Should foreign activists fund S'pore civil groups
The New Paper, 27 July 2009
..... So what was the agenda of the Swedish activist, Mr Johan Skarendal?
He is a member of the Swedish International Liberal Centre (Silc), whose avowed goal, as stated on its website, is 'to strengthen organisations and support individuals who develop and promote democracy and human rights'.
Mr Skarendal, 29, is in charge of Silc activities in Singapore and the group is affiliated to the Liberal Party, one of the four political parties in the Swedish government since 2006.
The group has extensive reach globally and funds activities which promote its goals....
The rules for foreign funding of local political parties here are clear. The Political Donation Act bans political parties and organisations from receiving foreign donations.
But could foreign groups influence politics through non-political donations using civil societies as a front?
After all, NGOs have shown they can spark a change here....
Singapore Management University law lecturer Eugene Tan said no CSO (Civil Society Organisation) would be breaking the law by virtue of receiving foreign funding as long as they are not recognised as a political organisation.
But he said they have an 'ethical duty' to say who funds them so people who give donations can make an informed opinion about the group's motives...
Gay rights activist Alex Au, who is also a member of Maruah, however, didn't think there was any issue with foreign funding...
But he agreed that funding sources should be as open as possible.
'Any organisation that takes a public profile should act in a way that is in the interest of accountability, to a reasonable extent,' he said.
Who did Swedish activist meet here?
In about a one-week period in April, Swedish activist Johan Skarendal met an array of Singapore liberals.
They include filmmakers Martyn See and Seelan Palay, Myanmar activist Myo Myint Maung, and Mr Andrew Loh and Mr Choo Zheng Xi of socio-political blog The Online Citizen.
Others included activist Alex Au from gay movement People Like Us and lawyer Peter Low...
Mr See said he met Mr Skarendal over drinks in town in a casual setting and the topic was mainly his experience with the Films Act...
Overseas Burmese Patriots spokesman Myo Mying Maung said he was introduced to Mr Skarendal by Mr Palay, and there were five Myanmar activists at the meeting, himself included.
Gay rights activist Mr Au said they spoke about social change and politics here.
'He asked us a number of questions, and we answered,' he said...
But The New Paper understands Mr Skarendal did not meet any minister or 'members of the establishment'...
Activist Mr Palay, who was present at several of the meetings, would only say that Mr Skarendal came on a fact-finding mission...
All those interviewed denied being offered funds by Skarendal, who is not new to Singapore. A self-described good friend of opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, Mr Skarendal has been involved with the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief's work in human rights and the promotion of liberal democracies.
Just how close is the relationship and has Mr Skarendal funded Mr Chee's non-political agenda? The Swede would not say. Ignoring the question, he merely replied earlier that he considered Mr Chee a good friend and someone who had written a testimonial for his studies in Taiwan. Their relationship goes back to 2003. After Mr Chee visited Sweden in February that year, the SDP's youth wing organised a conference here in July...
Mr Chee also spoke at the conference, which was sponsored by Swedish-based institutions including SILC.
It was co-organised with the Sweden-Singapore Initiative for Democracy (SSID).
On SDP's website, the party says it is affiliated or working in close cooperation with several organisations including SSID, which is also funded by SILC.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Singapore Democratic Party Lack of Transparency
Singapore Democratic Party have links with foreign groups.