Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Accused of misleading Parliament, Ahmad Maslan says sorry for 1MDB support letter slip-up

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan had to apologise to the Dewan Rakyat for leaving out “six words” during his winding speech in Parliament two weeks ago over a controversial letter of support for 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). — Picture by Siow Saw Feng 

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan was forced to apologise to the Dewan Rakyat today for having left out “six words” during his winding speech in Parliament two weeks ago over a controversial letter of support for 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
In responding to a motion to refer him to the Parliament’s rights and privileges committee, Ahmad said he did not intend to mislead the House when he said on November 6 that there was no other sovereign guarantee or letter of support to the Putrajaya-backed investment arm.
“I accept my mistake of having left out six words that — there is no other guarantee letter,” said Ahmad, who is also the Barisan Nasional MP for Pontian.
In an unprecedented move, Parliament Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia also explained that he had instructed both parties to submit documents to prove their claims and refrained from making a ruling  to avoid a misunderstanding.
“I gave both Pandan and Pontian a chance to present the facts here again... because I want to remind all of you here that the Standing Orders 36 (12) is not to be used in vain as it is a testament of a parliamentarian’s integrity,” said Pandikar.
“I would like also like to draw your attention to Standing Orders 10 (4) — the Hansard can be corrected with the Speaker’s permission ... and as such the deputy minister has stated that it was not his intention to mislead the House, and therefore, I have decided to not refer him to the rights and privileges committee,” he said.
Ahmad had made the correction after Pandan PKR MP Rafizi Ramli’s filed a motion to cite the former for contempt under Standing Order 36 (12), supposedly for misleading the Dewan Rakyat over the letter of support issued to 1MDB last week.
During his winding up speech on Budget 2015, Ahmad had insisted that there were “no other letter support” apart from an explicit guarantee of only RM5.8 billion of the sovereign fund’s loans.
Ahmad had also denied the existence of Putrajaya’s letter of support for 1MDB arranged by US-based investment banker Goldman Sach’s International to raise US$3 billion (RM10.02 billion) in bonds last year.
On November 8, in a press conference in Parliament, the deputy minister, however, said he meant to state that the letter of support does not amount to an explicit guarantee.
Unlike a letter of support, an explicit guarantee is legally binding under the Loans Guarantee (Bodies Corporate) Act 1965, Ahmad had explained, asserting that 1MDB — which was set up to help drive Putrajaya’s strategic investments — is financially sound to settle its debts with assets valued at RM51 billion.
This was was opposed by Pakatan Rakyat MPs, who contended that the letter of support amounted to a guarantee as in confirms that Putrajaya has agreed to inject necessary capital or make payments on behalf of 1MDB to ensure its obligations are met.
1MDB has been dogged by negative publicity over massive fees paid for bond sales, the near one-year delay in publishing its financial accounts, and most recently, changing auditors. 

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