KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 — Several human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have insisted today that receiving foreign funds is legal, with clear documentation and oversight to ensure transparency and accountability.
The groups said they were forced to turn to foreign funding since the Malaysian government has allegedly not been consistent with their support of human rights, citing budget cuts for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
“We are not government entities or businesses — our policies and programmes are not dictated by investments. Civil society organisations are guided by our constitutions and objectives in our programming, framed by fundamental human rights, and only then approaching potential funders with proposals.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that the Malaysian government is not known to be a consistent supporter of human rights work in terms of funding, exemplified by the significant cuts to Suhakam’s budget, thus forcing us to look elsewhere,” the groups said in a statement.
The statement was signed by eight groups: the All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), National Human Rights Society (Hakam), Perak Women for Women Society (PWW), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS), Tenaganita, and Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC).
In April, Suhakim claimed that its commissioners and staff might be forced to march to Parliament to “beg” for additional funds, after its budget was slashed from RM13 million to a mere RM5 million.
Section 19 of the Suhakam Act 1999 stipulates that the federal government shall provide Suhakam “with adequate funds annually” to enable it to discharge its functions, and it shall not receive any foreign funds.
Last week, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said about 20 of 50,000 NGOs registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) have been probed since November for allegedly receiving funds from individuals and organisations abroad.
He then told Malay Mail Online that the authorities are not going after non-profit groups for criticising the government, but are merely investigating the agendas of those who receive foreign funding.
Besides polls watchdog Bersih 2.0, Nur Jazlan said that other groups being investigated are Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) and the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).