Bank Islam chief economist suspended

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The chief economist of Bank Islam has been suspended following media reports on a presentation he made predicting a narrow victory for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election.

The top officer, Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin, received the suspension letter yesterday afternoon, after allegations of "serious misconduct" were made against him.

Contacted by Malaysiakini today, Azrul said he did not know the reason for his suspension but confirmed that it was linked to the presentation he made in Singapore recently.

"This action is politically motivated. I do not know what to say. I am shocked that this happened," he said.

Azrul said the letter states that his suspension would be effective immediately. However, it does not say how long the suspension would last.

"As no two GEs can provide almost exactly the same reading and in view of the surprise GE12 results, predicting the outcome of the GE13 could prove very challenging and a highly speculative attempt," Azrul Azwar said in his controversial presentation.

He gave three scenarios relating to the forthcoming general election.

1) Scenario with high probability :

Narrow loss for BN, securing only 97-107 parliamentary seats (narrow victory for Pakatan: 115-125) Failure to retake Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan Lose control of Perak, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and Perlis Narrowly retain Pahang and Johor Lose significant ground in Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak

2) Scenario with moderate probability :

Narrow win for BN, securing 112-122 parliamentary seats (narrow loss for Pakatan: 100-110) Failure to retake Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan Lose control of Perak and Negri Sembilan

3) Scenario with low probability :

Big loss for BN, securing only 82-92 parliamentary seats (big victory for PR: 130-140) Failure to retake Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan Lose control of Perak, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu, Perlis and Pahang Narrowly retain Johor and Malacca Lose significant ground in Sabah and Sarawak

Short-term negative impact

He also speculated that a Pakatan win may have a short-term negative impact on the economy, though he predicted that the long-term political and economic effects will make Malaysia better off with the emergence of a genuine two-party system and stronger checks and balances.

Azrul also warned that Pakatan's aversion to GST may see the government unable to expand revenue and discontinuance of established long-term policies that can be disruptive.

However he lamented that only one of the scenarios, the one of a Pakatan win, was reported by a media outlet, which painted him as "biased".

"If all three possible scenarios were reported, this issue (my suspension) would not have happened," he said, expressing regret over the media spin.

Azrul said he is reflecting on the matter but does not discount the possibility that he may quit his post.

"I don't want others to suffer. This is for my boss' benefit," he explained, adding that his superiors are now facing undue influence from "senior BN leaders".

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