PETALING JAYA: If the Cabinet feels a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the Bank Negara forex losses is imperative, then such a decision also merits the Special Task Force report on the matter be made public, says Lim Kit Siang. The task force, chaired by former chief secretary to the government, Mohd Sidek Hassan, has been set up to probe the forex loss of US$10 billion (approximately RM42 billion under the current exchange rate, but around RM25 billion at the time) incurred by the central bank between 1991 and 1993. “The task force report 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 today, further questioning the lack of information that the task force had access to in order to make their recommendation.

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“I am quite puzzled by Sidek’s comment at an interview in which he implied that only an RCI could have access to documents relating to the forex losses from the finance ministry and Bank Negara, as the task force was ‘established on an administrative basis and not under any legislation’. “Sidek said the task force 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 (IMF).” According to Lim, Sidek had also said that the task force could not 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,” Sidek was quoted saying by Lim.

Lim said this suggested that officials in the finance ministry and BNM had refused to cooperate and provide relevant documents pertaining to the issue. “If this is so, who are the finance ministry and Bank Negara officials and were they identified in the final report by the task force. “This provides fresh grounds why the task force report should be made public,” he said. Bring closureMocking the Cabinet for being fixated on a scandal that occurred 25 years ago, the DAP supremo said instead of agreeing to “bring closure” to the issue by having the RCI, as stated by Sidek, they should instead bring closure to the current 1MDB scandal.

“Malaysians want to know why Sidek and his task force members were totally unconcerned about bringing a closure to the 1MDB scandal, considering the shame and humiliation it has brought to Malaysians and the nation?” Lim, who is Gelang Patah MP, was also called to give testimony to the task force based on his statements in the Dewan Rakyat, as the opposition leader in the early 1990s, on the issue. “When I was summoned to appear before the task force on May 4, I reiterated that I stood by my call in Parliament in April 1991 for a RCI into the Bank Negara forex losses, but I asked whether the Cabinet was really interested about accountability and good governance principles?” “I said that the ‘real lesson’ of the Bank Negara forex losses was the ‘failure” of Ministers, top civil servants, MPs and the press at the time to “play their respective role to uphold principles and accountability and good governance’,” Lim said.

On June 21, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on the Cabinet’s decision, saying that the task force had determined that there was sufficient evidence to justify further investigation into the matter. “The formation of the RCI will allow a detailed and comprehensive investigation within the law and with immunity under Act 119.” It said the formation of the RCI was also to protect public interests by determining the extent to which the losses had affected national reserves. “This is because preliminary investigations found the actual losses were greater than what was previously presented to former ministers and Parliament,” it said.