KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — Putrajaya should not criminalise civil society groups for receiving foreign funding when even governments around the world do so as well, a United Nations (UN) representative said today.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai pointed out that there should only be one international standard to regulate the foreign funding.
“So why is it a problem when NGO gets foreign fundings and not businesses or government?
“If everybody in the world gets foreign funding, why do they pick on one and says its wrong but another one is okay?” Kiai said at a special lecture session titled ‘Freedom of Assembly: Trends and Challenges in International Human Rights’ at the Malaysian Integrity Institute here.
Kiai stressed that no one should be criminalised simply for receiving funds from organisations like the Open Society Foundation (OSF), which is owned by billionaire George Soros.
“We shouldn’t make it as though those receiving money from OSF, for example, are more evil or more dangerous than others.”
The Kenyan-born academic, activist and lawyer said that if it was alright for Putrajaya to receive foreign funding, then the same must apply for everyone else.
Last month, de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said called for the Political Donations and Expenditure Act (PDEA) to be extended to civil society groups, following claims that Soros has 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.