PUTRAJAYA – Former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin told the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) investigating Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) foreign exchange (forex) losses in the 1980s and 1990s that he had never spoken to then-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad about the central bank’s forex dealings.
Appearing as the 23rd witness in the proceedings today, he said then-BNM governor, the late Tan Sri Jaffar Hussein, had never discussed with him in detail about forex dealings by BNM’s trading arm.
However, he acknowledged that BNM became active in forex trading from 1988 onwards.
Daim, who served as Finance Minister between 1984 and 1991, arrived at the Palace of Justice at 9.45am before taking the witness stand at 10.20am.
Describing BNM foreign exchange (forex) trading during that period as “rubbish”, Daim stressed that he would have stopped it if he had known about it.
Speaking to reporters after taking the stand before the Royal Commission of Inquiry, Daim said it was not the central bank’s role to trade in forex.
“In hindsight, I think it’s damn stupid. Forex trading is a very volatile business and those in charge of the reserves should be more careful in taking care of it.
“BNM’s role is to protect our currency and reserves,” he told the commission.
Questioned by RCI chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan on whether the Finance Minister could access BNM’s reports as the Treasury secretary-general is a member of the BNM board, Daim said no one had informed him.
“The onus was on BNM to inform the ministry of the trading,” he said.
However, Sidek chided Daim and questioned how he was unable to know the central bank’s dealings when earlier witness, former senior auditor Kanason Pothinker, had more knowledge of the matter.
He was so much smaller (in rank and file than you), yet he knew, Sidek said.
“And you as a minister who was so good, didn’t know. I find that so odd. Don’t you agree ?” he asked.
In response, Daim insisted that he was not informed.
“How can I agree or disagree when I wasn’t informed. If I know these things, no way would I have allowed this to happen.
“I would have sacked them. How do I act when I do not know (what is going on) ?” he reported. – The Sundaily