Bersih repudiates foreign Christian funding claim

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan rubbished today Utusan Malaysia’s claim that the electoral reform group’s July 9 rally was funded by foreign Christian organisations, saying the money was donated by Malaysian citizens at home and abroad.

“The funds for the rally are entirely from public donations and the [sale of] Bersih t-shirts… I have never even heard of those [foreign] groups,” she told The Malaysian Insider over the phone today after being questioned by the police over the controversial July 9 street demonstration that has triggered two other groups, Perkasa and Umno Youth, to call their own counter rallies.

She added that the Selangor state government has also pledged financial support for Bersih’s July 9 rally.

Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia claimed in an editorial today that Bersih is being funded by some 11 foreign Christian organisations that have donated millions of ringgit to underwrite the group’s rally. It named German think-tank Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF) and the Canadian Allied Foundation as among them.

KAF is associated with Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and  aims to further the “promotion of freedom and liberty, peace, and justice” through “furthering European unification, improving transatlantic relations and deepening development co-operation.”

Little is known about the Canadian Allied Foundation named in the Utusan article.

Ambiga admitted to Bersih receiving some money from two US organisations — the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI) — for other projects, which she stressed were unrelated to the July 9 march.

The NDI describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan organisation “working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government”.

According to corporate information on its website, the OSI was started by financier George Soros in 1984 to help countries make the transition from communism, and has grown to include not just the US but more than 70 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Fellow Bersih steering committee member, Maria Chin Abdullah, explained that both NDI’s and OSI’s funding were specifically for to the electoral watchdog’s delineation projects.