1MDB probe: Panel to question top members

Mr Hasan Arifin (above) took over as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee after previous chief Nur Jazlan Mohamed was appointed Deputy Home Minister and quit the committee in July.
Mr Hasan Arifin (above) took over as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee after previous chief Nur Jazlan Mohamed was appointed Deputy Home Minister and quit the committee in July.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

No dates yet for summoning of key witnesses, including tycoon, says new PAC chairman

The newly constituted Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will pick up the previous team's probe into 1Malaysia Development Berhad's (1MDB) accounts, beginning with interviews of top members of the troubled state investor's past and current management.

However, the new chairman, MP Hasan Arifin, would not commit to dates on when these key witnesses, including flamboyant tycoon Low Taek Jho - who was adviser to 1MDB's former incarnation Terengganu Investment Authority - would be summoned before the influential bipartisan parliamentary panel.

"We will call these individuals as witnesses. We will decide on the date soon," Datuk Hasan told a press conference yesterday, referring to Mr Arul Kanda Kandasamy, 1MDB's current president, and its previous chief executives Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman and Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

1MDB's struggles to reconcile a RM42 billion (S$13.8 billion) debt pile has been a lightning rod for mounting calls for Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down.

Mr Hasan took over as PAC chairman after previous chief Nur Jazlan Mohamed was appointed Deputy Home Minister and quit the committee in July.

Three other MPs from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition quit their posts after being promoted, in what has been widely seen as a move by Datuk Seri Najib to slow down the PAC's probe into 1MDB. Mr Najib also sacked deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail on the same day.

Yesterday, Mr Hasan said that Mr Low, who has denied being involved in 1MDB, was only "a personality, but not a witness". Mr Low would be called up but not immediately, he added.

The Straits Times understands that the PAC will soon give Mr Arul and the two former 1MDB chiefs the required two-week notice, and inquiries will be held by the end of the month.

DATE TO BE FIXED SOON

We will call these individuals as witnesses. We will decide on the date soon.

MR HASAN ARIFIN, new chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, referring to 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy and former CEOs Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman and Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi

Mr Hasan, a ruling party veteran from Mr Najib's home state of Pahang, refused to be drawn on the issue of whether PAC member Tony Pua would breach any rules in a planned television showdown with Mr Arul. A source said some BN PAC members were unhappy that Mr Pua wanted to grill Mr Arul on live national TV, as it would tarnish the neutrality of the panel.

"It is up to Tony Pua to decide. I cannot say whether it is allowed or not allowed. He should know, himself, what is his position. It is not up to me to pre-judge," the MP for Rompin constituency told reporters.

He later clarified to The Straits Times that any action "is for Parliament" to decide whether any rules are breached, and not for the PAC.

On Saturday, Mr Arul accepted a challenge by staunch critic Mr Pua for "a live discussion, or talk show, or debate", but Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said the format should be a debate, an opinion echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who called on the opposition lawmaker to be brave and accept a debate. State broadcaster RTM will host the programme.

Mr Pua said he would refer the matter to the Speaker of the House after "formulating what I need to ask". He told The Straits Times he was concerned that the government would use the televised session to punish him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline '1MDB probe: Panel to question top members'. Print Edition | Subscribe