreign sources over the years.
“As a registered Malaysian non-governmental organisation, TI-M is 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 said.
He noted, however, that TI-M’s principle has always been to ensure that the funds received come from legitimate sources and would not influence the objectiveness, create any form of conflict of interest or risk the group’s independence in its handling of any project.
Low added that foreign funding has always been the cornerstone of any civil society movement, particularly in developing countries when issues like corruption and human rights tend to cut across all jurisdictions.
“In fact universities, think tanks and even the Malaysian government continue to receive funding from various foreign institutions,” he pointed out.
“So long as the principles of accountability and transparency are followed, NGOs should not be victimised on the sources of their funding,” said Low.
The Malaysian government had last week expressed its concern to German envoy Dr Guenther Georg Gruber over the latter’s admission of the embassy’s funding of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd (SISB), a company linked to local human rights group Suaram.
According to Bernama Online, the ambassador was told during a meeting with the Foreign Ministry last Friday that Malaysia was deeply disappointed with the embassy’s funding of Suaram.
“It was pointed out that Malaysia takes exception to such an action by the German Embassy because it can be misconstrued and be seen as interference in the domestic affairs of Malaysia.
“It said foreign missions should be mindful of the sensitivities of the host country, and how good relations were conducted and maintained, adding that they should not get involved in activities which had implications on Malaysia’s domestic situation,” the national news agency reported from a Wisma Putra statement.
In a separate statement here, Suaram railed against the Barisan Nasional (BN) government for allegedly attempting to discredit its work by using the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) to kickstart a probe on SISB.
Earlier this month, CCM officers went to SISB’s company secretary and auditor’s office and conducted a search and seized documents related to the company.
The notices to search and seize were issued under Section 7C and 7D(1) of the Companies Act 1965.
In early July this year, Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) president Azwanddin Hamzah had claimed that Suaram was not registered as a non-governmental organisation with the Registrar of Societies but as a company, Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd.
Azwanddin, who had also checked with the CCM, claimed that the company’s income stood at RM497,137 in 2009 and RM411,226 in 2010.
“The BN government has embarked on this shameful frame-up to the extent by perverting the government agencies and civil servants for this purpose.
“It is clear that these desperate actions by the government are attempts to discredit Suaram and its selfless service to the Rakyat and to stop Suaram from revealing further damning evidence relating to the Scorpene scandal,” the rights group said in a statement.
Suaram has been leading the exposes on alleged wrongdoings in the controversial multi-billion Scorpene submarine deal allegedly linked to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. A probe on the scandal is also currently pending in the French courts.