KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 ― Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun today allowed a special motion by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to discuss the bombshell revelations by Tim Leissner, the former head of Goldman Sachs’s South-east Asia operations, on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) saga, but ordered that the debate be done in the special chambers at 2.30pm today.
Azhar agreed that the matters to be highlighted under the motion are indeed specific and is of public interest and need to be hastened.
“Therefore, I allow this motion to be discussed today, in the special chambers at 2.30pm, where I myself will be chairing it,” he said.
Anwar, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the decision, stressing that the matter is rather pressing and has national implications, which also includes the image of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the “country’s dignity”, and that it should be debated in the Lower House.
The Port Dickson MP had said that the matter involving BNM is after Leissner, who is the star witness for the US prosecution, told a US court that then BNM governor, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz’s husband Datuk Tawfiq Ayman was bribed in order to make BNM approve an “overnight” foreign exchange transfer of US$1 billion (RM4.9 billion) from 1MDB to PetroSaudi International (PSI), according to a report by news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT).
Tawfiq has, however, denied accepting bribes from former employees of Goldman Sachs as reported in the ongoing US corruption trial of Malaysian former banker Roger Ng that is linked to the 1MDB financial scandal.
In response to Leissner’s testimony, BNM had said that all investments abroad by resident entities are subject to the requirements under the Exchange Control Act (ECA) 1953 that was in force prior to 2013, which has since been replaced by the Financial Services Act (FSA) 2013.
“My apologies, honourable member. Actually, it will be negotiated and not to be debated, firstly, in accordance with Standing Orders 18(1) and 18(2). Secondly, the position of the special chambers is just the same as this meeting, because it is open and open to all. And by us bringing this to the special chamber, we will not disrupt the meeting’s agenda whereby today, we have suggestions of motions on the royal address and others, where the proposer will take 90 minutes and the supporter, one hour and the Opposition leader also gets 90 minutes. So we have time constraints. Apologies YB,” Azhar said.
Anwar however again objected, saying that he is willing to have his time reduced during his debate on the royal address, to have the emergency motion moved.
“Apologies. What we are going to debate on 18(1) has links to the royal address on corruption and also what I will be saying as the Opposition leader. So, I do not think this would affect it. If this means to reduce some time from the Opposition leader, I have no objection, but I don’t want a reason that this speech will disrupt the process of the meeting. If time is the justification, then I am keener to request for an agreement from the Speaker to give an approval, even if this means slashing some time of the Opposition leader,” he added.
Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu then stood up and asked as to why MPs are not allowed to discuss huge financial scandals implicating the nation.
“This is a matter of women’s dignity, Tan Sri. Malaysian women are now known internationally. Capable of buying a bungalow worth RM40 million. If that is all true, we have to discuss it. The greatness of Malaysian women now,” Mohamad, who is Kota Raja MP, sarcastically remarked, referring to the former chief executive of Astro Malaysia Holdings Berhad, Datuk Rohana Rozhan, who has now been thrust under the limelight.
Bloomberg reported Leissner as admitting to a US court that he used money received from 1MDB to buy a US$10 million house in London for Rozana, his then Malaysian lover. Leissner also told US prosecutor Drew Rolle that Rozana had threatened to expose his involvement with 1MDB.