NGOs Need to be Independent

By A. Jeyaraj

Institut Darul Ridzuan (IDR) organised a Roundtable Dialogue with NGOs as a Satellite Programme of the Pangkor Dialogue at Casuarina Hotel recently. The programme started on a wrong footing when the participants were told not to speak in English and a panel member insisted we speak pure Malay. This put off many participants at the short sightedness of these people. Nowadays most people are comfortable speaking in Malay, but nervous to do so in English. This dialogue would have given an opportunity for people to speak in English. The proceedings of the Pangkor Dialogue are in English. The government is promoting usage of English and some ‘Little Napoleons’ want to derail this.

Professor Madya Dr Richard Ng was the moderator and shared his experience of the activities his NGO (Ipoh City Watch) had carried out. He recounted that during a flood relief activity his team carried out cleaning activities and were criticised for poor workmanship by the residents. As Director of the organisation he had to take responsibility for it.

This reminded me of an incident many years ago when the late Sultan Azlan Shah attended a wedding in Lim Garden. He told the host he was just a guest and not to treat him differently. He sat with the others. He had the right mindset. He attended the marriage as a colleague of the host and not as Sultan. When we volunteer we must forget about our status. When Jaya Gopi from Buntong organised cleaning of Sungai Buntong, he was the first to get into the river. This is leadership by example.

Topics discussed included how NGOs could qualify to get government funding from Dr Richard and Dato’ Hj. Samsuddin Bin Hj Abu Hassan, Committee Chairman for NGO and Civil Society issued a Strategic Action Plan for NGOs in Perak which has nine focus points.

According to the UN, any kind of private organisation that is independent from government control can be termed an “NGO”, provided it is not-for-profit and not simply an opposition political party.

By the above definition the government has nothing to do with the NGOs. They operate independently. The government has no right to interfere with the activities of NGOs or try to manipulate them. There is no justification to come up with this Plan which is irrelevant. The people who set up NGOs are mature enough and know what they are doing. NGOs can act as advisors to the government and not the other way around.

I am not sure where Samsudin got this idea from. I do not know which countries practice this. We are a democracy and there must be no government meddling in running of NGOs. Russia has nearly 300,000 NGOs and I doubt the government is controlling them.

Samsudin can set up GROs, Government Related Organisations which would support all government policies. There will be no conflict of interest. As Exco for Civil Society what he should do is organise programmes to create awareness for the public on their rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, an Annual Global Study, found that Malaysians trust NGOs more than they do their own government. This is because NGOs are independent.

I request Samsudin to withdraw this plan and not try to influence NGOs. He must leave the NGOs alone. Instead he should provide funding to deserving NGOs even if they do not support his policies.

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