On 11 April 2018, we were informed that our application to register our company, OSEA Pte. Ltd., in Singapore had been rejected by Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) as it would be contrary to national interests for the authorities to permit its registration.
OSEA Pte. Ltd. would have been wholly owned by Observatory Southeast Asia Ltd., a company registered in the United Kingdom which publishes the website New Naratif (http://newnaratif.com).
New Naratif is a platform for Southeast Asian journalism, research, art and community-building. It stands for openness, transparency and engagement. Our values and intentions are clear for all to see in our Manifesto (http://newnaratif.com/manifesto/) on our website. We hold monthly open meetings, which members and non-members alike are free to attend, provide feedback and ask questions about New Naratif’s operations.
Observatory Southeast Asia Ltd. is a non-profit company; its revenue goes towards the sustainable running of New Naratif. Our contributors are freelancers who are largely based in the countries about which they write, and who care about the communities and societies in which they live. It is important to us to create a supportive space for them to highlight crucial issues and showcase their work, be it journalism, research or art.
We are proud to work with our contributors on their stories, research papers and comics—a process which can involve multiple rounds of editing to meet our high editorial standards—and to publish these pieces that provide readers with a deeper insight into Southeast Asian countries and the region as a whole. Our members are also active participants: we invite and encourage them to engage with what’s written and make up their own minds. We have deliberately chosen to make ourselves easily contactable, via email or our regular meetings, so that our members and readers can send in feedback, and we can remain accountable to them.
Any notion that we are, as ACRA alleges, “being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore” is unfounded.
New Naratif is substantially supported by revenue from its members, who subscribe at levels between US$52 and US$552 per year. We have over 420 members in 17 different countries, and have also received numerous donations from individuals. On top of this, we are also honoured to be the recipient of a grant from a prestigious international funding body, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI).
FOSI awarded the financing to New Naratif on the basis of our project concept and the grant does not impose any conditions beyond goals that we defined ourselves. FOSI and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) do not have any involvement or input in New Naratif’s editorial decisions or the day-to-day running of our start-up.
When ACRA asked for more details about the operations of both OSEA Pte. Ltd. and Observatory Southeast Asia Ltd., we answered their questions in good faith. In response to ACRA’s question to us about whether we had any links or affiliation, formal or otherwise, with any local or foreign businesses, groups, or organisations, we volunteered information about the grant from FOSI.
As part of our emphasis on transparency, we are committed to regular financial reporting and will share how funds from members, donors, and grants have been spent. This includes payment made to editors, writers, illustrators, photographers, and other contributors, as well as the costs of website development, maintenance, venue rentals, and any other forms of expenditure.
We believe the work we do, the stories we publish, and the art that we showcase, speak for themselves. We invite anyone who wants to know more about New Naratif to visit our website (http://newnaratif.com) and experience our content for themselves before coming to any conclusions.