by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Friday, October 20 , 1995:
The Government should stop harassing NGOs and show a constructive attitude to the positive role they play in the development of a mature “civil society” by giving them all possible assistance, including an annual RM20 million grant to fund their activities
The DAP is very concerned by the recent trend or government. NGO-bashing and calls on the government to stop Harassing NGOS and show a constructive attitude to the positive role they play in the development of a mature “civil society” in Malaysia.
The Government NGO-bashing seems to have started with Tenaganita, which had angered the government with its concern about the plight and conditions of migrant workers held in the eight immigration detention camps, where 46 persons had died till August this year.
The Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub said on Sunday that Tenaganita was not a non-Government Organisation (NGO) as it was registered as a company with two directors.
Megat said the Ministry had wanted to include a repre¬sentative of Tenaganita as a member of the Independent Board or Visitors to look into the conditions of the immigration detention centres, but had round “after conducting checks” that, it was not a NGO.
It is a loss to the independent Board of Visitors and not to Tenaganita that the Ministry of Home Affairs did not appoint a Tenaganita representative onto the Board.
There is no doubt that it a Tenaganita representative had been appointed to the board, this would have enhanced the credibility of the board and inspired public confidence – which are both sorely lacking in the present Board of independent visitors, despite the appointment of a person at undoubted hones¬ty and integrity, Tan Seri Zulkifli Mahmood, the former director-general of Anti-Corruption Agency, as Chairman of the Board.
Instead of harassing Tenaganita, and its director, Irene Fernandez, for the Tenaganita memorandum on deaths and abuses at the immigration detention centres, the Government should adopt, a more open and liberal atittude in seeking the full co-operation of Tenaganita to rectify the abuses and weaknesses in the immigration detention centres.
Such an action would have brought great, credit to government, and the nation in the International arena.
Following Megat’s statement, the second Deputy Home Minister, Ong Ka Ting said that NGOOOs must toe registered with the Registered of Societies to operate legally.
This was followed by a report, yesterday that the Registrar of Companies is investigating NGOs registered as compa¬
nies to determine if they are infringing the Companies Act 1965.
It would appear that there are people in government who want to throw “the whole works” against Tenganita, in declaring that it is an illegal NGO.
This is a most short-sighted attitude and action and I call for a half to such harassment of the NGOs in the country.