KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — Bersih 2.0 has criticised a minister for suggesting that proposed political financing legislation be extended to civil society, amid claims that US billionaire George Soros funded local groups.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said's suggestion would only hinder the civil society movement and that the introduction of another financing legislation for NGOs would add another layer of restriction.
Azalina has said that the leaked minutes purportedly from a meeting of Soros's Open Society Foundations (OSF) made it necessary to examine funding for groups beyond political parties.
"NGOs are different from political parties. They are the supplementary support systems where government has failed to do so. Why penalise NGOs when their agenda is about building a better Malaysia?" Maria told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
The head of the polls reform group pointed out that it was only natural for NGOs to source other forms of funding from organisations like the European Union and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) due to the lack of assistance from the government.
"Azalina can only say this if the government provides financial support to the NGOs in proportion to their activities. But reality is that there is selective allocation of funding. For example, Permata gets huge amounts as compared to women shelters fighting against violence, NGOs working on discriminated and abused migrants, refugees, human rights and the list goes on," Maria said, referring to the charity organisation helmed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
"I have no problem for Permata getting the funds but there are also other NGOs who need support and local fundraising is challenging," she added.
Azalina had said that the PDEA (Political Donations and Expenditure Act) should be expanded to politically interested NGOs that abuse their funds.
The PDEA was proposed by a bipartisan panel on political funding that also recommended oversight on political contributions to political parties and the mandatory identification of donors who contribute more than RM3,000.
It also recommended banning foreign donors, confiscating money from unknown sources, and delimiting campaign spending.
The police have set up a special task force to check the authenticity of leaked minutes purportedly from an OSF meeting that detailed its efforts to intervene in Malaysian politics.
The OSF yesterday confirmed that it provides Malaysian NGOS with approximately US$700,000 (RM2.9 million) annually, but denied that the money was used to help overthrow the Malaysian government.