Lim Kit Siang wants the findings of the Special Task Force (STF) on Bank Negara Malaysia’s forex losses to be published so the public may understand the need for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI).
- Key individuals such as Mahathir not interviewed by STF
- Losses greater than the RM9b disclosed, alleged to actually be RM42.9b
- RCI to explain to the rakyat, bringing closure to the matter
“The report of STF should be made public, if it is to be the first step to restore accountability and good governance in the country,” Lim said in a statement.
Lim said this was because key individuals linked to the scandal from nearly 30 years ago were not called to testify before the STF recommended the RCI to the Cabinet.
Among the key figures was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister during the time of the losses.
It was among the biggest scandals from his tenure as prime minister.
The STF interviewed 12 people, including the then Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, and former Finance Minister II and BNM assistant governor at the time Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
The seven-member STF was formed in February after former BNM assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid alleged in an interview that BNM suffered US$10 billion (RM42.9 billion) in forex losses in the early 1990s and not RM9 billion as disclosed by the central bank. It was headed by Petronas chairman Tan Sri Sidek Hassan.
The STF carried out preliminary investigations into BNM’s forex losses as well as investigated whether there was any action to cover up the losses and if the Cabinet and Parliament were misled.
On Jun 21, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the RCI, based on the recommendation of the STF which concluded there was adequate evidence to merit further investigations.
In an interview last Friday, Sidek said an RCI can reveal more details on BNM’s forex losses nearly three decades ago.
He said the figure was greater than what was disclosed, but the STF was unable to scrutinise further due to the limitations that it had.
“As a task force, we have limitations. We were established on an administrative basis and not under any legislation.
“As such, the STF had no power to coerce anyone to come forward for any discussion or to give any information.
“We also cannot compel anyone to come forward. Even if you ask them to come and they don’t want to come, there is no issue about it.
“And even if they came and we questioned them, and they refused to answer, we cannot do anything about it.
“And it was not under oath. Even if they answered, we don’t know if that was the truth,” Sidek said.
“So, that is why the RCI is better, although it is safe to say that the STF has reason to believe that the actual loss is different and much more than the figures given earlier,” he added.
Citing Sidek’s remarks, Lim Kit Siang said it was inconceivable that government officials would snub a task force formed by the Cabinet, even if it did not have the power to compel their cooperation.
Sidek also said that STF only had access to documents that were available to the public, such as BNM’s annual reports and consultations between the central bank and the International Monetary Fund.
However, the RCI could have access to documents relating to the forex losses, for instance from the Finance Ministry or BNM.
As for the need to investigate after more than two decades, Sidek said although it happened a long time ago, it had been revealed that the losses were huge.
“I feel that the people need an explanation on the matter, and the Government had decided to conduct an investigation.
“Therefore, an RCI is the only way for a complete understanding. If this is not done now, the matter will prolong.
“Five or 10 years from now it will crop up again.
“With a full investigation through an RCI, there could be closure to this,” Sidek added.