No reason to protest probe into Soros funding

Open Society Foundations (OSF)

By Charles Vincent

A lot has happened since news broke early last month of a leaked document showing that some Malaysian NGOs had received funding from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF).

The NGOs have admitted receiving the funding and police are continuing with their investigations. Of course, some NGOs and individual activists are protesting against the probe, saying it had been a long time since the funds were received and that they were small sums.

For the record, the leaked document was the minutes of a meeting that brought into focus how foreign funding had a part to play in events in the country in the past six years.

At the centre of it all is Soros, who took a personal interest in the 2013 general election. Expecting prime minister Najib Razak to call for an early election in 2011, Soros and the OSF launched the Malaysia Program in 2010.

The minutes seem to highlight that despite the general election eventually taking place in 2013, the early start gave OSF and other related organisations the chance to establish a foothold on Malaysian civil society, especially on election-related work.

As a result of this expose, Bersih 2.0, the Malaysian Bar, news portal Malaysiakini and also the Penang Institute are some of the organisations that have come under investigation.

The question is why are these organisations, activists and also some opposition personalities protesting over something that is also subject to scrutiny by other governments.

According to the Economic Times, in a report published in June, the OSF and groups linked to them were banned by Russia and China. Furthermore, India had also put the Soros-supported foundation under watch. New Delhi had required OSF to get its home ministry’s approval before sending funds to India, the report said.

The Indian financial publication added that OSF was one of three organisations that India added to its list of NGOs on a watch list, with well-placed sources saying that the Indian government had actually placed OSF under watch for some time.

Among other things, officials knowledgeable on the matter said OSF was put under the scanner after security agencies raised “some serious concerns”. A senior official said while details of the security agency report were confidential, the broad concern was that these NGOs were active participants in “protests and rallies of anti-national nature”, the Economic Times reported.

According to its website, OSF donates to NGOs working in the realms of media, rights and justice, and education.

Instead of protesting, the Malaysian NGOs and their supporters should recognise that when there are bigger countries taking such action, it is perfectly reasonable for Malaysian authorities to do likewise.

Charles Vincent is an FMT reader.

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