Donation Or Fraud?

Apparently quite a few “netizens” are crying “fraud” after Temasek Review’s Paypal donations account was “suspended” and those who wished to donate more than US$500 were asked to transfer funds straight to TR’s bank account instead.

If that is fraud, then it’s the strangest fraud I’ve ever heard of!

Ever since Temasek Review claimed it would shut down by July 11 for lack of funds, conspiracy theories have been brewing.

True enough, it appealed for US$30,000 in sponsorship shortly afterward, and later even claimed that it had received US$10,000 donation from an anonymous businessman.

Accusations of fraud began when TR’s debit card, costing US$60 a piece but with only a stored value of US$10, was pre-ordered and never delivered. TR claims that its agent, Moneybookers, reneged on the deal, and urged buyers to seek refunds from Moneybookers directly.

Then came its donation drive through Paypal, which apparently is now dead-in-the-water due to its Paypal account freeze.

But to claim that this is “fraud” seems ludicrous!

Yes, TR wants money. But is outright asking for $$ = fraud?

If TR is trying to defraud people, would they suddenly claim that their account is suspended? You ever heard of any Nigerian scammers who claim their Paypal account is suspended?

If Paypal did suspend TR’s account, why would that suggest fraud? And why would TR only ask those wishing to donate US$500 or more to transfer funds to their account? Shouldn’t TR welcome any amount, however small, if they’re out to defraud readers? After all, there aren’t that many people out there who will give US$500 at one go to TR.

Let’s analyse this.

TR has made no secret of its intentions. It wants $$. Apparently, it wants US$30,000, because it costs US$2,500 per month to host its servers.

Unlike Nigerian fraudsters, TR has promised no benefits to anyone in return for donations. All donations are of course voluntary, and TR has made no promise to publish a statement of accounts for these donations. Not that it matters anyway, unless TR has independent auditors to certify its accounts.

Given the above, I don’t see how anyone can allege fraud when TR is plainly just asking for $$.

For those who question why do they need US$30,000, how will the money be spent, what will TR do with the extra if donations exceed target, etc.– I think they need a mindset reset.

The plain and simple question such people should ask is, do they believe TR needs $$$? Or do they believe TR is actually quite rich and is just out to scam readers?

We have no way of knowing the real situation at TR, given its desire to stay under the radar. But we can make educated guesses.

I think it’s unlikely TR is rich and well-funded. Knowing what we know of “opposition” parties and alternative media such as TOC, none of whom are very rich organisations, TR is probably also run by a bunch of unpaid dissidents.

The amount of ad revenue TR gets is likely not sufficient to cover operating expenses.

It is not likely that any political party or company in Singapore is secretly funding TR– it’s just too risky.

It is also not likely that TR is funded covertly by some foreign govt– there is too much risk of a diplomatic backlash if they were found out. Wikileaks will see to that.

In short, it is reasonable to assume that TR is self-funded and self-operated by a group of dissident ex-Singaporeans living overseas.

Then the question becomes, is TR’s request for donation a fraud, especially if TR’s backers can afford to run the site without donations?

I don’t think that amounts to fraud.

Just because TR’s backers have always paid for the site out of their own pockets in the past doesn’t mean they can’t ask for reimbursement now. And just because they are rich and well-to-do doesn’t mean it’s fraudulent to ask for donations to defray TR’s operating expenses.

When you donate to the Red Cross, do you ask to see a statement of accounts? When you donate to a beggar, do you ask him to justify how much he needs for the month, and what he will do with the excess if his takings exceed target?

Why then the double-standard with TR?

Indeed, Nicole Seah ran into this too with her recent appeal for donations to cover her team’s election expenses.

In Nicole Seah’s case, I said what happened was because there is no culture of political donation in Singapore. But there is a bigger reason why Singaporeans are such skeptics when it comes to donations.

It’s because the PAP has ingrained its unhealthy skepticism and mistrust in Singaporeans over 50 years.

For 50 years we’ve been told that many beggars are scammers, especially those posing as monks. We’ve been told to watch out for dirty kids asking for $$ because they could be fronting for syndicates. We’ve been told that soliciting donations without a licence is illegal, and told not to donate to organisations who are not registered with the Commissioner of Charities.

And of course, with high profile cases like NKF, Kong Hee and Ming Yi, we’ve become even more skeptical of anyone asking for $$.

We longer see donations as an act of support for a cause, instead we demand justification, transparency and accountability for every dollar.

Unfortunately, that’s not how political donations should work.

While we should guard against fake monks and grubby syndicate kids, we forget that, at least as far as “opp” politicians and social media are concerned, such cautions are irrelevant.

Until we get millionaires and billionaires joining the “opposition” cause, opp parties and related media will always be staffed by underpaid idealists trying to make ends meet.

Every donation dollar they can get is likely already spent in advance. No “opposition” party or social media is gonna get rich from your donation.

Hence, let the criteria for donation not be clouded by fears of fraud, but be guided by whether you support their cause.

For the record: I haven’t donated a single cent to TR because I think they’re not worth supporting. They could be so much more than just an organ for publishing venomous anti-PAP pieces from anonymous PAP-haters.

I would thus discourage anyone from donating to TR.

However, I’m writing this piece to tell people why they should not donate to TR.

They should not donate to TR not because of fears of fraud.

They should not donate to TR because they should not support such a hate-site.


About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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2 Responses to Donation Or Fraud?

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 13 Jun 2011 « The Singapore Daily

  2. Dielah says:

    TR. Is one hellavu great government site. How do you discourage netizens from donating to an opposition site?

    Answer: Set one up. And fake a scam.

    Result: no one will ever donate again.

    Exclusion clause: it only works for 9 out of 10 netizens. But what of that 1?

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