Key lesson of Bank Negara forex losses quarter of a century ago – failure of Ministers, top civil servants, MPs and the press to play their role to uphold the principles accountability and good governance
I am here in response to an invitation by the 1992/3 Bank Negara forex losses special task force for an interview “dengan pihak yang pernah terlibat atau mempunyai sebarang maklumat mengenai urus niaga mata wang asing yang dilakukan oleh BNM sekitar tahun 1990-an”.
I was never terlibat in the Bank Negara forward forex trading and what I knew about the Bank Negara forward forex trading in the early 1990s are public information in my speeches in Parliament on the subject in 1993 and 1994.
Let me state that I stand by my speech in Parliament in April 1994 calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the colossal Bank Negara forex losses, with the following tasks:
- to ascertain Bank Negara’s forex losses since 1992, and whether they could exceed RM30 billion;
- to ascertain whether there had been any financial malpractices and abuses; and
- to establish as to how the Bank Negara could incur such colossal losses.
The Cabinet set up the special task force set up to probe the foreign exchange losses incurred by Bank Negara more than two decades ago but is it really concerned about accountability and good governance principles?
What is the real lesson for the 1992/1993 Bank Negara forex losses scandal?
Apart from the three terms of reference for a Royal Commission of Inquiry which I set out in Parliament in April 1994 - as we have still to get a full picture of the entire Bank Negara forex losses in the early nineties - I think the key lesson of Bank Negara forex losses quarter of a century ago is the failure of Ministers, top civil servants, MPs and the press to play their respective role to uphold the principles of accountability and good governance.
The special task force has been described as “exhuming an elephant’s carcass from Dr. M’s era”.
Why are we missing the “elephant” in the room – the international 1MDB money-laundering scandal which has earned for Malaysia the ignominy and infamy of a global kleptocracy?
Or are we to wait for a quarter of a century before we have a special task force to “exhume” the “elephant carcass” of the 1MDB kleptocratic scandal – some time in 2040?
Have all Cabinet Ministers played their role to uphold the principles of accountability and good governance with regard to the Bank Negara forward forex losses in the early 1990s?
The Prime Minister today, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was a senior Minister at the time, Defence Minister. Another Minister today, the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad, was Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Ministry. And a current Member of Parliament, Othman Abdul was Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Did Najib, Mustapha and Othman carry out their national duties to uphold accountability and good governance principles or were they responsible for any cover-up of the Bank Negara forex losses scandal?
The top civil servants of the day, who helmed the various important government agencies and departments – did they perform their duties to be loyal to the nation rather than to the government-of-the-day?
What about Members of Parliament. It will be interesting to know who were the other MPs at the time, apart from the 20 MPs from DAP.
Did they play their role to uphold the principles of accountability and good governance?
Did the Public Accounts Committee investigate the Bank Negara forex losses?
I find myself in a most anomalous position today, as if I am in the dock for my speeches on the Bank Negara forex losses in Parliament in 1993 and 1994, when it should be a vindication of what I said on the subject a quarter of a century ago.
Finally, press freedom. If there had been media responsibility a quarter of a century ago, giving fair reporting of what I said in Parliament, followed by fair and responsible investigative journalism on the subject, we need not be exhuming an “elephant’s carcass” a quarter of century later!
Are we making the same mistake of missing the 1MDB “elephant” in the room, with key stakeholders, the Ministers, top civil servants, MPs and the press failing or abdicating their responsibility to uphold the principles of accountability and good governance, preoccupied only with “exhuming” the “elephant carcass” of the 1992/1993 Bank Negara forex losses scandal?