SUARAM EXPOSES THE REAL FOREIGN LACKEYS
By Dr Kua Kia Soong, Suaram Adviser, 4 Sept 2012
Ever since SUARAM’s complaint to the French courts regarding the suspected corruption involved in the purchase of the two Scorpene submarines, the BN government has been behaving like a cat in a tin pot republic. The theoretically “above politics” civil service – the Companies Commission, Perkeso and even the Inland Revenue – have been roped in to try to pin something on SUARAM.
Finally, yesterday (3.9.2012) the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister 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 per cent 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 MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT IS 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, Perkeso and the Inland Revenue too?
The fact is that practically EVERY Malaysian NGO working on human rights, women’s issues, indigenous peoples’ issues, migrants and refugee issues and such issues have been supported by foreign funders 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 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 1994, a scandal erupted concerning the 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 £1 billion 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 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 GBP 234 million. Can you imagine how much foreign funding the Malaysian government has been receiving all these years since Independence?
WHAT? A MALAYSIAN TYCOON SUPPORTING SUARAM TOO?
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 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.
SUARAM’s PRINCIPLED ANTI-IMPERIALIST STAND
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 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:
– 4th anniversary protest against the occupation of Iraq at the US Embassy, 18 Mac 2007;
– 3rd Anniversary Protest at US Embassy, 19 Mac 2006;
– 2nd Anniversary Protest against the Occupation of Iraq, 20 Mac 2005;
– World-wide protest against the Iraq War at US Embassy, 15 Feb 2003;
– Anti War protest at US Embassy, 15 Feb 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, 30.3.83);
– “Superpowers and apologists” condemning the US invasion of Grenada (The Star, 23.11.84);
– “Libya, superpowers and self-determination” condemning the US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi (Nanyang Siangpau, 14-16 May 1986);
– “Peace and self-determination in the Gulf”, condemning the US invasion of Iraq during the Gulf war (NST and Sinchew Jitpoh, 24.1.91);
– “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.
WHO ARE THE REAL FOREIGN LACKEYS?
This is a snippet taken from my 2010 title “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 formalized 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 Tun 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 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 Razak, 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-U.S. Defence Cooperation: the Untold Story’ at the U.S. Heritage Foundation on 3 May 2002 should put Malaysians in the true picture of who has been holding secret liaisons with the U.S.:
‘For many years U.S. 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 U.S. military jungle-warfare training. U.S. troops are warmly welcomed in Malaysia and enjoy training there. In particular, there have been more than 75 U.S. 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. U.S. Navy SEALs conduct training in Malaysia twice a year. The U.S. Army does field exercises with the Malaysian army. Finally, 1,500 Malaysian defence personnel have benefited from the U.S.-sponsored IMET (international military education and training) program…
‘As you can see, cooperation between our two nations started long before September 11, 2001. But the horrific events of that day galvanized our relationship as never before. Prime Minister Mahathir 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 September 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 September 11, Malaysian forces have been protecting U.S. ships in the Straits…
‘Over the years, some in the United States have misinterpreted some of (Dr. 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…’” (Kua Kia Soong, 2010:8-11)
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 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.
SUARAM’s Annual Human Rights Report – 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.
SUARAM’s Coalition Building Work – 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.
Human Rights Education and Training – 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.
Campaigns for indigenous peoples and marginalised communities – SUARAM has initiated campaigns against the Bakun dam, 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…