Lim Kit Siang

With Anwar’s support and offer of assistance, there is even less reason to delay RCI into Bank Negara forex losses more than 20 years ago, as well as probe into 1MDB and BMF scandals

Malaysians welcome Anwar Ibrahim’s support for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the Bank Negara foreign exchange (forex) losses in the 1990s and his offer of assistance if the RCI was established but not a Cabinet task force.

With Anwar’s support and offer of assistance, there is even less reason to delay the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Bank Negara forex losses more than 20 years ago, as well as probe into the 1MDB and BMF scandals.

Anwar’s support and offer of assistance are most significant, as Anwar was the Finance Minister at the relevant period of the Bank Negara forex losses, being Finance Minister of the country from 1991-1998.

In passing, it should be noted that Anwar was named as a top four finance minister by Euromoney shortly after becoming Finance Minister, and in 1996 Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year. Anwar also earned many accolades as Finance Minister, including the Asian of the Year from Newsweek International.

In contrast, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who has insisted in doubling up as Finance Minister since becoming the sixth Prime Minister in April 2009, did not have any brilliant or remarkable record as Finance Minister except the infamy and ignominy of Malaysia as a global kleptocracy.

Most mortifying for Malaysia, Najib was named as Asia’s worst finance minister in 2016 by FinanceAsia pipping 12 other finance ministers of Asia-Pacific largest economies for the “crown”. In 2015, Najib came eighth in FinanceAsia’s ranking.

The online finance magazine said in Feb. 2016 that 2015 had been a “very challenging year” for the Malaysian economy, having suffered a “double whammy” of a political scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Fund and Najib. It also faced the collapse in the price of its key oil export.

“The long-running political crisis has taken up time that could have been better spent addressing the country’s acute economic troubles and made Malaysia appear even less attractive as an investment destination,” FinanceAsia said in Feb 2016.

Najib and the Cabinet have not heeded Finance Asia’s warnings.

As a result, a year later today, the editor-in-chief emeritus of Bloomberg News and Bloomberg View columnist, Matthew A. Winkler, in his latest column “Where Crony Capitalism Rose and Prosperity Fell (and Vice Versa)”, referring to the US Department of Justice’s largest kleptocratic legal suit on the 1MDB scandal, wrote:

“Global investors aren’t waiting for a legal verdict. They’re already making Indonesia the favored regional economy at Malaysia’s expense: The relative value of every financial asset in the young democracy is increasing at an unprecedented rate after decades of authoritarian rulers. By the time Haji Mohamed Suharto, the former Indonesian army leader who ousted President Sukarno in 1967 and who ruled for 32 years, resigned in 1998, Indonesia was the exemplar of the kind of corrosive, mutually-advantageous relationships between business people and government officials that define crony capitalism.

“Malaysia has assumed that dubious distinction the past several years. The Justice Department complaint says that $681 million transferred to Najib in 2013 originally came from $3 billion of bonds sold for 1MDB by an investment banking unit of New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Najib started 1MDB in 2009 to promote Malaysia development. He was the chairman of the advisory board of the fund, which is wholly owned by the Finance Ministry.

“Indonesia’s rupiah has strengthened 26 percent against the Malaysian ringgit since June 2014, the biggest rally so far in the new century, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”

If Malaysia is to stop losing out even to countries like Indonesia which had always been behind Malaysia’s economic development, it must stop the protracted bleeding of national and international confidence by immediately setting up a RCI not only into the Bank Negara forex losses more than two decades ago, but also into the 1MDB and BMF scandals.

Let Najib and the Cabinet be forewarned that the bleeding of national and international confidence in the Malaysian economics and politics will intensify and escalate if there is only a RCI into the Bank Negara forex losses, for it can only mean that the government is not prepared to come to grips with an international financial scandal which the whole world and the nation are fixated except the government of the day, which is in deep-freeze in its denial complex!