Urging a common international standard to be applied for foreign funding, a United Nations special rapporteur drew a comparison between the funds from Saudi princes and the George Soros-linked Open Society Foundations (OSF).
"Civil society organisations receive foreign funding for their operations. So why is it a problem when NGOs get foreign funding and not businesses or governments?
"If everybody gets foreign funding, why pick on one and say it is wrong but another is okay?" asked Maina Kiai in his lecture at the Integrity Institute of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
"For all we know, even individuals gets foreign funding from princes.
"Why is that okay and for others, not okay? The question here is that there must be a common standard," added the special rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association.
For example, Kiai said it should not be a case of where receiving funds for OSF is considered to be more "evil and dangerous" compared to other sources.
"What about those Saudi princes who are giving money? Are they not dangerous? Are they not influencing people? These are the questions which we must ask," he stressed.
When it was revealed that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had RM2.6 billion in his personal accounts, he claimed it was funding from a Saudi royalty, given with no strings attached.
Detractors however claimed that the sum originated from 1MDB.
The prime minister has denied abusing public funds for personal again and was cleared by the attorney-general.
In its suit on the alleged abuse of 1MDB funds, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed US$731 million flowed into the accounts of an individual it named as "Malaysian Official 1" or MO1.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan confirmed that MO1 was Najib, but claimed that since the documents did not name the prime minister, he was not part of the investigation.
Meanwhile, Kiai said concerns over foreign funding is not unique to Malaysia and the goal should be for all countries to adopt a common standard to deal with the issue.
"If it is okay for the Malaysian government, or for the Kenyan government to receive funding, then everybody should be able to receive funding," he added.
The police are investigating electoral reform movement Bersih, the Bar Council and Malaysiakini over the OSF funds under Section 124C of the Penal Code for attempts to undermine parliamentary democracy.
Malaysiakini has provided a detailed explanation on the funding.
Over the weekend, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a special task force has been set up as well comprising the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Attorney General’s Chambers.
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