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  1. #1
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    Action: ‘Do your worst, we will do our best’, SUARAM

    ‘Do your worst, we will do our best’



    July 31, 2012
    The NGOs in Malaysia have found themselves 'between a ROC and a hard place…', says Suaram's adviser Kua Kia Soong.
    COMMENT
    By Kua Kia Soong


    While the Registrar of Societies may now feign innocence regarding their selectivity in registering societies by questioning Suaram’s registration as a business, let me remind the young generation and those with short memories about our nation’s shortcomings relating to the freedom of association in our recent history.


    As you know, ‘Operation Lalang’ was Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s autocracy at its worst when he arrested and detained more than a hundred innocent Malaysians without trial in October 1987.


    Upon the release of the last Operation Lalang detainees in 1989, several of these detainees including my goodself and members of the Families Support Group formed this human rights organisation known as Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia). Aware of the obstacles in registering a human rights society under the Registrar of Societies, Suaram registered as a business under the Registrar of Business.


    At the time, another human rights organisation, Hakam had taken more than two years to be registered in 1989 even though it boasted two former prime ministers (Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn) as its patrons. It had tried unsuccessfully several times to register as a society in the eighties.


    The Malaysian chapter of Amnesty International also tried unsuccessfully for five years to register as a society under the Societies Act. Two applications and an appeal to the Home Minister were also rejected.


    Consequently, quite a number of NGOs decided that in order to carry out their services to society, they had no choice but to register as businesses.


    So why is there a sudden interest in Suaram’s status after its 23 years’ existence? Is it coincidental that this has arisen out of our recent request to the French judicial system to pursue suspected commissions embroiled in the RM7 billion Scorpene submarine deals?


    It is no secret


    Given the difficulties created by the Societies Act, some non-governmental organisations, including Suaram decided to register as companies or businesses.


    As the corporate gurus say, “If something is not working, do something else.” Or, as Deng Xiaoping famously said, “It does not matter if the cat is white or black, as long as it catches the mice.” The mice, in the case of NGOs, are defending human rights, democracy and social justice.


    NGOs registering as companies were certainly not a secret. In fact, in early 1997 the government threatened to force all NGOs to register under the Societies Act. Nonetheless, registration as a company has not completely protected NGOs from harassment by the government, as the recent intrusion by the SSM into Suaram’s accounts has demonstrated.


    In 1996, the Institut Pengajian Komuniti (IPK), an NGO taking up the issue of rights of indigenous peoples in Sarawak was de-registered by the Registrar of Business over a legal technicality.


    The ROC’s Tenaganita fiasco


    In 1997, the Registrar of Companies raided the offices of Tenaganita, the NGO that had exposed inhuman conditions in immigrant detention centres, and confiscated their documents.


    Tenaganita and two directors were subsequently charged in court in March 1997 under the Companies Act for late filing of audited financial statements of 1994. And most unusual was the fact that the charges were prosecuted by a Deputy Prosecutor from the Attorney-General’s Chambers instead of the usual officers of the Registrar.


    The charges were subsequently withdrawn on July 9, 1997 when it was pointed out in court that the Registrar had already compounded the offences and accepted payment of a fine through Tenaganita’s accountants.


    Then on Sept 5, 1997, the Registrar again issued fresh charges against Tenaganita and two directors on minor technicalities. This time around, the Registrar refused to compound the alleged offences for a fine.


    After Tenaganita mounted a legal challenge to the prosecutions alleging mala fide prosecution, the charges were withdrawn on Nov 25, 1997.


    As you can see, NGOs in Malaysia have found themselves “between a ROC and a hard place…”


    PSM’s Greek tragedy


    Opposition political parties have fared no better. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) only obtained its legal registration as a political party in 2008, 10 years after it first filed its application. The entire saga endured by PSM in its struggle to be registered reads like a Greek tragedy in modern Malaysia.


    And of course, the Registrar of Societies can feign selective outrage yet again: “Wasn’t the Malaysian Indian United party (MIUP), whose founding leader is S Nallakaruppan swiftly registered in October 2007, just five months after he quit PKR in May 2007?”


    “You mean the party that pledged to work closely with, and give its support to, the ruling BN coalition? Yes, we believe the ROS acted expeditiously on their application…”


    Restrictions to the fundamental right to freedom of association are also imposed on trade union officials through the Trade Unions Act. Today, less than 10 per cent of
    Malaysian workers are unionised compared to more than 60 per cent at the time of Independence. What a transformation indeed!


    Inspecting the good guys


    We stress that the entire charade by the government to harass Suaram through a complaint by some nonentity in the public and CCM’s ‘routine’ inspection is political and uncalled for.


    We do not even know if the complaint was made officially to the CCM. It would appear that the CCM is acting on every single complaint (offical or otherwise) from the public at a highly efficient rate.


    We question if there is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) within CCM that provides guidelines on receiving and acting on a complaint.


    We also question whether or not the SOP requires the CCM to first verify the background of the complainant prior to receiving and acting on a complaint.


    From the evidence in the Paris (Scorpene Scandal) Papers, one would have expected that the CCM would know its priorities and begin “routinely inspecting” the highly dubious activities and accounts of Perimekar Sdn Bhd and Terasasi Sdn Bhd, but have they?


    Doing our best


    Through 23 years of selfless work defending human rights in Malaysia, Suaram has established itself as the human rights centre of Malaysia. From Operation Lalang through the Reformasi period to the present day, many victims of state oppression have turned to Suaram for assistance in highlighting their plight.


    The funding we get goes into nurturing young activists in human rights work. We employ a handful of dedicated young staff that has chosen this path of service in human rights work.


    The elder members of the Suaram secretariat like me have always been non-staff volunteers in overseeing the running of the organisation.


    Since 1989, Suaram has been the main coordinating secretariat for the Movement against the ISA and other detention without trial laws, the EO and the DDA. Our office serves as the refuge for those whose family members have been victims of state oppression. We send Urgent Appeals throughout the world whenever any detention or other violations of human rights happen.


    Despite its small staff, Suaram publishes the only credible and detailed Malaysian Human Rights Report every year without fail and has been doing so since 1998. Such a report is an invaluable service to all the peoples of Malaysia irrespective of ethnicity, religion or creed.


    Since its founding, Suaram has worked toward a healthy democratic movement in the country and we could well say that all the efforts by Suaram in the last 20 years have been instrumental in producing today’s two-front system and the political tsunami of 2008.


    Throughout its existence over the last 20 years, Suaram staff and secretariat have been involved in human rights and environmental education, giving talks, organising seminars and providing training. Suaram has initiated campaigns against the Bakun dam and the Selangor dam to protect the interests of indigenous peoples, the environment and the interests of Malaysian tax payers.


    We have also supported marginalised communities such as the urban settlers, estate communities and refugees when they have met eviction and state oppression.


    Suaram has played a role in the “Stop the War Coalition” and has coordinated Anti-US demonstrations and protests against the US-led occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and Israeli atrocities in Gaza in recent years.


    Suaram also played a key role in the last important peace conference for East Timor in 1996 together with other NGOs. We have been part of the campaign for democracy in Burma.


    In other words, Suaram has always been in the business of fighting for justice, equality, democracy and human rights in Malaysia and spoken out against imperialism and militarism in the rest of the world.


    For our efforts, Suaram was awarded the Human Rights Award for 2011 by the country’s Human Rights Commission (Suhakam). The only dividends we have gained in this business over these 23 years are the appreciation of the victims of oppression and exploitation, nature lovers and Malaysian tax payers.


    And to all our detractors and oppressors we can only say:


    “Do your worst and we will do our best”.


    Kua Kia Soong is Suaram adviser.

    py

  2. #2
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    Suaram: Who are the real foreign lackeys?



    • Kua Kia Soong


    • 2:22PM Sep 4, 2012


    COMMENT Ever since Suara Rakyat Malaysia's (Suaram) complaint to the French courts regarding the suspected corruption involved in the purchase of the two Scorpene submarines, the Barisan National (BN) government has been behaving like a cat in a tin pot republic.


    The theoretically “above politics” civil service – the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM), Social Security Organisation (Socso) and even the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) - have been roped in to try to pin something on Suaram.


    Finally, yesterday, the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob (right) claimed that “a ‘high level of suspicions’ has been found in the accounts of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, a company ‘linked’ to prominent human rights NGO Suaram”.


    According to Ismail, it was found that only 0.06 percent of the company’s activities considered were as trading, while the rest was “money collecting”. He further alleged that the sources of the donations included NGOs from Washington and New York as well as the German Embassy in Malaysia.


    Well, let me assure Suaram supporters that our company lawyers tell us that our accounts are well above board.
    The biggest recipient of foreign funds


    So is it a big secret that Malaysian NGOs have been receiving foreign grants among other donations all these years? You mean the Malaysian government has been ignorant of this all these years? And the Special Branch too? And CCM, Socso and the IRB too?


    The fact is that practically every Malaysian NGO working on human rights, women’s issues, indigenous peoples’ issues, migrants and refugee issues as well as other such issues have been supported by foreign funds all these years.


    The fact is that the BN government does not really care about such issues as human rights since it has been an inveterate violator of human rights all these years.


    But what Malaysian NGOs receive from foreign funders is peanuts compared to what the Malaysian government gets from foreign funders. Practically every mega project in Malaysia since its independence has been financed by foreign backers. The same goes for mega arms deals.


    In 1994, I blew the whistle on the ‘Aid for Arms’ deal with the British government. It is a good example of how much funding the Malaysian government gets for just one project.


    In that year, a scandal erupted concerning the United Kingdom (UK) funding for the Pergau hydroelectric dam in Kelantan. Building work began in 1991 with money from the UK foreign aid budget. Concurrently, the Malaysian government bought around one billion pounds worth of arms from the UK.


    The linkage of arms deals to aid is illegal in Britain and it became the subject of a UK government inquiry from March 1994.
    In November 1994, after an application for judicial review brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court held that the then-Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd had acted ultra vires by allocating 234 million pounds towards the funding of the dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to the Malaysian people.


    So, for just one project, namely, the Pergau dam, the Malaysian government received 234 million pounds. Can you imagine how much foreign funding the Malaysian government has been receiving all these years since Independence?


    Anti-imperialistic stand


    We also try to raise funds locally through annual fund-raising dinners and such. Recently, it was even rumoured by some quarters that a tycoon is funding Suaram. This is an insult to Suaram – there are certainly more than one tycoon supporting us.


    Some state governments also support us and it is time the federal government donates to Suaram too since the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) also appreciates the work done by Suaram.


    We welcome donations from any source but don’t expect Suaram to compromise its commitment to justice, equality, democracy and human rights.


    The foreign funders know full well that Suaram is a unique human rights organisation because it cannot be corrupted into betraying its anti-imperialist principles nor can it be cowed by an authoritarian government. That is why we have existed this long.


    For instance, name the Malaysian NGO that has been the main coordinating secretariat for the Anti-US demonstrations and protests all these years? Yes, it is Suaram. We are part of the “Stop the War Coalition” and have coordinated Anti-US demonstrations and protests against the US-led occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Israeli atrocities in Gaza.


    The Malaysian government usually pours cold water on our efforts by directing the police to train their water cannons on anti-war demonstrators at the US Embassy. No organisation should claim to be anti-imperialist if they have done nothing to protest the US and NATO coalition wars.


    The following is a list of anti-US imperialism protests and statements coordinated by Suaram in recent years:



    • Fourth anniversary protest against the occupation of Iraq at the US Embassy, March 18, 2007;



    • Third Anniversary Protest at US Embassy, March 19, 2006;



    • Second Anniversary Protest against the Occupation of Iraq, March 20, 2005;



    • World-wide protest against the Iraq War at US Embassy, Feb 15, 2003;



    • Anti War protest at US Embassy, Feb 15, 2002.


    As a founder and director of Suaram, I have spoken out and written articles condemning US imperialism consistently as follows:

    • “Non-aligned movement and double standards”, condemning US intervention in Latin America, notably in Cuba, Chile and El Salvador and Britain’s duplicity in the Falkland Islands (The Star, March 30, 1983);


    • “Superpowers and apologists” condemning the US invasion of Grenada (The Star, Nov 23, 1984);


    • “Libya, superpowers and self-determination” condemning the US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi (Nanyang Siangpau, May 14 - 16,1986);


    • “Peace and self-determination in the Gulf”, condemning the US invasion of Iraq during the Gulf war (NST and Sinchew Jitpoh, Jan 24, 1991);


    • “Questioning Arms Spending in Malaysia”, my latest book exposes the efforts by US, British, French, Russian governments in unscrupulously selling arms to countries like Malaysia (Suaram, 2010).


    Which other Malaysian organisation has been as consistent in opposing and condemning US imperialism all these years?

    Suaram also played a key role in the last important peace conference for East Timor in 1996 together with other NGOs. We have also been an active component for the campaign for democracy in Burma.


    The real foreign lackeys


    This is a snippet taken from my 2010 book “Questioning Arms Spending in Malaysia: From Altantuya to Zikorsky”. From this, Malaysians will be able to judge who the real lackeys of the foreign powers are:


    “Brothers in Arms: The Non-Aligned Movement was founded upon the principles of peace, neutrality and impartiality to the Superpowers. A genuine non-aligned policy can therefore go a long way toward ridding us of the need to procure expensive arms.


    "But despite Malaysia’s avowed non-aligned policy and Dr. Mahathir’s anti-US posturing during his term in office, Malaysia has all along been partial to the US.
    “Both countries have been holding joint military exercises since the early 1970s. Then, when Mahathir visited Washington in 1984, this relationship was formalised in an agreement signed by the Malaysian prime minister and the then US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger:


    ‘At Malaysia’s request, the agreement on Bilateral Training and Educational Cooperation has been kept secret. One reason for the secrecy is that Malaysia has championed nonalignment and has strongly argued for the creation of a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality in Southeast Asia'.


    “Speaking to newsmen after opening the Third Defence Services Asia 1992, then Defence Minister Najib Abdul Razak said that Malaysia supported the continuing American military presence in the region. Malaysia signed an acquisitions and cross-servicing agreement in 1994 that allowed US Navy ships to visit Malaysian ports for repair and replenishment.


    “The contract was renewed during (former Prime Minister) Abdullah's tenure in 2005; each year, US Special Forces train at Malaysia's jungle-warfare school and bilateral military-to-military cooperation is growing rather than diminishing. The administration of US President George W Bush was also rather appreciative of Malaysia's security and counter-terrorism efforts.
    “President Barack Obama has also been making a concerted effort to engage Malaysia and other Muslim nations since he came to office. The current Prime Minister, Najib, has become much more open to the USA. His government, for example, has been trying to reach a free trade agreement with the Americans and after his much publicised audience with Obama in April 2010, has immediately fallen in with the US policy to impose sanctions on Iran.


    "The US and Malaysia carried out a number of joint exercises in 2008, including a special forces exercise involving a US Delta Force unit and Malaysian Special Forces:


    ‘The trend is expected to continue steadily in the coming years particularly given the good relations between the senior officers of the Malaysian armed forces and their US counterparts’.


    “At a time when Najib and other Umno leaders are trying to allege that the Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has ‘CIA connection’, this excerpt of a speech by Najib on ‘Malaysia-US Defence Cooperation: the Untold Story’ at the US Heritage Foundation on May 3, 2002 should put Malaysians in the true picture of who has been holding secret liaisons with the US:


    ‘For many years US and Malaysian forces have cooperated on a wide range of missions with virtually no fanfare or public acknowledgement. And in spite of its success, our bilateral defence relationship seems to be an all too well-kept secret... Historically, Malaysia has been a steady, reliable friend of the United States. Our multitude of common interests includes trade and investment on a sizeable scale and security cooperation across a range of fronts.


    ‘Malaysian forces regularly conduct joint training with United States counterparts and the United States routinely enjoys access to Malaysian airfields and ports. Also, Malaysia provides one of the few bases outside the United States for US military jungle-warfare training. US troops are warmly welcomed in Malaysia and enjoy training there.


    ‘In particular, there have been more than 75 US military ship visits in the past two and a half years. The United States conducts training exercises with the Royal Malaysian Air Force, flying with and against them in mock battles.


    'US Navy SEALs conduct training in Malaysia twice a year. The US Army does field exercises with the Malaysian army. Finally, 1,500 Malaysian defence personnel have benefitted from the US-sponsored IMET (international military education and training) programme.


    ‘As you can see, cooperation between our two nations started long before Sept 11, 2001. But the horrific events of that day galvanised our relationship as never before.
    'Prime Minister Mahathir (Mohamad) has been vocal in condemning the attacks, and we have been happy to provide an elevated level of cooperation with the United States on a range of fronts. For example: The United States averages more than 1,000 over flights per year. Since Sept 11, this number has increased dramatically, and all requests have been approved.


    ‘The United States has excellent access to Malaysian intelligence. Malaysia occupies a strategic location along the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, and devotes considerable resources to maintaining safe and free shipping lanes for commercial and military vessels. Since Sept 11, Malaysian forces have been protecting US ships in the Straits.


    ‘Over the years, some in the United States have misinterpreted some of (Mahathir’s) straight talk. Let me be clear: Strong friendships can withstand strong words. Malaysia and the United States have been close for decades. Our multi-faceted relationship will have its high and low points, but the core values our nations share endure…’ "


    What does Suaram do with its funding?


    The funding we get goes into nurturing young activists in human rights work. We employ a handful of dedicated young staff that would normally be dynamic leaders earning higher salaries in the private sector but have chosen this path of service in human rights work.


    The elder members of the Suaram secretariat, like me, have always been non-staff volunteers in overseeing the running of the organisation.


    Suaram is the main NGO opposing detention without trial. Suaram was born after Operation Lalang in 1989. Since then, it has been the main coordinating secretariat for the Movement against the Internal Security Act and other detention without trial laws, the Emergency Ordinance and the Dangerous Drugs Act.
    Our office serves as a refuge for those whose family members have been victims of state oppression. We send urgent appeals throughout the world whenever any detention or other violations of human rights happen.


    Despite its small staff, Suaram publishes the only credible and detailed human rights report every year without fail and has been doing so since 1998. Such a report is an invaluable service to all the peoples of Malaysia irrespective of ethnicity, religion or creed.


    Since its founding, Suaram has worked toward a healthy democratic movement in the country and we could well say that Gagasan Rakyat and all the efforts by Suaram in the last 20 years have produced today’s two-front system and the political tsunami of 2008.


    Throughout its existence in the last 20 years, Suaram staff and secretariat have been involved in human rights and environmental education, giving talks, organising seminars and providing training.

    Suaram has initiated campaigns against the Bakun dam and the Selangor dam to protect the interests of indigenous peoples, the environment and the interests of Malaysian tax payers.


    We have also supported marginalised communities such as the urban settlers, estate communities and refugees when they have met eviction and state oppression.


    In other words, Suaram has always scrupulously fought for justice, equality, democracy and human rights in Malaysia and spoken out against imperialism and militarism in the rest of the world.

    DR KUA KIA SOONG, a former MP, is director of human rights group Suaram.
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    Putrajaya sets six agencies on Suaram



    September 12, 2012

    Members of NGOs pose for photographs after a press conference to express support for Suaram, in Kuala Lumpur September 11, 2012. — File pic



    KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) will be probed by as many as six federal agencies over claims that it took funding from a firm linked to US financier George Soros, The Star reported on its website today.

    Aside from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM), the non-governmental organisation will also come under scrutiny by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Bank Negara, Registrar of Societies (ROS), the police and Home Ministry.


    “We will look into the status of Suaram which is not registered under the ROS as well as the allegations that it has been receiving foreign funds, whether it has breach the Companies Act 1965,” a CCM representative was quoted as saying in the report.


    Suaram is alleged to have taken grants amounting to approximately RM585,770 from the Open Society Foundation chaired by Soros.


    Soros came to prominence in Malaysia during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, when his market speculation against the ringgit forced the Mahathir administration to implement currency and capital controls in order to halt a rapid devaluation of the ringgit.


    Before that, the philanthropist-investor had achieved even greater success by betting against the pound sterling and triggering the 1992 British currency crisis.


    Yesterday, other NGOs and civil society movements banded together to criticise the authorities’ attention on Suaram, and demanded a cease to what they described as harassment.


    Suaram had sought and is currently involved in a French inquiry investigating possible corruption in Malaysia’s multibillion ringgit purchase of two submarines from DCNS, which has been linked to the prime minister.
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    Foreign groups back Suaram, demand end to harassment


    UPDATED @ 07:54:27 PM 17-09-2012
    By Lisa J. Ariffin
    September 17, 2012
    Both local and foreign NGOs are calling on Putrajaya to cease its “harassment” of Suaram. — File pic



    KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 ― A group of 56 regional and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) today rallied behind human rights watchdog Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and demanded the Malaysian government stop harassing the group over its funding sources.

    In a joint statement today, the groups reminded Putrajaya that it has also received foreign development aid in the past, adding that the government’s insinuation that Suaram has a hidden political agenda was made in “bad faith” and “irresponsible”.


    “We strongly condemn the Malaysian government’s attempts to discredit those who receive foreign funds for their human rights work, including insinuations made in the media that foreign-funded organisations, including Suaram, may have hidden political agendas.


    “We emphasise that foreign funding is indeed necessary for many NGOs, not only in Malaysia, but across the globe,” the statement said.


    The groups, which include NGOs from Nepal, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Philippines, Australia and even China and South Korea, sang Suaram’s praises and said the Malaysian-based organisation was widely recognised both regionally and internationally, as well as a credible voice for the protection of human rights here.


    Suaram is currently in the limelight due to its part in an ongoing French inquiry probing possible corruption in Malaysia’s multibillion ringgit purchase of two Scorpene submarines, which has been linked to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the murder of Mongolian model Altantuyaa Shaariibuu.


    Today, the groups urged Putrajaya to demonstrate impartiality when investigating all “credible cases of financial irregularities of organisations”.


    They said what they described as public vilification and threats against Suaram were occurring almost on a daily basis despite the NGO’s intention to co-operate fully with authorities.


    “More importantly, it is still unclear how Suaram’s receipt of foreign funds violates any law in Malaysia,” they said.


    Earlier this month, the Companies Commission Malaysia (CCM) raided the office of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, the operating entity of Suaram.


    Last Monday, Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ismail Sabri Yaacob said the accounts of Suara Inisitatif were “highly suspicious”.


    Suaram, established since 1989, has been investigated by the CCM since early 2012 for being registered as a company instead of a society, a trend among NGOs whose applications under the Societies Act 1966 were rejected by the government.


    The NGO has come under pressure since it started scrutinising the purchase of Scorpene submarines by the Defence Ministry.


    When asked by reporters to comment on its foreign funding, Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong said many NGOs used the funds for programmes without intervention or advice from such parties.


    Kua was referring to allegations by Malay dailies that Suaram took aid from the George Soros Foundation, which made them an agent of the billionaire currency speculator.
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    Wednesday, 19 September 2012 00:29
    Is SUARAM the target or the bait? Intrigue in Umno as rivals fire Scorpenes torpedo at Najib



    Written by Stan Lee, Malaysia Chronicle




    Amid swirling speculation of high-level political intrigue within Malaysia's ruling Umno party, as well as accusations Prime Minister Najib Razak was taking 'revenge' against SUARAM for initiating the Scorpenes corruption trial in Paris, the Malaysian leader is likely to earn himself another black eye when his administration brings charges against the country's largest NGO later this week.

    "BN just put another nail to its coffin by charging SUARAM. Making international news for all the wrong reasons," DAP lawmaker Hannah Yeoh, the assemblywoman for Subang Jaya, said on Twitter.


    "The grapevine has it that this action against SUARAM is aimed to embarrass Najib and who would have control over the government agencies and ministries to get them to take action? Can only be some very powerful people in Umno itself, right?" an Umno watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.


    The announcement by Domestic Trade Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to prosecute SUARAM's operating entity for “misleading accounts” comes just a day after 56 international NGOs signed a joint statement to protest the heavy-handed move.


    But according to Ismail Sabri, there was no malice in the proposed action to be taken by the Companies Commission of Malaysia against Suara Inisiatif within the next 2 days.


    “We will take legal action on Suara Inisiatif based on accounts that was reported to us... there are misleading elements in accounts,” Ismail told reporters on Tuesday.


    “In one year, we investigate over 200 cases, Suara Inisiatif is one of them... not because we have personal problems with Suara Inisiatif."


    No longer about receiving 'foreign funding'


    Ismailalso said the CCM was not bringing charges against Suara Inisiatif for receiving foreign funds. However, the minister declined to reveal the specific clause in the Companies Act 1965 that will be used to bring charges against Suara Inisiatif within the next two days, saying that the Attorney-General will decide on the charge.


    Nonetheless, the sudden switch in charge to "misleading accounts" was in itself suspicious, said SUARAM supporters. SUARAM and its premises have been the target of several raids, mostly on the basis that it had allegedly received foreign funding including from billionaire George Soros.


    "It is the usual runaround and hypocrisy from the Umno-BN government. The facts are SUARAM took initiative to voice out against purchase of Scorpene submarines. It pointed out the extreme overpricing and warned against kickbacks to Umno leaders including Najib himself," PKR chief for Rembau division Badrul Hisham Shaharin toldMalaysia Chronicle.


    "When the Malaysian government refused to investigate, SUARAM went to Paris to complain about DCNS overcharging us for the Scorpenes to compensate for the possible bribes paid to the Umno guys. The French court has deemed there is sufficient evidence to begin an investigative trial and this is now ongoing. Malaysians should thank and honor SUARAM, not charge it for all sorts of ridiculous accusations. This is just like prosecuting Rafizi Ramli for blowing the whistle on the Shahrizat family for the NFC corruption debacle."


    Umno intrigue: Najib a liability?


    In 2002, Najib who was then Defense Minister, had hammered through a controversial deal with French naval firm DCS to buy 2 Scorpene submarines for a staggering RM7.3billion despite the ships being unsuitable for the nation's shallow coastal waters. Najib's close aide Razak Baginda was accused to taking a 114 million euros or RM570mil kickback for securing the green light from the Malaysian government for the acquisition.


    In 2010, a frustrated SUARAM lodged a complaint with the authorities in Paris. If DCNS is found guilty of having corruptly induced Malaysian officials to buy the Scorpenes, it may have to pay compensation to the Malaysian people. Such a verdict would also seal the Malaysian people's suspicion that their leaders had misbehaved in the Scorpenes deal.


    Najib's political neck is now on the line and with general elections due to be called within the next few months, there is enormous pressure on him to deflect attention from himself and his Umno party.


    Najib also faces strong political rivalry including from his own deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and former premier Mahathir Mohamad. There are many who believe that the latest move against SUARAM comes from within Umno, from rivals either wishful of squeezing concessions from him, embarrassing him and even hopeful of ousting him before calling for nationwide polls. There are numerous factions within Umno who see the scandal-tainted Najib as a liability rather than as an asset.


    Intertwined with the Scorpenes purchase is the murder of a Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006. She was Baginda's former mistress and although Najib has denied ever knowing her, she is widely believed to have been his lover as well. It is also believed that she was killed for her knowledge of the Scorpenes deal.


    Coincidentally, two of Najib's former bodyguards were found guilty of shooting her and bombing her body with C4 explosives to prevent identification. But although they are awaiting their hanging sentence, most Malaysians believe they acted on the orders of unidentified "higher-ups".


    Another international debacle


    Meanwhile, Ismail insisted that apart from the CCM, five other government agencies are involved in the probe against SUARAM and have agreed to take action based on existing legal provisions. He said the CCM’s scope of investigation was based on five sections in the Companies Act — sections 364 (2), 166A (3), 169 (14), 167 (1), 167 (2), 132 (1).


    Whether they realize it or not, Ismail and the Malaysian government might be running foul of United Nations guidelines. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya has underscored the importance to access to funding, including foreign funding, as an inherent element of the right to freedom of association.



    Such a stance is reflected in Article 13 of the UN 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders according to which: Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.


    "Firstly, we stress that SUARAM’s registration as a company under the Registrar of Companies, as is the case for many other NGOs in Malaysia, precisely results from the barriers and obstacles in getting registration as a society under the Registrar of Societies. This has been pointed out by numerous human rights reports on Malaysia since the 1990s. The fact that many NGOs in Malaysia have failed to obtain registrations under the Societies Act, and thus had to register as companies, is an indication that the right to freedom of association in the country is severely restricted," said the 56 NGOs in their joint statement to the Malaysian government.
    "Secondly, we strongly condemn the Malaysian government’s attempts to discredit those who receive foreign funds for their human rights work, including insinuations made in the media[1] and in international fora[2] that foreign funded-organizations, including SUARAM, may have hidden political agendas. Such insinuations are in bad faith and irresponsible."

    py

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    13,392
    Suaram hounded, harassed for trying to expose corruption — P Ramakrishnan




    September 20, 2012

    SEPT 20 — The only crime committed by Suaram – it seems – it had dared to expose the massive corruption involving the Ministry of Defence when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was the defence minister.


    The purchase of the Scorpene submarines is a scandal that can be termed as the mother of all scandals.


    It cost taxpayers hundreds of million ringgit; it cost a Mongolian beauty her very life; it had caused the disappearance of records from the immigration system involving Altantuya’s entry into Malaysia; it led to a mystery over the release of the C4 explosives without authorisation to blow up a human body into smithereens; it perpetuated the puzzle regarding the conviction of two police personnel who had no motive to commit murder; it freed Razak Baginda, the lover of the murdered Mongolian beauty, without the prosecution appealing this bewildering court decision.


    All this and the hidden hands of those involved in this scandal are in danger of being exposed with the case coming up in the French court. It is this fear, according to many thinking Malaysians, that has set the ball rolling to demonise and harass Suaram without let up.


    It is clearly a political decision, some argue, to go after Suaram and divert attention from the real issues of massive corruption.


    It is no secret that Suaram was registered as a company. Its annual reports and statement of accounts, one would presume, have been regularly submitted to the Registrar of Companies as required by law. Otherwise the law would have gone after them especially when the group are known to be a pain in the BN’s butt.


    Their source of income and lawful activities are an open book for those who cared to scrutinise. It is unlikely that the government would have shut an eye if there was anything questionable or deserving prosecution.


    We wonder why nothing was suspected about their activities all these years. How come nothing was wrong with their functioning as a human rights organisation before this political furore broke out? Why were no questions raised regarding their sources of funding before this?


    For more than two decades, what they did and received was not an issue – it had never been! They were recognised as a legitimate society operating in the open for the good of the country.


    So why did it suddenly become an issue? Why the turn of events now? Is it because Suaram had decided to pursue the reeking corruption in the purchase of the Scorpene submarines? Is it because names and identities of the unsavoury characters who have been robbing the country and plundering the national coffers have to be protected and hidden from public exposure? That seems to be the case.


    The BN, as perceived by many, has never gone out of its way to curb and eradicate corruption. In fact it has gone with a vengeance after whistle-blowers who had on many occasions the temerity to expose horrendous corruption in public life.


    The recent example of PKR’s Rafizi Ramli is a case in point. He exposed the RM250m National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) scandal. He has been charged in court for this. He is also facing four charges under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (Bafia) relating to the NFCorp exposé.


    Well, with the 13th General Election imminent, the ongoing investigation by the French court into the procurement of the Scorpene submarines threatens to blow the lid off the closely guarded corruption. Many heads, for sure, will roll. Many so-called respectable persons will be exposed as imposters and avaricious politicians. This will cost the Barisan Nasional the elections.


    This is the only reason why Suaram is being hounded and harassed.


    But thinking Malaysians will not be fooled. They know what is happening. They know the track record of the BN. They know it is time for change!


    It seems, to stop corruption, you must defeat the BN!


    P Ramakrishnan, immediate past president, now serves on the Aliran Executive Committee


    * This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.
    py

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