Saturday, 29 August 2015


Posted: August 26, 2015
In September 2010, The New Straits Times (NST) published two controversial front-page articles alleging that six Malaysian NGOs were paid a total of USD20 million by foreign organizations in attempts to destabilize government. According to the articles, the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had provided millions of dollars of funds which were distributed to BERSIH and five other NGOs. The article further asserted that these NGOs allegedly were made as subversion tools for foreign intervention into domestic affairs. BERSIH and three other NGOs denied the allegation that linked them to plots in destabilizing the government, and NST immediately received backlash from BERSIH co-chairman Ambiga and her allies. NST received numerous warnings by four of the six NGOs mentioned in the articles including a threat of defamation lawsuit.
Ambiga begun her attack on NST by demanding NST to apologize and retract its allegation that BERSIH had been funded by foreign organizations to destabilize the government. Pro opposition media and bloggers then began writing posts against NST and that it had failed to provide evidence of BERSIH plots to destabilize the government. One year later on November 13, 2013, NST apologized to the four NGOs that filed libel suit against it and the NGOs agreed to drop the lawsuit.
However, the NST’s allegations in the articles, especially in the matter of BERSIH and the NGOs’ patronage, though not quite accurate, may actually be closer to the truth than the denial about the NGOs having received foreign funds. Two years later on September 26, 2012, after the first NST article went to print, another newspaper The Star reported that BERSIH movement did receive funds from foreign organizations, although not directly from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as alleged by NST and vigorously denied by BERSIH and Ambiga, but from the Open Society Foundation backed by George Soros and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). BERSIH admitted this. However, what it may be shy to admit and disclose is that these organizations from which it received funding from in turn received funds from the NED. So although BERSIH did not receive funds directly from the NED, it did receive funds from organizations which were funded by NED.
Following BERSIH admission above, Ambiga said that there was nothing wrong with receiving funds from Open Society Foundation as it promotes democracy. Ambiga had also called for the allegation against George Soros being responsible for the 1997 Asian economic crisis to be relooked apparently to clear Soros’ infamous reputation of being behind the currency attack that caused the Asian economic crisis.
NDI or National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the organization that funded BERSIH was founded as one of the three sisters institutes to National Endowment Democracy (NED). The NED serves as the umbrella organization through which these groups would receive funding to carry out programs abroad.
National Democratic Institute (NDI) is chaired by Madeleine K. Albright, an American politician and diplomat, who is also known for considerably influencing American foreign policy in the Middle East, and is a strong supporter of the use of military force and solution. NDI Board of Directors are comprised of high profile politicians – NDI Vice Chair Thomas Dashle is a former US Senator, and the Institute’s President Kenneth Wollack formerly served as the Legislative Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Another organization that funded BERSIH is Open Society Foundation owned by a Hungarian-Jewish American businessman, George Soros. OSF also funds MALAYSIAKINI, the online newsportal. George Soros is seen fond of MALAYSIAKINI, as he once featured the media on his personal Twitter and OSF editorial column.
In 2001, Y.L. Chong, an outgoing MALAYSIAKINI news editor revealed that MALAYSIAKINI was funded by National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the George Soros-linked Open Society Foundations (OSF). For Y.L. Chong, there was nothing wrong in disclosing the financial contributors to the online news portal, that being truthful about the news portal funding is part of ethical journalism, and an obligation to their subscribers and readers, especially since MALAYSIAKINI had flagged itself as promoting transparency and openness. However MALAYSIAKINI’s CEOs Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran had refused to heed to Chong’s advice and kept their source of fund a secret. According to Chong, Gan even said that MALAYSIAKINI would die if it admitted to receiving funds from Soros. In 2012, after 11 years of Y.L. Chong’s resignation from MALAYSIAKINI, the online news portal finally admitted to receiving funds from National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
In 2013, an independent political commentator Nile Bowie revealed that The Merdeka Center for Opinion Research receives $60,000 annually from NED-originated funds. Other NGOs like Lawyers for Liberty and SUARAM accumulatively receive nearly $200,000 annually from NED-originated funds. Bowie wrote that while NED remains accountable to the US Congress and is required to publish its disbursements; its component organizations such as the NDI and the International Republican Institute (IRI) are not obliged to declare their expenditures. NED, he added, employs a complex system of intermediaries in which operative aspects, control relationships, and funding trails are nearly impossible to follow and final recipients are difficult to identify. Bowie found that in 2006, NDI conducted a workshop for BERSIH that focused on improving the action plans of each participating organization or political party. Bowie also found that in 2007, NDI and BERSIH conducted a series of workshops in the politically neglected provinces of Sabah and Sarawak to educate previously disqualified political aspirants.
According to NED’s website, the International Republican Institute (IRI) received funds from NED in 2010 to work with “state leaders in Penang and Selangor to provide them with public opinion research, training and other resources to enable them to be more effective representatives of their constituents”.
Journalist Ron Nixon wrote on April 14, 2011 in The New York Times that NED played major roles in nurturing the Arab uprisings. In some targeted Arab states, the NED supported Arab homegrown activist groups and youth movements. According to him, key leaders of the movements were recruited and trained in campaigning and organizing including through new media tools against the existing governments. Groups like IRI and NDI trained and financed a number of groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms that had swept the Arab region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in Yemen.
The Arab uprising created turmoil across the Middle East in early 2011 which started in Tunisia that created a domino effect in most Arab countries. The “Arab Spring” consisted of a series of anti-government protests of both violent and non-violent natures, riots, armed rebellion and civil wars which spread across the Middle East – Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and Libya. The Arab Spring’s impact was profound, but the outcome was nowhere near the desired democracy – Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen entered an uncertain transition period, with their Presidents ousted and governments overthrown. Syria and Libya were engulfed into a period of civil war. In Libya, a civil war occurred following a foreign military intervention, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed. The Arab Spring had turned the Middle East into a chaotic, mistrust and very fragmented region, facing uncertain and long political turbulence, economic difficulties, religion violence and social tension.

No comments: