PAKATAN Rakyat views as mockery the cabinet’s decision to limit the terms of reference of the Royal Commission of Inquiry to only investigate the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC)’s investigative procedures, and to have an inquest determine Teoh Beng Hock’s death.
MACC’s unjustifiable conduct in their investigations is clearly connected to Teoh’s death, and the actual facts of what really happened need to be uncovered.
Many troubling questions need to be answered:
- Why are other complaints of corruption, involving much larger sums, and Barisan Nasional leaders not investigated? Who directed the MACC to start the witch hunt against the Selangor state assemblypersons?
- Why was Teoh’s case, allegedly involving an amount less than RM2,500, pursued with such aggression and urgency?
- Why was Teoh and another so-called “witness” kept overnight and interrogated with such oppression?
- Why the delay in informing concerned parties of Teoh’s death?
- Why was Teoh’s handphone in the MACC’s custody when the MACC insisted that he was only a witness? Why did the MACC initially deny they took his handphone?
- Why was Teoh’s lawyer not allowed to see or accompany him during interrogation?
- Why would Teoh spend the night at the MACC’s office if he was free to go especially since he was scheduled to be married the next morning?
- Why would Teoh commit suicide, as [suggested] by MACC and others, in these circumstances: he was about to get married, with his fiancé expecting their child, and with no sign or history of depression or mental illness?
Hence, whilst it is appropriate that the royal commission investigate the MACC’s investigation procedures, the key question of how Teoh died must also be investigated and answered by [the commission]. That question cannot be separated from the more general issue of how the MACC conducts investigations.
There is really no need whatsoever for this inquest to proceed, bearing in mind that the royal commission should investigate the circumstances of the death. In any event, we have serious doubts about the effectiveness of such an inquest.
Inquests are conducted by a magistrate who acts as a coroner and is assisted by the deputy public prosecutor (DPP), who will in turn depend on police investigations into the cause of death. In the numerous inquests held on suspicious deaths in custody over the last several years, for example on Tharma Rajen, Ragupathy Muniandy, Ahmad Salleh, Ulaganathan Muniandy, Francis Udayappan and Vivashannu Pillai, proceedings have been hampered by the lack of willingness of the magistrates, the DPPs and the police to fully and seriously investigate the deaths.
As a result, no police officials have been found culpable and most deaths were classified as “natural causes” or “sudden deaths”.
Our experience of these and other inquests show that the inadequacy of the process is also largely due to the fact that the magistrates are restricted to the evidence produced by the police investigating the deaths. In Teoh’s case as well, there is a high level of scepticism about the effectiveness and independence of the police investigation to identify the real cause of his death.
The inquest process is also limited by the fact that magistrates are junior judicial officers still attached to the Judicial and Legal Services whose personnel are frequently transferred between the judicial and prosecution departments — something obviously undesirable for its appearance of bias. This is made worse when the DPP appearing is likely to be a senior prosecutor while the magistrate remains a junior officer.
Inquest proceedings are further hampered by the strict application of criminal and evidentiary rules; the limited findings that can be made without making further recommendations; and the restricted participation of lawyers acting for interested parties.
In the light of the low public confidence commanded by the judiciary, the prosecutors and the police, especially in such a politically explosive case, Pakatan Rakyat demands that the royal commission’s terms of reference be extended to cover all the surrounding circumstances of Teoh’s death. If not, the most important question of how his death occurred would not be answered to the public’s satisfaction.
Needless to say, the royal commission of inquiry should comprise individuals who are competent, independent, credible and of high integrity, and who are able to act without fear or favour in fulfilling its terms of reference.
Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad,
PAS central committee member
Lau Weng San,
Selangor DAP secretary