Anwar to testify at inquiry hearing on central bank's forex losses on Thursday

Former Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Federal Court on Dec 14, 2016.
Former Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Federal Court on Dec 14, 2016. PHOTO: THE STAR

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will testify on Thursday (Sept 7) before the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) investigating the central bank's foreign exchange losses in the 1990s.

Anwar, who is serving a five-year prison term for sodomy, became finance minister in 1992 to replace Tun Daim Zainuddin. This was the same year when talk of the billions of dollars lost by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had begun to surface. Anwar became both deputy prime minister and finance minister from 1993 until he was sacked in 1998. 

Critics said the inquiry was formed by the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak to smear the name of his chief critic, ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad who led the country at the time of the huge BNM losses.

The commission had said the actual losses were RM31.5 billion (S$10 billion), higher than the initial sum of RM9 billion reported by the government in the 1990s.

Anwar, the de fecto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), had earlier expressed his interest in appearing as a witness in the hearing.

"I would consider it quite unjust if other witnesses are allowed to make prejudicial allegations against me in front of the commission and I am not allowed to make my response to them in the same manner," he said in a statement issued on Aug 24.

Dr Mahathir had also said he was keen to offer information to the RCI. He made a surprise appearance at the proceedings as an observer on Aug 24 and told reporters on the sidelines: "I must admit I know quite a lot. Maybe this is of interest to the commission, to know what I know."

The RCI panel must complete its inquiry and submit its report to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by Oct 13.