PUTRAJAYA, 28 Oct 2009: The Court of Appeal here today ruled that the evidence of a witness, T Sivanesan, who alleged that he was abused and tortured by a group of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers, was relevant in determining the cause of Teoh Beng Hock‘s death.
Justice Datuk Suriyadi Halim Omar, who sat with justices Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Ahmad Maarop, held that there was a connection between Sivanesan’s testimony and the political aide’s death as the two incidents involved the same government agency at the same building.
“We can see the connection, and there is a propensity that the MACC may be involved, whether you like it or not, the incidents happened at the same building, involving the same entity, so isn’t there a connection?
“The purpose of the inquest is to find the deceased’s cause of death. To the coroner, he must investigate what is the cause of death. Give him a chance (to do so),” Suriyadi said in dismissing the appeal by the MACC against the High Court’s decision not to expunge Sivanesan’s testimony.
Teoh, 30, a political aide to Selangor state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead on 16 July 2009 on the fifth floor corridor of Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, where the MACC office is located. He was at the MACC to give a statement as a witness over allegations of misuse of funds by Selangor state executive councillors.
During the inquest on 9 Sept 2009, Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas ruled that the police report lodged by Sivanesan dated 11 Sept 2008, alleging that he was abused and tortured by MACC officers, was relevant to assist the inquest in determining the cause of Teoh’s death.
He then allowed Sivanesan to testify and accepted the police report together with a set of photographs of the alleged injuries which were tendered in court.
Sivanesan, 23, an assistant manager with Kuantan-based Puncak Rezeki Makmur Sdn Bhd, had testified that he was punched all over the body while his genitals were “whipped” with an iron rod wrapped in newspapers by an MACC officer known as Ashraf.
Dissatisfied with the coroner’s ruling, the MACC, represented by counsel Datuk Abdul Razak Musa, filed for a revision by the High Court but it was dismissed on 10 Sept by Judicial Commissioner Datin Yeoh Wee Siam. Yeoh held that there was nothing illegal, incorrect or improper in the coroner allowing Sivanesan to testify at the inquest.
Deputy public prosecutor Manoj Kurup, for the MACC, in the second attempt to set aside Sivanesan’s evidence today, contended that the purpose of Sivanesan’s testimony was merely to tarnish the MACC’s image.
He also submitted that the High Court judge had erred in holding that a nexus could exist between what happened to Sivanesan and what might have happened to Teoh.
At this juncture, Suriyadi said: “The idea that the witness’s testimony was to taint the MACC’s image is just your speculation, assessment and opinion. You have to show us if there was an illegality in the procedure or process of making the decision. Was there any error in the process?”
Manoj replied: “The whole process was correct. It is just the decision (that we are challenging).”
“In an inquest, the rules will not be followed strictly. We must have an open mind to find the cause of death. The death occurred at your (MACC) building. The other side is trying to show that there is propensity of MACC involvement,” Suriyadi said.
The court then dismissed the appeal without hearing from counsel Gobind Singh Deo, for Teoh’s family.
Also appearing with Manoj was counsel Datuk Abdul Razak Musa, while counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar acted for the Selangor government. — Bernama