PUTRAJAYA: The failure to have two key witnesses give evidence is a major setback in the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s (RCI) attempt to investigate forex losses suffered by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) about 25 years ago, a lawyer said.
Gurdial Singh Nijar said this event was a grim reminder that the authorities should conduct a probe as soon as a fiasco was discovered as the facts were fresh in the minds of witnesses.
Gurdial, who represented Anwar Ibrahim at the RCI hearing, said former BNM governor Jaffar Hussein and ex-auditor-general Ishak Tadin were two important witnesses to unravel the events then.
“However, Jaffar had passed away while Ishak is incompetent to give evidence due to his medical condition,” he told reporters.
RCI chairman Mohd Sidek Hassan had earlier declared the proceedings concluded without hearing the testimony of Ishak, who was supposed to be the last witness.
Ishak’s son Rizal said his father, who was auditor-general between 1986 and 1994, could not testify due to memory loss.
He said his father’s memory and thinking skills had been impaired and he would not be able to remember key events relevant to the inquiry.
“My father started having cognitive impairment sometime in 2007. As a result, he is unable to recall,” he said.
Jaffar, who was governor from 1986 to 1994, resigned from office after taking responsibility for the loss and passed away in 1998.
Gurdial said the outcome of the RCI would be handicapped as many facts of the case could not be verified through the two personalities.
“There is a huge gap in the chain of evidence. For example, we do not know about the communication between Jaffar and Anwar who was then the finance minister,” said Gurdial who appeared at the hearing together with Sivarasa Rasiah.
Gurdial said he was perplexed why Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed now agreed to have the RCI on the forex losses, although he had rejected it in 1993 when he was the deputy finance minister.
Meanwhile, Sivarasa said the RCI proceedings were unfair as lawyers appearing for concerned parties were not given key documents.
“How are we going to prepare a detailed submission for the RCI’s consideration when we were denied material facts in the documents?” he asked.
Sivarasa predicted Anwar would be among those who would be held responsible in the report.
“We cannot contest any unfair findings of the RCI as its recommendations cannot be set aside in a judicial proceeding,” he said.
Sivarasa, who is PKR’s Subang MP, said they would use the public sphere to challenge the report.
Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said the RCI was set up with a political motive.
“This RCI is a waste of time and public resources to deliberate on an event that took place about 25 years ago,” he said.
Haniff, who represented former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said blame would be apportioned to Anwar and former BNM assistant governor Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
He said BNM, as an autonomous body, ventured into forex activities to manage its external reserves and to stabilise the ringgit.
The losses, he said, were suffered as a result of an attempt to protect the ringgit from rogue currency speculators.
“It is not a case of someone who stole money for personal gain,” he said.