Low: Foreign funding should be banned for ‘political’ NGOs

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Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — Civil society groups that have “political” agendas or are clearly aligned to political parties should not be allowed to receive foreign funding, said Datuk Paul Low.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who heads the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing, said that laws should also be introduced or amended to require all NGOs to disclose their sources of funding.

“Those involved in politics, it’s alright for you to demonstrate against corruption, but when you have a political agenda, funding from foreign sources should be banned completely,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Low said that there is a need to be wary of “foreign interference” in local politics especially since some “politically-linked” NGOs in Malaysia receive foreign funding.

“Those type of NGOs — [we] will need to be careful of foreign funding. It needs to be disclosed and if necessary, we should curb it,” he added.

While Low conceded this was a personal suggestion on his part, he said that he would raise this idea in future Cabinet meetings.

“There are a lot of NGOs that require private funding, whether it be local or overseas… many are doing things for a good cause, for example human rights.

“But whatever it is, all NGOs must be required to disclose sources of funding,” Low stressed.

He said, however, that such laws should probably be separate from the law on political financing proposed by his committee to regulate contributions to political parties and politicians.

Low’s remarks were in response to Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s call for the Political Donations and Expenditure Act (PDEA) to be extended to civil society groups, following claims that US billionaire George Soros funded a local organisation to help depose the government.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said the leaked minutes, purportedly from a meeting of Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF), made it necessary to examine funding for groups beyond political parties. Police are investigating the authenticity of the minutes.

Azalina added that the allegations that a foreign entity may have financed efforts to oust the ruling government here merited serious investigation.

The OSF yesterday confirmed that it provides Malaysian NGOS with approximately US$700,000 (RM2.9 million) annually, but denied that the money was used to help overthrow the Malaysian government.

The PDEA was proposed by a bipartisan panel on political funding that also recommended oversight on contributions to political parties and the mandatory identification of donors who contribute more than RM3,000.

It also recommended banning foreign donors, confiscating money from unknown sources, and delimiting campaign spending.