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Leaked document shows Soros’ interest in Malaysian politics

Business magnate’s foundation’s efforts to support fair elections discussed in June last year

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 3:17pm

A leaked document outlining minutes of a meeting that discussed strategies for the upcoming general election by the Open Society Foundation (OSF) funded by George Soros clearly shows the billionaire’s personal interest in the matter.

The meeting, titled “Malaysia Pro­gramme – Portfolio Review Out­come Summary” which was held in June 2015, outlined OSF’s efforts to support civil society efforts, empowerment of indigenous groups, youth and women, and rural areas, as well as free and fair elections.

The meeting was attended by OSF president Christopher Stone and Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research director Ibrahim Suffian, among others.

Coupled with the perceived importance of the 2013 general election, it led to OSF heightening the level of urgency in the work and levera­ging its network of networks, bringing in outside ex­­per­­tise and conducting advocacy in Washington, DC.

OSF’s Malaysia pro­­gramme considered grant-­making its most successful intervention and was instrumental in organising and bringing hund­reds of thousands of people to the streets.

The document said through its grants “large-scale local election monitoring occurred for the first time, and the first dedicated media monitoring project was underta­ken”.

OSF added that its support was particularly impactful for youth participation, where hundreds of young people were mobilised.

However, it mention­ed that OSF faced challenges in mobilising the network of net­­works due to poor communication and coordination, difficulty in finding local spokesmen, and the level of vilification of Soros and OSF by association in local media.

“As a result, we had to work quietly and minimise our public exposure. Staff only attended public events and not private or closed-door meetings,” it said.

The group also worked with other donors such as the Interna­tional Republican Institute and The Asia Foundation, which also funded the same organisations, but the support was for different programmes.

In the document, Ibrahim was quoted as saying there had to be “increased focus on the strong Muslim segment that was growing”.

“Based on the polling that has been done, it appears that they have not bought into the reform.

“With a strong ethnic element in Malaysia in the political discourse and a government that is also very unpopular, there is a need to widen the constituencies engaged in the discourse and to bring more voices into the fold,” it said.

When contacted, Ibrahim said that he gave his views on the overall situation of civil society groups in Malaysia.

“How they interpreted and what they wrote, I am not sure. During the time that was given to me, I had covered many topics during the discussion about trends, democracy, (but) how they concluded it is beyond me,” he said.

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