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Explain ‘master account’ allegation, Anwar

 | June 13, 2012

Asking Muhyiddin to declare his accounts, does not at all vindicate Anwar.

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PETALING JAYA: In 1999, former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) assistant governor Abdul Murad Khalid made a damning statutory declaration which shook the nation.

In the declaration, the former banker alleged that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim controlled some RM3 billion in 20 separate master accounts when he served as Finance Minister from 1991 to 1998.

However, soon after making the declaration, Murad, for reasons known only to himself, retracted it, claiming that he was coerced into signing the legal document by the Anti-Corruption Agency, now known as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

However, this shocking allegation is back to haunt Anwar now. Last week, the issue was broached again and this time by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who called on the opposition chief to clarify Murad’s allegation.

The allegation, the Umno deputy president said, was not a small matter and that Anwar must promptly explain the issue to the people.

“The figure [RM3 billion] mentioned is big. So, it is the duty of the opposition leader to clarify; is it true, or not? If not true, explain. The people want to know.

“The non-governmental organisations that are demanding for an explanation also represent a large number of people.

“If untrue, Anwar must take action against the parties making the allegation, including the ex-Bank Negara Malaysia assistant governor,” Muhyiddin was quoted by news reports as saying.

Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali was reported to have also raised the issue by asking the status of investigation of the MACC on the revelation of Murad, almost 13 years ago.

In reaction, Anwar, being a firebrand, said he was prepared to open all the accounts he owns if only Muhyiddin does likewise.

“If there is a case, he [Muhyiddin] should have charged me. This shows how desperate Muhyiddin is. I challenge him to open up every single case. I will open up every single account and Muhyiddin must do likewise,” retorted the opposition leader.

This answer leaves many dumbstruck. Instead of explaining the issue at length, Anwar chose to “run” by posing a supplementary question instead.

Integrity and transparency

Anwar, who is gunning to be the country’s next Prime Minister, should have tackled the issue with more finesse, befitting of a good leader.

This is because the accusation involves his integrity and transparency, which he had championed all along in the bid to win the next general election.

For someone who believes in transparency, Anwar should have come out with guns blazing, showing documents and evidence to clear his name once and for all.

This is what he did when a video of a man, who looked like him, being in a compromising position with an unidentified woman, surfaced. He held a urgent press conference with his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, to defend himself, saying that the man in the video was not him.

He even went to the extent of telling journalists at the conference that his tummy was not bulging, unlike the man in the video.

This firebrand style of defending himself raises a question. Why didn’t Anwar tackle the “master account” issue the same way since the allegation had been hanging over this head for the last 13 years and is yet to be answered?

Is there more to the allegation? And why is Anwar backpedalling on this issue?

The opposition leader must realise that finger-pointing and diverting from issues does not go down well with the rakyat. Asking Muhyiddin to declare his accounts, does not at all vindicate Anwar.

It also does not prove that Anwar never had 20 master accounts, by which he had allegedly amassed nearly RM3 billion during his tenure as Finance Minister.

Compared to this tame “declare your account first” defence, Anwar was on fire at a ceramah in Penang recently, speaking about BNM’s disastrous foray into the foreign exchange (forex) market in 1992.

Shouldering “a portion” of blame for the financial fiasco, Anwar accused former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and ex-finance ministers Daim Zainuddin and Nor Mohamed Yakcop of being the main culprits.

That episode, Anwar claimed, resulted in the BNM losing RM30 billion, but this was done without his knowledge, although he was finance minister then.

The opposition leader said he did not have knowledge that BNM was involved in the forex market until he was informed by a friend.

He said when he questioned former BNM governor, the late Jaafar Hussein, on the matter he was told that the amount was small, slightly exceeding the amount stipulated.

“When I asked who dealt with the matter, he [Jaafar] said it was Nor Mohamed and I left it at that,” Anwar was quoted as saying.

Nor Mohamed, a one-time economic adviser to Mahathir, was appointed Finance Minister II during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s term as Prime Minister. He is now the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of the Economic Planning Unit.

A very detailed reply

Anwar also said he had full confidence in Jaafar’s integrity and did not question the former BNM governor after that.

However, he said he was further queried on the matter by a journalist in Hong Kong who had told him that the amount traded by BNM on the forex market was “staggering”.

Anwar said this made him approach Jaffar again, to inform him that he was “quite convinced” that BNM was indulging in speculative forex.

“This was when for the first time, he suggested I talked to Mahathir and that he cannot provide me with any details as that was the forte of Nor Mohamed,” Anwar was quoted as saying in the news reports.

He said some key BNM members, including Zeti Akhtar Aziz – the current BNM governor – had revealed that the amount was “staggering and cannot be just defended by purely saying it is to protect the ringgit”.

“By the time I met Mahathir, he admitted that there were some losses; it has become a major issue. They had made billions of dollars before. He was quite familiar with the subject apparently.

“Whether he was personally involved – parking some of his funds or Daim’s funds – I reserve some basis to question and doubt. Many people say Daim and Nor Mohamed were only conduits.

“When money was made, they claimed as theirs. Any losses is Bank Negara’s. That is how you make Bumiputera successful businessmen,” he had said sarcastically.

Anwar also claimed that the government did not have a single report or document, nor did it provide an official position in its quarterly or annual report about the fiasco.

Now, compare this explanation to the “show your account first” reaction to the alleged RM3 billion he had allegedly stashed away in 20 master accounts.

If Anwar could come up with a detailed reply on the forex fiasco, why didn’t he do the same to clarify Murad’s statutory declaration?

Even his former private secretary Anuar Shaari has questioned why Anwar was refusing to dwell on the issue or initiate legal action against those who hurled the allegation in the first place.

“Anwar should explain all these master accounts, including assets, shares and money of PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and his wife Shamsidar Taharin,” Anuar was quoted as saying by news reports.

Anuar had also questioned why Anwar was hesitant to initiate legal action against those who now and then bring up the allegation, if at all it was not true.

Anwar, being Prime Minister-material, should take these issues head on.

He should not pick and choose the battle he fights. He needs to tackle all the allegations hurled at him for the rakyat to have more confidence in him and his style of leadership.

This confidence would then translate into votes and propel him to reach his dream of being the country’s seventh Prime Minister.

Also read:

Anwar to sue NST over ‘false’ report

Illegal funds: Anwar says he was cleared in 2009


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