Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Foreign groups back Suaram, demand end to harassment

Foreign groups back Suaram, demand end to harassment

UPDATED @ 07:05:41 AM 18-09-2012
September 17, 2012
Malaysian Insider 
Both local and foreign NGOs are calling on Putrajaya to cease its “harassment” of Suaram. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 ― A group of 56 regional and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) today rallied behind human rights watchdog Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and demanded the Malaysian government stop harassing the group over its funding sources.
 In a joint statement today, the groups reminded Putrajaya that it has also received foreign development aid in the past, adding that the government’s insinuation that Suaram has a hidden political agenda was made in “bad faith” and “irresponsible”.

“We strongly condemn the Malaysian government’s attempts to discredit those who receive foreign funds for their human rights work, including insinuations made in the media that foreign-funded organisations, including Suaram, may have hidden political agendas.

“We emphasise that foreign funding is indeed necessary for many NGOs, not only in Malaysia, but across the globe,” the statement said.

The groups, which include NGOs from Nepal, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Philippines, Australia and even China and South Korea, sang Suaram’s praises and said the Malaysian-based organisation was widely recognised both regionally and internationally, as well as a credible voice for the protection of human rights here.

Suaram is currently in the limelight due to its part in an ongoing French inquiry probing possible corruption in Malaysia’s multibillion ringgit purchase of two Scorpene submarines, which has been linked to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the murder of Mongolian model Altantuyaa Shaariibuu.

Today, the groups urged Putrajaya to demonstrate impartiality when investigating all “credible cases of financial irregularities of organisations”.

They said what they described as public vilification and threats against Suaram were occurring almost on a daily basis despite the NGO’s intention to co-operate fully with authorities.

“More importantly, it is still unclear how Suaram’s receipt of foreign funds violates any law in Malaysia,” they said.

Earlier this month, the Companies Commission Malaysia (CCM) raided the office of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, the operating entity of Suaram.

Last Monday, Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ismail Sabri Yaacob said the accounts of Suara Inisitatif were “highly suspicious”.

Suaram, established since 1989, has been investigated by the CCM since early 2012 for being registered as a company instead of a society, a trend among NGOs whose applications under the Societies Act 1966 were rejected by the government.

The NGO has come under pressure since it started scrutinising the purchase of Scorpene submarines by the Defence Ministry.

When asked by reporters to comment on its foreign funding, Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong said many NGOs used the funds for programmes without intervention or advice from such parties.

Kua was referring to allegations by Malay dailies that Suaram took aid from the George Soros Foundation, which made them an agent of the billionaire currency speculator.

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