The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) investigating Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) foreign exchange (forex) losses in the 1980s and 1990s kicked off yesterday with the dismissal of an application to discharge two members from the panel.
The five-man panel is chaired by former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, who is also Petronas chairman.
“We concurred that the composition of the commission has been consented by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and therefore we shall continue the proceeding,” Sidek said.
Earlier, lawyers Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla and R Sivarasa, who held a watching brief for former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, respectively, made an oral application to recuse Sidek and Tan Sri Saw Choo Boon from being panel members.
The application was made on the grounds that the two were earlier involved in the Special Task Force that had shaped the RCI.
“Members of (the) recommending body should not be members of this panel deciding on this matter,” said Mohamed Haniff.
He said the issue of the panel’s composition was important and must be resolved to ensure a fair hearing.
Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim, who is the conducting officer for the RCI, said there was no rule specifying that a person involved in the earlier task force could not be a panel member.
“The commission is on a fact-finding task. The commissioners are not sitting as judges,” said Suhaimi.
Mohamed Haniff also asked for the panel to allow the watching brief lawyers to have active participation in the proceedings.
Sidek then said the panel did not have issues with the right to representation by counsels of parties with interest in the inquiry.
“But the issues you can raise in the proceedings must be relevant to the RCI’s terms of reference,” he said.
Five terms of reference have been established in the RCI:
- To determine the validity of the claim that losses were incurred by Bank Negara due to foreign exchange dealings in the 1990s and its impact on the economy
- To determine if dealings had contravened the provisions of the Central Bank Ordinance 1958 or any other relevant laws
- To determine whether there were elements of deliberate concealment of facts and information and misleading statements made to the Cabinet, Parliament and the public over the losses
- To recommend appropriate action to be taken against parties involved directly or indirectly if they are found to have caused the losses and concealed the fact and information
- To recommend a course of action to ensure similar events will not be repeated
The RCI has been fixed for a 10-day hearing and will reconvene on Aug 21. A report to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is expected to be delivered by Oct 13.