Bank Islam Malaysia Suspends Top Economist for Policy Breach

Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd., the country’s oldest Shariah-compliant lender, said it suspended chief economist Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin for allegedly breaching the bank’s internal policies.

“The nature of the breaches would be established upon the completion of our investigations,” Bank Islam said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “While we reiterate that Azrul’s political views and his comments should not be associated with the bank, we would like to stress that the suspension is not related to his voicing his personal political views.”

Azrul, a member of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party, predicted Prime Minister Najib Razak could narrowly lose Malaysia’s upcoming general election at a forum in Singapore last week, the Straits Times reported Jan. 11. In a separate article yesterday, the newspaper cited the economist as saying he was called in by the bank’s management on Jan. 14 to discuss his election prediction.

“My intention is to eventually resign,” Azrul, who has been with the bank on and off since 2007, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News today. “I don’t want to burn bridges. My bosses have been good to me. I don’t want others to suffer from political pressure.”

The alleged policy breaches weren’t specified by Bank Islam, part of Kuala Lumpur-listed BIMB Holdings Bhd., in the statement.

Election Forecast

“Malaysia’s corporate sector should encourage its highest management to act objectively and freely, as long as they can defend their decisions in an empirical and rational manner,” Mohamed Azmin Ali, deputy president of the People’s Justice Party, said in an e-mailed statement today.

The prime minister must dissolve parliament by April 28 for polls. Azrul forecast that the National Front could win as few as 97 of the 222 parliamentary seats in the poll as one of three possible scenarios, according to the Straits Times report.

Najib’s National Front coalition is seeking to hold on to power after ruling Malaysia since independence in 1957. In the last election in 2008, the governing parties lost the two-thirds majority in Parliament they had held for four decades. Anwar’s opposition alliance currently controls four out of the country’s 13 states, including Selangor and Penang.

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