PETALING JAYA: Criticising what it called a “sensational headline” by FMT over a report that it had been working with the Malaysian opposition, the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) today said it had always stayed above partisan politics in its activities in Malaysia, and worked with both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN).
“IRI categorically rejects the sensational headline by the Free Malaysia Today News that the institute worked with the opposition coalition prior to the May 9, 2018 general election in an attempt to undermine the ruling BN government,” said a statement by the think tank whose board of directors include senior Republican politicians in the US.
At a forum organised by the Center for Strategic & International Studies last month, the IRI said its efforts in Malaysia had finally paid off in the 14th general election, and benefited the US in terms of its current rivalry with China.
“I visited and I was sitting there with many of the new leaders of this new government, many of whom were our partners who we’ve been working with for 15 years, and one of the most senior of them who’s now one of the people running the government said to me, ‘Gosh, IRI, you never gave up on us even when we were ready to give up on ourselves’,” said IRI president Daniel Twining.
Twining also told the forum that Washington had benefited from the new government in Putrajaya from the very start.
“Guess what one of the first steps the new government took was: it froze Chinese infrastructure investments because it had opened the book and discovered that there was a lot of funny money swishing around what had been this very corrupt, close, unaccountable system,” he said, in an apparent reference to reviews of several mega projects involving Chinese companies including the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
He also said PH’s victory would work in Washington’s favour although it was unlikely that Malaysia would become a US ally.
In its statement today, the IRI said it was a non-partisan organisation that had worked with partners in Malaysia since 2002 to “strengthen the ability of political parties to compete in elections and adhere to the practices of citizen-centred governance”.
“IRI has provided non-partisan capacity building support to political parties across the political spectrum in the form of direct training workshops and consultations with both the PH and BN coalitions.
“These activities have engaged participants from across the political and social spectrum, and have included initiatives designed to increase youth participation within political and civic spheres and to strengthen the capacity of Malaysia’s civil society organisations.
“Through this work, IRI has helped Malaysian citizens hold their elected officials accountable and communicate their concerns to government,” it said, adding that it did not provide financial assistance to political parties in Malaysia.
Editor’s note: We stand by our headline, “Republican-linked US think tank tells of long ties with opposition to bring down BN”, which is based entirely on sources from IRI’s official website and a YouTube video of the forum in question.