The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) shares the dismay of the families of Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh and a slew of others over the appointments of members to the special taskforce to pursue Suhakam’s findings in the matter of the enforced disappearances of the two.
Proham is astonished that the basic principle of avoidance of conflict of interest has been so blatantly disregarded by Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin when he approved and announced the list of taskforce members.
We echo the sentiments expressed by Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) and the family members of Amri and Koh in respect of the indisputable conflict of interest faced by three out of six of the members of the taskforce namely Abd Rahim Uda, Mokhtar Mohd Noor and Zamri Yahya.
Proham is also of the view that these three members should not have been appointed as members of the taskforce.
Another gross failing in the choice of members is the absence of any unbiased, professional, reputable investigator with first-hand practical knowledge of the workings of the police.
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The minister appears to have completely missed the terms of reference of the taskforce – his published announcement of the members did not include the terms of reference of the taskforce.
The taskforce must review police records and testimony which was not made available to the Suhakam inquiry purportedly due to the Official Secrets Act and established practices in relation to ongoing cases.
The taskforce must also do the basic investigative work which police officers, in their testimony before Suhakam, admitted had not been done. Such work can only be done by exercising police powers such as obtaining relevant evidence and tracing and recording statements from witnesses.
The taskforce must therefore include those who are able and independent enough to coordinate and lead a thorough investigation of the disappearances. In addition, the taskforce must include one or more members of civil society to ensure transparency and independence.
While Proham congratulates the prime minister, who acknowledges the shortcomings of the taskforce and is reported to have said that he will listen to public feedback and take appropriate action, we strongly believe that failure to revamp the taskforce will result in a loss of public trust.
Proham therefore reiterates and urges the ministry to take heed of the call of civil society to ensure and guard the ability of the taskforce to perform independently and free from any conflicts of interest.
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari is chairman of Proham while Ivy Josiah is secretary-general.