PETALING JAYA: The International Republican Institute (IRI) has issued a statement, denying it worked with Pakatan Harapan leaders to undermine the previous Barisan Nastional government.
This comes after a video surfaced, where its president Daniel Twinning declared at a forum that it has been working with the previous Opposition for 15 years.
In a statement uploaded on its website on Aug 6 (US time), it said, “IRI categorically rejects the sensational headline by the Free Malaysia Today news (portal) that the Institute worked with the Opposition coalition prior to the May 9 general election in an attempt to undermine the ruling Barisan government.
“IRI is a non-partisan organisation that has worked with partners in Malaysia since 2002 to strengthen the ability of political parties to compete in elections and adhere to the practices of citizen-centred governance.
“IRI has provided non-partisan capacity building support to political parties across the political spectrum in the form of direct training workshops and consultations with both the Pakatan and Barisan coalitions.
“IRI does not provide financial assistance to political parties in Malaysia.
“These activities have engaged participants from across the political and social spectrum, and have included initiatives designed to increase youth participation within political and civic spheres and to strengthen the capacity of Malaysia’s civil society organisations.
“Through this work, IRI has helped Malaysian citizens hold their elected officials accountable and communicate their concerns to government,” it said in its statement.
The IRI, heavily linked to the Republican party in the United States, describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to advancing freedom and democracy worldwide by helping political parties to become more issue-based and responsive.
It says it receives funding through grants from the US State Department, US Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, a number of European foundations and aid agencies and other Western countries, and the United Nations.
In the wake of the video being uploaded on YouTube, Barisan component party Umno called for an independent and neutral party to investigate allegations that IRI had interfered in Malaysian politics.
Umno information chief Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said in a statement Monday (Aug 6) that since the judiciary and other enforcement agencies are under the Government’s control, a special taskforce must be set up so that there can be fair investigations.
Pakatan leaders have denied they worked with IRI.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng denied any knowledge that Pakatan had any contact with IRI.
“Republicans are not fans of the DAP. We are also critical of them, especially their leaders like (US President Donald) Trump. We have no contact with the IRI whatsoever,” he said at the Parliament lobby on Monday (Aug 6).
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar however, admitted to some cooperation, but claimed the think tank had also worked with Barisan, and named Gerakan, which was in contact with IRI.
“Whatever activities that we have done and are doing now are transparent. The IRI is not only helping Pakatan, but also Barisan and Gerakan,” she said.
Below is a partial transcript of what IRI president Daniel Twinning said at the forum, organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies last month:
“Malaysia – for 61 years, one party governed this country, since it became independent in 1957. They constructed a totally gerrymandered, corrupt political system in which the ruling party accrued every advantage and doubled down on holding the tools of power with a fusion of state and leading economic factors, etc.
“So, IRI – we have worked with Opposition political parties since 2002, and guess whose funding we did it with? The National Endowment for Democracy, because guess who wouldn’t fund democratic political work in Malaysia? The (unintelligible) US Agency for International Development and the US State Department, because I think, you know, the reflection was ‘Gosh, this is a one-party system, this is a bad use of our funds, and Malaysia is kind of a valuable military partner.’
“So, for 15 years, working with net resources, we worked to strengthen Malaysian Opposition parties.
“And guess what happened two months ago? After 61 years, they won – not thanks to us, but to them. There was such a reaction to the excesses of corruption, and cronyism, and nepotism. It had nothing to do with us, but it was the excesses of the one-party state, the kind of logical culmination of the abuses of power in this quite rich South-East Asian country.
“And so, I visited, and I was sitting there with many of the leaders, the new leaders, of this government, many of whom were just our partners we’d been working with for 15 years, and one of them – the most senior of them and one of the people running the government – said to me, ‘Gosh, IRI – you never gave up on us, even when we were ready to give up on ourselves.’
“Right? We’re sitting in the Prime Minister’s office. Here we are. That’s a tribute to them, not a tribute to us, but an example of playing the long game.”
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