World

Mahathir keen to testify at inquiry into forex losses

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has said he is keen to offer information to the Royal Commission of Inquiry that is probing foreign exchange losses suffered by Malaysia's central bank in the 1990s.

Making a surprise appearance at the proceedings yesterday, Dr Mahathir told reporters: "I must admit I know quite a lot. Maybe this is of interest to the commission, to know what I know."

The inquiry is probing the billions of dollars lost in forex trades more than 20 years ago, during his leadership.

ALLEGATION

Former central bank assistant governor Abdul Murad Khalid had alleged in an interview in January that the actual losses were US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion), higher than the RM9 billion (S$2.9 billion) disclosed then.

Dr Mahathir has not been called upon to testify yet, and was attending the proceedings as an observer.

He now leads opposition party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, having left ruling party Umno after clashing with its leader Prime Minister Najib Razak over the latter's alleged links to billions misappropriated from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Former deputy prime minister and now jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim also expressed his interest in appearing as a witness, since he was finance minister at the time and his name was brought up in proceedings.

"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 yesterday.

Mr Murad said on Monday that Anwar had told him in 1994 that he would need to resign as finance minister if the actual amount of forex losses was revealed to the public.

Anwar denied that.

"His malicious insinuation is clear - that I had implied a cover-up was needed. That allegation is false. I never said that to him," Anwar said in his statement.

Dr Mahathir also told reporters he would not resign as a leader in opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, if the inquiry finds he is implicated in the forex losses. "I will not accept it. It has nothing to do with my politics," he said.

Responding to speculation that he had been ill, Dr Mahathir, 92, said: "You look at me, do you think I just recovered from a serious illness?

"For lots of people, it is wishful thinking on their part. They would wish I am dead. Because I am a nuisance; I am a danger to the whole nation."

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