Dewan Rakyat Speaker helps finance minister explain Goldman Sachs issue

Speaker Azahar Harun weighed in on the Goldman Sachs settlement issue after DAP’s Lim Guan Eng asked the finance minister for clarification.

KUALA LUMPUR: Something unexpected happened in the Dewan Rakyat today.

During the debate on the recent Golden Sachs settlement, Speaker Azhar Harun interjected to apparently explain on behalf of Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz.

It started when Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) asked if the US$3.9 billion settlement had been agreed upon by the Cabinet.

Lim had said Goldman Sachs, in a July 24 statement, had said the agreement involved the payment of US$2.5 billion and a guarantee that the Malaysian government would receive at least $1.4 billion in proceeds from assets related to 1MDB seized by governmental authorities around the world.

Goldman Sachs also said it believed that the guarantee did not present a “significant risk exposure to the firm”.

In other words, Lim said, there was uncertainty about the US$1.4 billion and Goldman Sachs would pay US$2.5 billion only.

Zafrul explained that the US$2.5 billion was cash payment while the US$1.4 billion was a bank guarantee and that “we know a bank guarantee is like cash”.

Lim then asked Zafrul if the US$2.5 billion cash settlement and US$1.4 billion in guarantees had been discussed and agreed upon by the Cabinet.

Before Zafrul could answer, Azhar said: “This is a decision by the finance ministry and it would surely have been brought to the Cabinet.”

Zafrul replied that the Cabinet had given the power to the attorney-general and his team to seek a solution.

Lim stood up to say this was “extraordinary” as it was a huge amount and it should have been discussed in the Cabinet.

“It cannot be decided by one or two people. This is the same case as 1MDB where one person made the decision,” Lim said.

“Why wasn’t this approved by the Cabinet as it involves accountability?” Lim asked.

This started a shouting match among some MPs and the Speaker had to mute the mikes.

Azhar then said that the minister had said the mandate to seek a solution was given by the Cabinet (to the attorney-general).

Azhar: And when they decide, the Cabinet will rectify it. That is the procedure. That is a normal procedure

Lim: That is an extraordinary procedure.

Ahmad Maslan then changed the topic to the goods and services tax (GST) by asking Zafrul if it was true that RM19.4 billion had been stolen.

Zafrul: The zero-rated GST did not go through Cabinet. This caused another uproar in the Dewan Rakyat.

Zafrul said no money was missing from the GST collection.

Barisan Nasional MPs then shouted at opposition MPs that they had “lied” when they claimed RM19.4 billion had been missing or stolen from GST collections during the BN administration.

Kasturi Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) then stood up to tell the Speaker to manage the House well. “You cannot allow this (the uproar). Manage the House better.”