Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Zaid Ibrahim hails George Soros

 Zaid Ibrahim     Published     Updated

COMMENT When I was involved in setting up an organisation for the defence of civil liberties (this organisation was never registered by the Registrar of Societies), I was keen to look for a funder and George Soros came to mind.

I’d heard a lot about him, his generosity and great wealth, from his books and from newspaper reports. He is known for his contributions towards promoting human rights and education around the world. I even went to New York to visit his Open Society Foundation (OSF) headquarters, but I was unable to see him.

Now I heard that he has been busy funding some NGOs in Malaysia - some say even Malaysiakini and Bersih have received funds from the OSF. I would like to congratulate these organisations and advise them not to be too worried about calls from the cabinet ministers to investigate how or why Soros is funding them.

George Soros is a great man. He is one of many American billionaires who use their money to do good things. He was a poor Hungarian immigrant who settled in the US and developed his business expertise to make lots of money - but he then donated millions to help set up universities and hospitals in Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe.

NGOs in Myanmar also received lots of help from him to fight the oppressive military regime - and today it’s a nascent democracy.

Soros is a believer in the emancipation of men and women. He believes that freedom and good education are central to the development of human beings all over the world. His book, Open Society, explains in great detail how, only under a democracy, you can establish basic human rights, develop human capital, liberate people and reduce poverty.

He has been giving out his millions to help noble causes and there is no reason one should feel ashamed to be associated with him. I say again: do not feel ashamed or guilty that you are receiving financial help from Soros. You have not committed any offence.

Soros is not interfering in our politics

Utusan Malaysia will of course cry foul that a foreigner is interfering in our politics. That’s what you would expect from Umno and its associates. Every time they get in trouble, they will appeal to emotion by suggesting that foreigners are meddling in our affairs. Though one does wonder quite what Utusan thinks about receiving money from Saudi princes to fight DAP.

But Soros is not interfering in our politics. He is merely helping us to be active participants in how our country is being run. He did not make any money or get any contracts in exchange for his donations.

In today’s world, donations and contributions come from everywhere. The question we should ask is: what’s the money for? Some people who don’t even allow women to drive in their country are giving money to us to keep corrupt leaders in power, instil Taliban values in our country, keep women in their homes and encourage child marriages. Which donor would you prefer?
I am not hopeful, but I still urge more Malaysian billionaires to emulate the good work of Soros and others like him. I hope our local billionaires will help Malaysian civil society and volunteer groups to empower the people of this country.
Of course, we can leave Malaysia to the politicians who have no qualms about receiving money from foreign powers in return for large contracts or whatever kind of under-the-table deal. We can let these corrupt people remain in public office or we can help Malaysians have a greater say in how their country is run.

You can be a heartless billionaire or you can use your money, as George Soros has, to help the people regain their basic rights.

Which would you choose?

ZAID IBRAHIM is a former minister, in charge of law. This piece was originally published in his blog.

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