A document that purportedly originated from international grant-making network Open Society Foundation (OSF) has alleged that its founder, George Soros, has a "personal interest" in the Malaysian elections.
The document, supposedly the minutes of a June 22, 2015 meeting on OSF's Malaysia Programme, was leaked by DC Leaks, a website that has gained fame for hacking the Democrat National Committee email servers last year.
"Because of the perceived importance of the 2013 elections, and George Soros' personal interest in the elections, it was decided that OSF would heighten the level of agency in the work and leverage its network of networks, bringing in outside expertise and conducting advocacy in Washington DC," the document states.
The OSF has been contacted for comment and to verify if the document originated from it.
The document was described as a "portfolio review" of the OSF's Malaysia Programme on supporting free and fair elections.
"The portfolio review has raised questions on how the Malaysia Programme would continue to support increasing civil society participation in good governance and the priorities in gearing up for the 2018 general election."
Among those who participated in the meeting were the Malaysia Programme assistant head Mary Agnes James, OSF president Christopher Stone and Merdeka Center executive director Ibrahim Suffian (photo).
According to the document, OSF's primary function is to provide grants to civil society groups aimed at promoting free and fair elections.
"The grant making aspect was perceived to be the most successful intervention. Among the various interventions, it was the best planned, resulting from numerous conversations from the ground and thus reflected locally identified needs.
"As a result of grant making, large scale local election monitoring occurred for the first time, and the first dedicated media monitoring project was undertaken," reads the document.
'To support civil society efforts'
OSF also claimed that recipients of grants are important for galvanising public participation and supporting civil society efforts.
"OSF support was particularly impactful for youth participation, with hundreds of thousands of youth mobilised," the document states.
Malaysiakini and its video arm KiniTV are mentioned as a group that received funding from the Malaysia Programme.
According to the document, James had noted that the Malaysia Programme was "very clear" that it does not work with political parties or groups directly linked with political campaigns.
"As such, funding for certain groups was stopped when individuals in those groups begun running for political position.
"There was a clear distinction that we were standing on a platform for free and fair elections," reads the document.
Ibrahim had purportedly told the meeting that that polling numbers from Merdeka Center had suggested that the Malaysia Programme should engage more with Muslim voters.
"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," the document says in summarising Ibrahim's thoughts.
Although the Bersih movement is not stated in the document, both New Straits Times (NST) and The Malay Mail have linked the movement to the Malaysia Programme in their reports today.
According to NST, Maria (photo) said Bersih had received grants from OSF and the National Democratic Institute in 2010 and 2011.
"But we did not use it for our rallies. The amount given to us only made up 11 percent of funds raised from the public in 2011," Maria is reported as saying.
Since then, money was only raised through domestic sources and that Bersih has been transparent with their accounts, she said.
According to Malay Mail, Ibrahim said he was invited to share his opinion on civil society groups in Malaysia.
"There was no hint or indication that the meeting was about meddling in the country's internal politics," said Ibrahim, who is reported to have left after he spoke at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran clarified that the grant in relation to KiniTV was used to produce the Realiti Sarawak and Sekilas Bumi Kenyalang programmes.
"The grant mentioned was to support KiniTV to produce more news bulletins and stories on Sarawak, which is difficult for Malaysiakini, given the costs associated to cover the large and difficult to access state," Premesh said.
He said the grant only constituted a small portion of Malaysiakini's revenue, which largely relies on subscription and advertising.
"All grants are below 10 percent of Malaysiakini’s total budget to ensure that the website is not reliant on any single source of funds," said Premesh.
More on Malaysiakini's accountability and transparency policies can be found here.
"Malaysiakini is not in the business of "overthrowing" a government. Malaysiakini is in the business of holding federal, state and local governments, public officials and the powers that be accountable to the rakyat.
"It is up to the rakyat to chose the government of the day, through free and fair elections, as provided by the spirit of democracy as enshrined in the constitution," Premesh added.