PUTRAJAYA — Sept 18, 2017: Former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad today affirmed that he was a perfectionist who also overlooked something as a human being.
Mahathir said this in reply to conducting officer Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim, who suggested that Mahathir was a perfectionist and meticulous person who would pay great attention to a problem, but had failed to pay attention to the huge forex losses by Bank Negara (BNM) in the early to mid-1990s.
“No matter how careful I am in handling everything, there are things I had overlooked. For example, I appointed the wrong person,” he said without naming the person.
At this juncture, High Court judge Datuk Kamaludin Md. Said told Mahathir the issue in question concerned the losses suffered by BNM. Kamaludin is a panellist with the Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the losses.
Kamaludin also asked Mahathir if he had wrongly appointed the then finance minister, to which he answered: “He seemed nice at first, but what he had in mind I didn’t know.”
To Suhaimi’s question that he should have given more attention to the losses as it was also reported in the foreign media, Mahathir said he did not give attention to foreign media reports as they were keen on criticising him.
“I take note of the reports (on BNM losses) from my officers. I stood by the reports from my officers, including the finance minister and governor (of BNM),” he said.
Earlier in his witness statement on Tan Sri Clifford Francis Herbert’s claim that he and then finance minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had met with Mahathir in his office in early 1993 to report on the loss of RM30 billion, replied that he could not recall the amount of RM30 billion being mentioned.
“What I can recall was the amount of RM5 billion being mentioned. This was because when it was brought to my attention, I already knew that the forex losses for the year 1992 was RM5.7 billion as informed to the Cabinet earlier by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and as I much as I could recall, was also tabled in Parliament.
“What I am sure of is that there was no written document showed or given to me pertaining to the matter,” he said.
Mahathir said all problems pertaining to the forex transactions had been tackled by the central bank between 1992 and 1994 by introducing various regulatory measures as well as by formulating the Central Bank of Malaysia Act.
On former central bank governor Tan Sri Jaffar Hussein, Mahathir described Jaffar as personally known as a credible, trustworthy and reasonably prudent person.
“He was also known as a strict, straightforward person and I had full confidence in his integrity and transparency,” said Mahathir.
“All the forex losses between 1992 and 1994 cannot tarnish the good deeds and contributions made by Jaffar, who had served tirelessly in the interests of the country,” he said.
He said Jaffar’s move in taking responsibility and stepping down as governor in 1994 was indeed a prudent decision.
On Anwar’s statement about the Cabinet meetings held on March 30, 1994, and April 6, 1994, Mahathir said as far as he could remember, there were no facts given by Anwar in both meetings that differed from the BNM annual financial report tabled to the Cabinet and in Parliament.
“I strongly believed that since the actual losses suffered by BNM was not identified then, except for the amount stated in the central bank’s annual financial report tabled to the Cabinet and in Parliament, Anwar had not hid from the Cabinet meetings any information given officially to him by BNM.”
The hearing continues tomorrow. The inquiry is chaired by former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Mohd. Sidek Hassan. — Bernama