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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is foreign funding for NGOs all right?



VOXPOP The authorities have of late have been claiming that there are insidious motives behind foreigners funding local NGOs, such as electoral reform coalition Bersih and women's group Empower.
Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar singled out the Open Society Foundations (OSF) as one such funder and that OSF was highly suspect.
But what do Malaysians make of this?
Student S Kovin told Malaysiakini that he rejected the idea that there were problems with accepting foreign funds, as long as the NGOs do good for the country.
"I don't think it's a problem at all. They should be able to get funding from wherever they can.
"If there is a hidden agenda, but there is no proof of it being so, then I don't think it's a problem," Kovin (photo) said.
Fellow student TH Ngu agreed, especially if the NGOs are transparent about the funding they receive and how it is used.
"No one can say you are doing things in a hidden manner (if you are transparent)," he said.
Ngu also thinks that if an organisation is willing to fund NGOs, then it should be allowed to do so, for even civil society needs money to continue operating.
Double standards
CK Lee shares the same sentiment, pointing out as well that most NGOs are doing good for the country.
"If (someone) is prepared to support (NGOs), why not? You need funds to go on, right?
"Funding can come from anywhere," Lee said.
Retiree Phillip Wong believes that the IGP seemed to be practising double standards.
Though he does not know whether Bersih or the other NGOs have received foreign funding, Wong said, the authorities seem to be cracking down a lot harder on them than "a certain leader" who admitted to have received foreign funding.
"It is a real display of double standards. Totally unacceptable," he added.
Syafiq Azlee (photo) said he agreed with the IGP to a certain extent, but stressed that it was only one side of the story.
"Who is to define what is appropriate and what is not? Right now, we are just hearing from one side and we're not hearing from the other side," Syafiq, a salesperson, said.
What about other countries?
He pointed out that though American billionarire George Soros has a bad reputation in Malaysia, there has never been any evidence of his wrongdoing in the country.
On the IGP's claim that Russia has banned OSF from operating in its country, Syafiq asked if other countries had the same practice.
"We have not heard from the other countries, if they have been getting (funds) from the same organisation," he added.

However, lawyer Enna Nadra Yacob concurred with the IGP that NGOs should take extra precautions when receiving foreign funds.
She said it was likely that the government does not want foreign-funded NGOs to be too involved in politics, but said that if the NGOs were transparent about their activities, such funding should be acceptable.
"At least we know the source, even if it is from overseas we know where it is from and what it is for. You cannot totally prohibit (foreign funding). NGOs need to have some funds to operate.
"You have to have some leeway, but there should be guidelines," Enna said.- Mkini

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