Accounting for Palestinian aid

In the haste to help the Palestinians or other desperate people, we should not let transparency and accountability fall by the wayside

Graphic: vonyaglobal.com

Malaysians, particularly social media users, were rightly disturbed by Pas central committee member Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz’s recent views on public donations, specifically for relief aid to the Palestinians.

The chairman of South Kelantan Development Authority argued that donors should not ask difficult questions, such as whether the money would reach its intended recipients. In a Facebook post, he added that what is important is that the donors should have faith in Allah and have sincerity.

Faith in the Almighty, however, should not preclude worldly requirements of transparency and accountability even under difficult or desperate circumstances. Money that is received and subsequently spent must be accounted for to check abuse.

There’s been a flurry of efforts by civil society groups in Malaysia to raise money to provide assistance to needy and grief-stricken Palestinians, following recent Israeli aggression against them in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian plight has moved many Malaysians, particularly Malay-Muslims, to contribute financial aid.

Nik Abduh’s contentious view emerged on the heels of a statement made by Palestinian ambassador to Malaysia Walid Abu Ali, claiming that millions of ringgit in donations to the Al Aqsa Mosque from Malaysians did not reach their intended beneficiaries.

This allegation was disputed by several Malaysian groups, among them Muslim Care Malaysia, Viva Palestina Malaysia, Abim, Global Peace Mission, MyCare, Haluan Malaysia, Mapim, Medicom, Cakna Palestine and Mahar, who maintained that the donations had been sent to Palestine and documented there and in Malaysia. Another group, Aman Palestine Malaysia, said the aid was sent without involving the Palestinian embassy because of the political instability there.

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Malaysians who have invested their sympathies and money in this noble cause would surely not want the undeserved to be the beneficiaries. And, of course, the deserving Palestinians would not want to see these much-needed funds diverted elsewhere. Indeed, the fundraisers, many of whom are known and respectable, are expected to hold the public trust dearly in managing the funds in an ethical fashion as intimated above.

It is socially and politically important that these fundraising entities exercise transparency and accountability in a social context where these treasured principles have become a rare commodity in recent years, as illustrated by the bad practices involving the scandalous 1MDB project. In other words, money collected for the noble purpose of aiding Palestinians obviously cannot be treated the same way as slush funds.

While these fundraisers may practise accountability, it is necessary that we exercise caution, especially in this age of advanced communications technologies, where scammers might take advantage of desperate situations and unsuspecting victims.

Besides, it cannot be overemphasised that Islam places priority on accountability in various aspects of our worldly lives.

In the spirit of helping, the government has launched the #Aid4Palestine fund with the cooperation of 40 NGOs, which include a number of those mentioned above, to raise RM1m for the Palestinians. The fund’s secretariat was formed and chaired by Muhammad Khalil, the son of Pas president Abdul Hadi Awang.

In the haste and eagerness to help the Palestinians or other groups of desperate people, it is vital that we do not let transparency and accountability fall by the wayside. – The Malaysian Insight

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