Kit Siang tells how he exposed Malaysia’s RM13bil forex scandal

The DAP stalwart confides in his biography that Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the former finance minister, had told him about the losses after Tengku Razaleigh quit Umno following a fallout with Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

(FMT) – When Lim Kit Siang was opposition leader in 1993, he shocked the nation when he claimed that Bank Negara had lost nearly RM13 billion in foreign exchange losses.

However, what he did not divulge in the Dewan Rakyat, was the source of this information.

Known as a scandal chaser then, the DAP supremo used facts and figures that were not in the public domain, which surprised all the MPs. He spelt out that the total losses incurred by the central bank amounted to between RM10 billion and RM12.8 billion — colossal sums equivalent to an entire year of government development expenditure then.

“RM10 billion is so colossal that it is impossible for the man in the street to grasp its size. If this sum were to be divided equally among the 18 million Malaysians (the population then), each would get RM555,” he declared.

After 30 years, he divulged in the second volume of his biography “Lim Kit Siang – Malaysian First”: that it was former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who tipped him off about the losses.

Lim said he felt it would have been better for Tengku Razaleigh to bring this up in Parliament as he would have been more well-versed in the topic, but Tengku Razaleigh thought it should be the opposition leader who should expose the scandal.

Presenting a likely scenario of what could have happened, he said Bank Negara incurred the huge losses when it poured billions of ringgit into buying the British pound and other European currencies with the hope of making a killing but instead these currencies crashed in 1992.

Calling for a royal commission of inquiry, he charged that Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister, and Anwar Ibrahim, then the finance minister, should accept full and personal responsibility over the fiasco.

However his several calls for an inquiry fell on deaf ears, despite his claims that the losses could amount to RM30 billion.

In the wake of his disclosures, Bank Negara official Nor Mohamed Yakcop, the only person given the authority over forex trading, was moved out and the bank’s governor, Jaffar Hussein, resigned.

In 2017, a royal commission was finally instituted by then prime minister Najib Razak under different political circumstances, when Mahathir had joined the opposition in preparation for the general election the following year.

In its 528-page report, the inquiry said that Anwar as finance minister at the time had misled the Cabinet while Mahathir was believed to have given the green light for the finance minister’s misleading statements.

Far from being a vindication for Lim, he was subjected to much criticism for his association with the people targeted by the inquiry. Mahathir had been asked to lead Pakatan Harapan in preparation for the 2018 elections, while Anwar had founded PKR, which was DAP’s partner in PH.

“Caught in an awkward situation, he would have his moral and political consistency severely called into question,” wrote Kee Thuan Chye, author of the biography.