Home Civil Society Voices ‘Special task force’ on disappearances: An attempt to undermine Suhakam’s findings, derail...

‘Special task force’ on disappearances: An attempt to undermine Suhakam’s findings, derail police reform

Family members of Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat

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Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) is flabbergasted by Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s media release today.

In the release, Muhyiddin claims to have formed a special task force to pursue the conclusion of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) that the Special Branch of the police ‘disappeared’ social activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh.

Muhyiddin’s media release does not include the terms of reference of the task force – despite him having said to the media on two previous occasions that the terms have been drafted.

Muhyiddin has appointed retired High Court judge Abd Rahim Uda as chairman. Rahim is the judge who, in December 2011, upheld the coroner’s “open verdict” in the death of Teoh Beng Hock.

That is relevant because Rahim’s decision was unanimously overturned by a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in September 2014. It is also relevant because the Suhakam inquiry panel depended on that Court of Appeal decision when setting the bar for evidence which led to the conclusion that “Special Branch, Bukit Aman, did it.”

Muhyiddin has also appointed as a member Zamri Yahya, the serving head of the “integrity” department of the police – the supposed “internal affairs department” of the police.

Zamri’s appointment is absolutely outrageous because his department should be within the scope of investigation of the “task force”!

A third member of the six-member “task force” is an even more dubious appointee. Mokhtar Mohd Noor, listed in Muhyiddin’s media release as former head of the legal department of the police, appeared for the police during the Suhakam inquiry. In fact, he made the closing arguments for the police!

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There is more bad news.

Muhyiddin says Koh will be out of scope of the “task force” because a person has been charged in the matter of Raymond Koh and investigating the case while the person is awaiting trial will be sub judice and “contempt of court”.

That is preposterous because, as established during the Suhakam inquiry, the matter for which the person was charged was different from the matter before the inquiry. The person (Lam Chang Nam) can only be credibly charged with extortion, not abduction or kidnap! The matter before the inquiry was the failure of the police to thoroughly investigate two cases of great public interest.

Furthermore, sub judice only comes into play if any material which may influence a witness or judge is published. Suhakam’s decision has already been published. Therefore sub judice is a matter for consideration by Mr Lam and his counsel, not by the supposed “task force.” The question of contempt of court does not arise at all.

The “task force” appointment is a blatant attempt to undermine and subvert the unanimous findings of three distinguished, legally trained, Agong-appointed human rights commissioners – and the home minister claims the cabinet is behind this!

All right-thinking Malaysians must reject this supposed “special task force.” Muhyiddin must seriously question the persons who advised him on membership of this “task force” – they are clearly persons who wish to hide truth, not reveal it. The composition of the “task force” makes it abundantly clear that their remit is to undermine and subvert Suhakam’s findings, not investigate.

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It is clear that they have no interest in holding complicit police personnel – and their defenders such as Mohtar – accountable. If Muhyiddin does not disband this “task force,” he can expect calls, even from retired and serving police personnel, for his resignation.

Muhyiddin must recall what Inspector General of Police Hamid Bador is reported to have said: a small minority of cops give the police an overall bad reputation. All honest, dedicated policemen will be outraged by the composition of this “task force” – for no one will believe it capable of doing creditable work. Everyone will say, “There we go again, more whitewash.”

On the other hand, a credible task force will restore honour to the police by unearthing truth and punishing miscreant officers. A credible task force will pull the police force out of the basket of atrocious police forces such as those in Argentina, Chile and the Philippines who have scant regard for the rule of law. A credible task force will help Hamid Bador reform the police.

This is a matter of great national urgency.

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