Today, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into Bank Negara Malaysia's foreign exchange losses of billions of ringgit in the 1980s and 1990s officially began at 9.35am. The five-man panel, chaired by former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, who is also Petronas president.
The panel decided to proceed with the inquiry as they saw no reason to recuse themselves as they were appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
"We concurred that the composition of the commission has been consented by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and therefore we shall continue the proceeding," Sidek said.
Earlier, lawyers Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla and R. Sivarasa, who held a watching brief for former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, respectively, made an oral application to recuse Sidek and co-chairman of the Special Task Force to facilitate Business (Pemudah) Tan Sri Saw Choo Boon from being a panel member.
The application was made on the grounds that Sidek and Saw were earlier involved in the Special Task Force probing the case.
Haniff said members of the recommending body should not form the panel deciding on this matter and that the issue of panel composition is important to ensure a fair hearing.
On another application by both lawyers to actively participate in the proceeding, the panel decided that the issues that can and will be raised are subject to relevancy, as per the terms of reference.
In objecting to the lawyers' application earlier, conducting officer of the RCI, Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim, said the application had no basis as there is no rule against the composition of this commission or on whether a person involved in the earlier task force could not be a panel of the RCI.
After having concluded the matter, the panel proceeded to read out the five terms of reference of the RCI which included;
i) To determine the validity of the claim that losses had been incurred by BNM due to the forex dealings in the 1990s and its impact on the economy to the country.
ii) To determine whether BNM's forex dealings which incurred losses had contravened the provisions of the Central Bank Ordinance 1958 or any other relevant laws.
iii) To determine whether there were elements of deliberate concealment of facts and information and misleading statements made in the Cabinet, Parliament and public regarding the losses incurred by BMN due to the forex dealings.
iv) To recommend appropriate action to be taken against parties involved directly and/or indirectly if they are found to have caused the losses incurred by BNM and concealed the fact and information regarding the said losses.
v) To recommend the course of action to ensure similar events will not be repeated.
"The commissioners shall complete the inquiry and present a report to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong within three months as stipulated.
"Therefore, given the constraint of time and power, the commissioners shall focus on the terms of reference of the RCI and will not allow any interference or any person that are not related to it," Sidek said.
The panel fixed a 10-day hearing beginning August 21 at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya and is open to the public.
The RCI was announced on June 21 following the STF’s preliminary investigation on claims that Bank Negara Malaysia racked up US$10 billion in foreign exchange losses during the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, outside the court, Haniff said they would file a further application on the decision of the panel.
"We feel that the current composition of the RCI is against the law and natural justice," he said.
The other members of the panel are High Court judge Datuk Wira Kamaludin Md Said, chief executive officer of Bursa Malaysia Datuk Seri Tajuddin Atan, and co-chairman and member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants K.Puspanathan.
- RCI on BNM forex losses: Bid to challenge legality of commission composition shot down
- RCI on Bank Negara's forex losses begins
- Royal inquiry on BNM forex losses starts Tuesday