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Friday, August 5, 2011

Scorpenes: More funds needed to dig deeper, says SUARAM

Sulaiman Kamal | 11:15 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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The RM250,000 raised by human rights NGO Suaram's fund raising events last month is expected to fall short of the total legal cost needed for the case it is pursuing at the French courts over the Malaysian government's purchase of two submarines.

This is despite the fact that the funds raised far surpasses the NGO's initial “modest” target of RM100,000, which it intended as a start-up fund.
Speaking to reporters at Petaling Jaya today, Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel said it is expected that the "overwhelming" donated amount would only cover the initial stages of the case.
"We are profoundly humbled by the generous outpouring of support in ticket sales, contributions, donations and pledges garnered.

“Even as we speak donations trickle in (but) our lawyers informed us that translation alone would cost €20,000 (RM84,994 at present exchange rate of RM4.20 = €1) while the filing fees are yet to be determined,” she said.

She added that Suaram has no indication of how much more it will need to fund the case - expected to go to trial as early as next month—but expect the costs to balloon as its lawyers have advised that the case will be “long drawn out”. 

As such, Gabriel urged the Malaysian public to continue to donate to the legal fund, saying that monthly updates on the case and the funds collected will be published on the NGO's website and Facebook page.

“The donations will in no way benefit Suaram, but is going to purely fund the case. It is a mounting challenge for us, but we don't want to go to (foreign) sources. We want it to be purely funded by Malaysians,” she said.
Deportation raised interest in fundraiser

Obviously touched by the support given by Malaysians thus far, Gabriel said that the dinners held at Petaling Jaya and Penang raised RM150,000 and RM60,000 respectively, while RM26,000 was donated at a forum in Ipoh.
Part of the reason for the landslide support, she said, was the deportation of Suaram's lawyer French national William Bourdon (left) on the same night that he was supposed to speak at the Petaling Jaya event on July 22.
Suaram was forced to set up extra tables at the sold out dinner at the Petaling Jaya City Council banquet hall and allow others to come in despite being unable to serve them food. 

76 tables were sold in Petaling Jaya while 600 people attended the dinner in Penang.
On July 23 in Ipoh, an individual had donated RM20,000 because he was “angered” by Bourdon's deportation, which Gabriel said raised a lot of questions among Malaysians.

The Ipoh forum, which saw 500 participants, also attracted a group of former military personnel who shared their observations and experience about the Defence Ministry's spending on arms.
Gabriel added another surprise donation came from the Penang and Selangor state governments which donated RM20,000 each at the Petaling Jaya event. 

“We are also very touched by the individuals who donated, like the disabled man who had traveled by public bus from Puchong to our office (in Petaling) to purchase a few tickets to the event,” she said.
Ripple effects in France
“The French people had no idea that he was pursuing (this case) in Malaysia, and it created tremendous interest among the public,” she said.

She added that the deportation brought “shame and disrepute” to Malaysia, as Bourdon is a “renowned” human rights lawyer in France due to his work in high profile cases involving the Pinochet dictatorship and Rwandan genocide, among others. 

“The government had shot themselves in the foot when they deported him,” she said.
She revealed that Bourdon has committed to speak at a fundraiser in London, organised by Malaysian citizens there on their own initiative, although the date has yet to be set. 

A group of Kuching residents have also approached Suaram to do the same, committed to holding a fundraising event where Bourdon will be speaking via video conferencing. 

Details, however, have not been confirmed.
Suaram's case is on the purported commissions and kickbacks paid out by French shipbuilder DCNS to Malaysian company Perimekar amounting to €114.9 million (M574.8 million at then exchange rate of RM5 = €1) in the purchase of two Scorpene class submarines costing €1.341 billion (RM6.7 billion).

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