Forex RCI: The trial of Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla

“Finally, there was that attempt by Mahathir to derail the RCI by seeking Sidek’s and Saw’s disqualification. Despite knowing that the legal basis to the attempt was flawed, Khatri and gang went ahead and filed a leave of application to initiate a judicial review on Mahathir’s behalf. The fact that he did so reeks of conspiracy and deception, given that Mahathir had a lot to lose should voters have discovered the RM31.5 billion (equivalent to RM157.5 billion by today’s standards) he and his men kept hidden from Parliament.”

THE THIRD FORCE

Last Friday, the 1st of December 2017, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla threw a bolt from the blue when he accused a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the nineties forex scandal of “carrying out the crooked political agenda of Prime Minister (Dato’ Seri) Najib (Tun) Razak.” According to the man representing Dr Mahathir Mohamad as legal counsel, the commission “deliberately” and “maliciously” published and distributed copies of the commission’s findings that were incomplete to imply Mahathir had not cooperated with investigators.

Now, here’s the thing – when the government first announced its decision to establish an RCI into the scandal, it made clear that the primary role of the commission was to discover if Bank Negara had suffered significant losses from forex transactions in the nineties. Nobody was going to be put on trial – the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in a statement declared that the commission would investigate if there were attempts to conceal or withhold information pertaining those losses with the intention of misleading the Cabinet, Parliament and the people of Malaysia.

And that’s more or less what happened.

On the 19th of September 2017, the RCI concluded its discovery into the scandal after having recorded testimonies from 25 witnesses and examining 42 documents. Key among those witnesses were Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim – who served as Minister of finance under Mahathir’s Cabinet – and the former premier himself. On the 21st of August 2017, the RCI heard from former Bank Negara accounts manager Abdul Aziz Abdul Manaf that the central bank lost RM31.5 billion between the years 1991 to 1994.

Needless to say, the revelation shocked everybody. Well, almost everybody, if you consider that Lim Kit Siang may have been among the few opposition parliamentarians who anticipated the discovery. Back in June 2012, the senior Lim himself put the figure at RM30 million when imploring government to establish an RCI into the forex scandal. You see, it is a little of an open secret that Mahathir and his men looted Bank Negara and defrauded Malaysian taxpayers.

That seems to explain why the former premier tried every trick in the book to derail the inquiry, beginning with his attempt to disqualify two of the commission’s panel members. On the 9th of August 2017, he filed a leave of application to initiate a judicial review against Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan’s and Tan Sri Saw Choo Boon’s roles in the commission. Mahathir implied that their involvement with the RCI was a controvertible transgression of law as the two were members of a Special Task Force (STF) that recommended the public inquiry in the first place.

The fact that he did that clearly demonstrates his attempt to mislead public. The former premier knew that the appointments were not in breach of natural justice as an RCI is neither a courthouse nor a medium of arbitration. He knew that Sidek and Saw were not there to put people on trial or deliver judgments, but to discover if there was sufficient ground to believe anyone should be put on trial.

And that brings me to my point.

The findings and recommendations made by an RCI are not convictions of guilt, but precursors to the possible evaluation of a guilt.  Just as you would not want its panelists to deliver a judgment against you or accuse you of wrongdoing, it would be wrong for you to pass judgements against them or accuse them of anything. Doing so would just be as good as me telling my milkman that he harbors a devious agenda simply because he opined that I was ugly and recommended that I go for plastic surgery. Quite a simple concept to grasp, yes?

Not according to Mahathir’s lawyer, no.

Last Friday, Khatri told The Malaysian Insight that the RCI was “carrying out the crooked political agenda of Prime Minister (Dato’ Seri) Najib (Tun) Razak.”  By doing so, he inadvertently put the Prime Minister on trial in the court of public opinion, where people like you and me are both judge and jury. Under the circumstances, I am now at liberty to decide if Najib does indeed harbor a “crooked political agenda” against Mahathir, or if Khatri is complicit with the former premier to shape public opinion against Barisan Nasional.

So, with the ‘power’ to adjudicate now vested in me, I hereby declare that Khatri bore malice towards Najib with intent to turn voters against the ruling coalition ahead of the 14th general election (GE14). My verdict stems from three interrelated factors, the first of which concerns a testimony Mahathir’s son delivered on the 13th of July 2017.

On that day, Dato’ Seri Mukhriz Mahathir told the Kuala Lumpur High Court that his father conspired with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to topple Najib. Considering that Khatri has been irresponsible and somewhat controversial with his slants against the Prime Minister, I am led to conclude with a reasonable degree of conviction that his representation of Mahathir is to further the former premier’s devious political agenda, which is to destabilize UMNO and trigger the fall of Barisan Nasional.

And that goes hand in hand with Mahathir’s chairmanship of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), the second factor contributing to my verdict against Khatri. The former premier has repeatedly made public his bid to replace Barisan Nasional with Pakatan Harapan, a coalition of four disparate parties he is now the Top Dog of. Considering that PPBM is the sole Malay outfit within the bloc, it is reasonable to assume that he is seeking to become the next Prime Minister of Malaysia by virtue of his chairmanship of the party.

Finally, there was that attempt by Mahathir to derail the RCI by seeking Sidek’s and Saw’s disqualification. Despite knowing that the legal basis to the attempt was flawed, Khatri and gang went ahead and filed a leave of application to initiate a judicial review on Mahathir’s behalf. The fact that he did so reeks of conspiracy and deception, given that Mahathir had a lot to lose should voters have discovered the RM31.5 billion (equivalent to RM157.5 billion by today’s standards) he and his men kept hidden from Parliament.

I rest my case.

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