DR Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia has lost far more money from the ringgit’s fall in value than the forex losses suffered by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) almost 30 years ago.
The country’s longest-serving prime minister and now opposition leader said BNM’s reserves dipped to US$39.6 billion from 2013 to 2015 under the stewardship of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“Bank Negara reported the losses at US$39.6 billion, which is RM160 billion. That is far greater than the forex losses, which they (Putrajaya) have been trying to pin on me,” the Pakatan Harapan chief told an audience of about 600 people at a fund-raiser at the Bangi Golf Resort yesterday.
In its annual report, BNM recorded its international reserve at RM441.9 billion (US$134.97 billion) for 2013. By 2015, the reserves had dropped to RM409.1 billion (US$95.3 billion). Last year, the central bank reported the figure at RM423.9 billion (US$94.5 billion).
In 2013, the exchange rate was RM3.27 per US dollar. It fell to RM4.44 last November, its lowest level since the Asian financial crisis. The ringgit has since rallied to close at RM4.09 yesterday.
Police have opened investigations into individuals linked to the forex losses based on the findings by a royal commission of inquiry.
The RCI recommended that Dr Mahathir, former finance minister Anwar Ibrahim and former BNM adviser Nor Mohamed Yakcop be investigated for criminal breach of trust.
Dr Mahathir told PH supporters last night that Najib had failed to mention the losses incurred from the depreciation of the ringgit.
“The RCI said I conspired with Anwar to hide the losses and that we committed a crime. But the truth is, we didn’t know the extent of the losses.
“This is just a way for them to drag me to court, find me guilty so that I would not contest (in the 14th general election). Now the halal has become haram and haram has become halal.
“Stealing money is now halal and financial losses that were incurred, where the money did not enter our accounts is now haram.”
Dr Mahathir was alluding to the RM2.6 billion allegedly stolen from state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which flowed into Najib’s personal bank accounts. Najib had said that the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.
The former prime minister, who was the focus of attacks during the Umno general assembly which ended yesterday, said Najib sees him as a genuine threat.
“I can’t stop being involved in politics. Umno leaders kept asking me to do something. That something eventually became Bersatu,” he said, referring to the party he formed last year.
“After we formed Bersatu, we managed to register 150,000 members. This frightened Najib.
“So they believe that even before we fight (in the general election), the easiest way for them is to cut off the head. So, since he assumes I’m the head, so the focus is on me.
“They also assumed that since I’ve been appointed as chairman of Pakatan Harapan, they must cut off my head then Pakatan will fall.
“That’s Najib’s hope. However, it is my hope and belief that even if I’m not here any more, Pakatan can still win.”
Amanah vice-president Husam Musa, who was also at the fund-raiser, told supporters that putting Dr Mahathir on trial for the forex losses would be to Pakatan’s advantage.
“Tun Dr Mahathir is not an ordinary person. He is an institution. To put him on trial would backfire on Barisan Nasional.
“If we win the elections, our first priority… through the proper legal and judicial processes is to prosecute those linked to 1MDB, especially MO1,” said the Salor assemblyman.
“But even if we do not win, if Najib pursues this RCI matter, he would be digging a hole for his grave. I don’t see Dr Mahathir being charged because this would sway public opinion (against BN),” said Husam.
PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution moderated the forum, which saw a dozen of questions from supporters ranging from what PH plans to do with the civil service to strategies to win over rural support.
The coalition last night also raised more than RM100,000, including RM21,000 from the auction of eight portraits of opposition leaders.
The highest bid was for Dr Mahathir’s portrait, which was sold for RM3,500 to Kelantan Bersatu. A portrait of Anwar sold for RM2,000.