KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 – Any letter of support from Putrajaya is considered a government guarantee, said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today, dispelling the claim that the letter of support given to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is not an “explicit guarantee”. Drawing on his experience as finance minister, Anwar said such a letter should be forwarded to the Cabinet.
“The notice for the letter of support should be sent to the Cabinet. You cannot manipulate the procedure. If there are any disputes (by the government), then it can be referred to the legal experts,” he told a press conference at the Parliament lobby. “A support letter for any project is considered a sovereign guarantee, and a guarantee letter, or an undertaking by the government,” he said, citing the letter of support for the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone as an example.
Anwar was finance minister from 1991 until his sacking in 1998, after being charged with sodomy and corruption. Yesterday, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan insisted Putrajaya’s letter of support for 1MDB was not an “explicit guarantee”, saying that Putrajaya only gave an explicit guarantee of RM5.8 billion for the fund’s sukuk bond.
“My statement on the letter of support does not mean that there is no other letter besides the guarantee. “I did not confuse the Dewan because there is no other guarantee given out by the government,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby. Pakatan filed a motion to refer Ahmad to the rights and privileges committee for misleading Parliament with his flip-flop answers on 1MDB; but in a tit-for-tat move, BN did the same for Anwar and Tony Pua (DAP- Petaling Jaya Utara).
Shrugging off the prospect of being referred to the Parliament’s disciplinary panel, Anwar said he will request speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to hold an open hearing as felt the issue should be openly discussed. Usually, a committee conducts its hearings behind closed doors. “I think this is a great opportunity for me and Pua to discuss this issue,” he said.
“What they are trying to do is to push this issue to behind closed doors, as opposed to the open debates in Parliament. I am calling on the speaker to make the hearing public so that we can openly debate on this.” He also agreed with Auditor-General Tan Sri Amrin Buang’s rationale that his department would not audit 1MDB as it was handled by one of the Big Four auditing firms.
He said Amrin was just following his terms of reference, which was limited to government agencies and departments. “He has so much on his plate already,” Anwar said. 1MDB is Malaysia’s second sovereign wealth fund after Khazanah Nasional Bhd. Critics have long questioned the fund’s heavy debts, usage of funds and opaque operations.
Among its staunchest critics is former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had called on Putrajaya to explain how the fund had benefitted Malaysians, especially since it incurred a RM38-billion debt in just five years of its operations. Dr Mahathir said there was no need for 1MDB as it only served to add to the country’s debt.