The following is a message from Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim, who just resigned from his post as the governor of Bank Negara, to his staff,
My dear colleagues,
No doubt many of you have read, listened or watched the news and social media coverage on the speculation of me vacating the Governor’s position. In fact, you were probably queried and asked by numerous family and friends on the validity of these reports.
This morning, I thought it is important that I speak to you candidly on this matter.
When I took office in May 2016, I vowed to execute the responsibility of the office of the Governor with the highest level of professionalism, integrity and honour. Over the past few weeks, there have been serious questions raised if I have fallen short of this standard and put at risk public confidence in the Bank.
As a central bank, we are only as effective as the trust and confidence that the people of Malaysia and its leaders place in us.
I am prepared to relinquish my post if I no longer have the strong trust and support of the public. I cannot in good conscience continue if it affects the Bank’s image and reputation.
We are judged by the decisions we make, like for example the recent purchase of Lot 41, acquired at RM850 per square foot, which has attracted wide public interest.
The perception is that the purchase of the land was made to intentionally aid and abet the misappropriation of public funds pertaining to the corruption and scandal surrounding 1MDB. This is totally untrue. Bank Negara Malaysia will never be party to any such activities that would betray the public trust in us. We abhor any semblance of corruption and abuse of power.
Skeptical as many may be, the Bank did not know nor did we have any control over the proceeds of the land purchase that would be used to settle 1MDB’s obligations. It is simply unthinkable for us to be associated with such a controversial entity mired with accusations of fraud and mismanagement. It is not in our nature to do such things. We even took enforcement action against them earlier.
The 1MDB scandal has cost the country dearly and as a Malaysian myself, I am deeply angered, distressed and outraged. This is indeed a matter of significant public focus and I can understand why any association with the scandal, unintended or otherwise, is invariably met with a strong sense of public outrage.
My priority now is for the Bank to move forward and continue to focus on delivering its mandates to serve the Malaysian people.
My dear colleagues,
The purchase of Lot 41 land was not the first time we have done such a transaction. As many of you would know, we have over the years, acquired several pieces of land throughout the country to enable the discharge of our mandates. Our own headquarters presently were built on three separate land acquisitions made in the 1950s and 1980s. The Bukit Perdana land, acquired in 2013 at the price of RM1,235 per square foot was also based on an independent professional valuer, upon which the ongoing construction of the Asian School of Business and the Financial Industry Training Centre are being done, are also the nearest examples.
We have also always wanted to create greater synergies between our numerous affiliated institutions and ensure talent development for the financial sector workforce. With this objective in mind, we indicated our interest as early as September of 2016. We initiated the purchase of the land a year later when we knew that there was an emergent interest by the Government then to sell this land. We believe that it was an excellent opportunity to secure an asset on fair terms that will be central to sustain our future long-term growth. We have a vision for a Financial Education Hub that will also host among others, a global Islamic finance university, a Shariah academy and research centre, a financial services library, innovation labs, a cybersecurity operations centre and an integrated security command centre.
We ensured that everything was done in the right manner, with proper governance and accountability, including compliance with all relevant laws. Internally, we deliberated this at a number of Board meetings. We even recommended to the Government for the sale to be best done by way of a public tender which we would be glad to participate competitively in along with any other interests. We also chose to publish a press release in January 2018 to inform the public of the purchase in our effort to be transparent.
Coming out fresh from the experience of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on forex losses of thirty-years past, the Bank was careful to make sure everything is above board. We knew that we need to pass the test of public scrutiny in everything we do to maintain our reputation and confidence of the public.
For more than 34 years, I have always strived to serve, to do my best in the interest of the country, its values and its people. The office of the Governor is a heavy responsibility with great capacity for good. It is also a privilege, as it entails working with possibly the best talents Malaysia has to offer. Malaysia is at a critical juncture in our history, it is important for us to stand united as an institution in rising to the occasion. The Malaysian people expect nothing less than our full dedication and commitment.
This institution is bigger than any individual, and I truly believe our best days are ahead of us. Let us draw courage, lessons and strength from this.