Bank Negara hails first Malaysian governor Ismail Ali

A Bank Negara official holds the book produced by the central bank on its first Malaysian governor Ismail Mohamed Ali. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara Malaysia governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus today hailed Ismail Mohamed Ali, the first Malaysian to govern the central bank, as a nation-builder and a titan of the country’s economic and financial sector.

She also credited him with establishing the institutions which formed the economic pillars of modern Malaysia.

“Some remember him for his contributions to the nation and the financial system. Some may remember him as family, or a good friend. Not all had the privilege to meet him, but all remember him as a paragon of trust and integrity,” she said.

Nor Shamsiah was speaking at the commemoration of Ismail’s centennial birthday and the launch of a book titled “Tun Ismail Mohamed Ali: Paragon of Trust and Integrity”, produced by Bank Negara.

She said Ismail’s emphasis on the integrity of the bank’s moral compass and the strength of its competency stemmed from his sense of duty and trust.

“Fundamental to building and maintaining this trust was the need for every staff member to perform their utmost and positively shape the bank’s reputation in the eyes of the public. In this, Ismail led by example,” she said.

Ismail helmed Bank Negara from 1962 to 1980, making him its longest-serving governor.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the book today in the presence of Ismail’s siblings, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Dr Mohamed Hashim and Dr Zainal Abidin, and his son Ahmad Kamal.

Nor Shamsiah noted that there were rarely pictures of Ismail at the centre of attention.

“In most (pictures), he was at a dignitary’s side, dispensing advice. I believe this aptly encapsulates his deep understanding of the role of a central bank.”

In 1978, she said, Ismail told a group of central bankers that a central bank needed to earn the right to advise the government by winning the confidence and respect of the public.

“He said earning this right was difficult, but once it was accomplished, a central bank would have the strongest guarantee of its independence and effectiveness, far stronger than any formal expression of central banking authority.”

Nor Shamsiah voiced hope that Ismail’s vision, dedication and resilience would inspire future generations and prepare them to partake in the dynamic financial ecosystem.