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PETALING JAYA, Oct 31 — A disturbing minutes of meeting containing foreign plans under a so-called ‘Malaysia Programme’ have surfaced on whistleblower site, DC Leaks.
Titled “Malaysia Programme — Portfolio Review Outcome Summary,” it outlined continued efforts by the Open Society Foundation (OSF) to influence domestic politics through the polls.
A substantial part of the document detailed strategies for the 2018 general election, with plans to mobilise minority groups and rural youths among others.
OSF is chaired by the controversial billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, whom the document states has “a personal interest in elections”.
The minutes was for a meeting on June 22, last year, and among its listed attendees were OSF president Christopher Stone and Merdeka Center for Opinion Research director Ibrahim Suffian.
Ibrahim yesterday confirmed he was present.
He said the meeting was a review of civil society groups and he had attended to provide an overview on Malaysian non-governmental organisations.
“It was held in slots and I was called in to provide my professional opinion on the trends and landscape of civil society groups in Malaysia.
“There was no hint or indication the meeting was about meddling in the country’s internal politics,” he said, adding that he left immediately after delivering his speech.
Suffian also said Merdeka Center valued its neutrality, being an organisation that studied opinions besides providing unbiased reports of its findings.
The document revealed an agenda to use secrecy to avoid public scrutiny and to mobilise the country’s youth along ethno-religious lines since 2010.
The three-page document mentioned the phrase “free and fair elections”, a rallying cry for several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with an anti-government stance.
The foreign involvement referred to as “intervention” began shortly after Datuk Seri Najib Razak replaced Tun Ahmad Abdullah Badawi in 2009.
“OSF has watched elections closely ... started working on general elections in 2010 after Najib replaced Badawi.
“With the perceived importance of the 2013 elections and Soros having personal interest in the elections, it was decided OSF would heighten its involvement and leverage its networks and bring in outside expertise and conduct advocacy in Washington.”
The document also made numerous mentions of “grants” being made to their local “network”.
“The grant making aspect was perceived to be the most successful intervention.
“Among the various interventions, it was the best planned, resulting from numerous conversations from the ground and thus reflected locally identified needs.”
The document said financial support by the OSF was instrumental in galvanising public participation, resulting in a massive mobilisation of the country’s youth.
Among difficulties faced by OSF in its intervention were the inability to coordinate its local networks and the lack of a strong local spokesman and coverage of OSF by local media.
“We were taken aback by the level of vilification in the official media.
“As a result, we had to work quietly and minimise our public exposure. Staff only attended public events and not private and closed door meetings.”
Two other organisations collaborated with OSF namely the International Republican Institute, chaired by US Senator John McCain, and the Asia Foundation.
Despite not naming any NGO, Bersih had previously admitted to receiving funding from the OSF but claimed it was a one off grant.
Bersih chairman Maria Chin Abdullah strongly denied having received any money from OSF since mid-2011 onwards and said money from the foundation had never been used to fund its rallies.
“We are locally funded and fully transparent about our funding. Despite many attempts to tie us to foreign interests, we are in fact a completely Malaysian grassroots movement,” she told Malay Mail.
“Even when we received funding from OSF, it was merely a token sum meant to be a show of solidarity with international civil society groups.”
Chin said the sum of about RM90,000 was minute compared to revenue from its merchandise sales and donations.
Chin also said the issue was being played up by certain parties who intended to tarnish the group’s image ahead of its Nov 19 rally.
“Unlike some, we have nothing to hide. We have repeatedly explained ourselves and have fully accounted for our funding,” she said.
The document singled out MalaysiaKini as having received specific allocations particularly for its online broadcast service KiniTV.
Soros has been linked to pro-democracy movements and colour revolutions in Eastern Europe, some of which have used violent means to overthrow governments.
He is also accused of currency manipulation: his moniker ‘The man who broke the bank of England’ comes from profiting from British pounds during the 1992 UK Currency crisis.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad accused Soros of engineering the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis but the two reconciled in 2006 and Mahathir has since retracted his claims.