Mahathir fails to get stay, inquiry on forex losses to start on Aug 21

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivering his speech during a forum in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on Aug 13, 2017.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivering his speech during a forum in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on Aug 13, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA (BERNAMA) - The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) set up to investigate the foreign exchange losses incurred by Bank Negara in the 1990s will commence on Monday (Aug 21).

This follows a decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss an application by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to stay the RCI's proceedings on Friday (Aug 18).

A three-man bench led by Justice Mohd Zawawi Salleh unanimously dismissed the stay application on grounds of public interest. Justices Abdul Rahman Sebli and Kamardin Hashim were the other judges.

Mohd Zawawi said based on materials on record, the court was not persuaded to allow the stay application.

"We are of the opinion, in view of public interest, the proceedings of the RCI should be continued," he said.

Tun Dr Mahathir wanted the RCI proceedings to be stayed pending hearing of his appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court's dismissal of his leave to commence a judicial review on Thursday.

In his application for leave to initiate judicial review, he is seeking to quash the RCI's decision in rejecting his request to disqualify two members from sitting on the RCI five-man panel.

The panel was set up to investigate the foreign exchange losses incurred by Bank Negara in the 1990's.

Dr Mahathir filed the legal action after the RCI on Aug 8 rejected his request to disqualify the commission's chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan and one of the members, Tan Sri Saw Choo Boon, as members of the commission.

He filed the application on grounds that the RCI had breached natural justice as Mohd Sidek and Saw were also members of a task force responsible for the investigation that forwarded a recommendation to advise the cabinet to form the RCI.

On Thursday, High Court judge Azizah Nawawi allowed the government's objection on Dr Mahathir's leave for judicial review and ruled that the RCI had no jurisdiction on the appointment and removal of its members.

Earlier in Friday's court proceedings, Dr Mahathir's counsel Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla submitted that they did not intend to challenge the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, but merely wanted the cabinet to advise the Agong to replace the two RCI members.

He said the commission's report would have repercussions and may cause damage to reputation.

Senior federal counsel Datuk Amarjeet Singh argued that there was no special circumstances to give a stay order.

He said the RCI's recommendations had no legal effect and no legal force, as it was set up only to advise the government on measures to take, including amending standard operating procedures.

Met by reporters after the proceeding, Mohamed Haniff said Dr Mahathir's intention to stay the RCI proceedings was not because he wanted to avoid attending the inquiry, but it was in respect of the appointment of the two RCI members.

Mohd Sidek fixed 10 days beginning Aug 21 for the RCI proceeding.