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Issue of forex losses a 'diversion': Dr Mahathir

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Former Malaysian PM backs calls for probe into Bank Negara's trading losses

PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he welcomes calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to be formed to probe the alleged loss of billions of ringgit by Bank Negara due to speculation in the foreign exchange market in the 1990s.

The former prime minister, however, claimed that the issue of forex losses was raised to divert attention away from current concerns.

"Don't try to hide by referring to something that occurred 40 years ago," he said.

He was responding to Umno deputy youth chief Khairul Azwan Harun's calls for an independent probe to investigate and confirm whether Bank Negara "went bankrupt" in 1991.

Mr Khairul Azwan said the RCI should ensure that there was no cover-up on the issue involving losses of US$180b (S$255b) from forex trading exposures and forex trading losses.

Former Bank Negara assistant governor Abdul Murad Khalid was reported to have said that the central bank had suffered US$10b in losses in the forex market in the early 1990s, far higher than it had admitted.

Also present at the press conference yesterday was DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, who denied claims that he had made a "U-turn" with regard to the forex and Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) issues.

"I have challenged them to show how I have made a U-turn because I stand by what I have said in and outside Parliament on both these controversies," he said, adding that he stood by his previous calls for an RCI into the scandals.

In a separate development, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim yesterday announced he had joined opposition Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party (DAP), as Malaysia's opposition geared up for the next election.

Mr Zaid, who was a minister during former prime minister Abdullah Badawi's leadership, said at a press conference: "Leaders must be honest, fair and aspire to do justice, and I believe DAP can and has succeeded in achieving all this."

On the likelihood of him contesting in the next election due by 2018, Mr Zaid said it was up to the party to decide.

Mr Zaid was previously an Umno member, followed by a brief membership in jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

He was also a president of a small Kelantan-based opposition party called Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air.

Despite being seen as a liberal, Mr Zaid was confident he could speak to Malays of different backgrounds.

"I'm comfortable with my Malay credentials, whether it's the kampung or city or conservative or liberal".- THE STAR/THE STRAITS TIMES

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