Baying for answers

By Wong Chun Wai (The Star)

LET’S put politics aside. Most of us have never met Teoh Beng Hock, the aide of a Selangor exco member, but Malaysia is angry with the circumstances leading to the death of this young man.

A man who is a novice to politics has died in a most tragic way with his body found sprawled on the fifth floor of a 20-storey building after a 10-hour grilling by the Malay­sian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

A decent man, son, husband- and father-to-be is tragically gone, at a time when he and his loved ones were about to start a new chapter in their lives the next day.

There are many unanswered questions over how he died and Malaysians with any conscience should speak up and demand answers.

It’s not a question of protecting the integrity and credibility of the MACC; the issue here is about knowing the truth.

Malaysians find it hard to accept any suggestion that he committed suicide nor can we accept any insensitive innuendoes over his death.

The job is now with the police. They must investigate the case professionally, efficiently and quickly. We want the findings to be transparent. In fact, the Government should accept the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, with the power to call up witnesses. This is the only way to satisfy the public who have questioned the credibility of our institutions.

That will also prove that the Government has nothing to hide and is as interested as everyone else to get to the truth.

The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have both given their assurances that the case would be investigated thoroughly and when the Cabinet meets on Wednesday, it is most certain to be a top item on the agenda.

A lot of anger has been directed against the MACC because Teoh was in their custody hours before he was found dead. He was a witness to a corruption case involving misuse of allocations by several state assemblymen.

But the method applied in the interrogation is now being questioned. Teoh was brought in for questioning – as a witness and not as an accused – after the MACC raided the office of his boss, exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, at 4pm on Wednesday.

He was released on Thursday at 3.45am. He said he was tired and took a nap on the settee at the MACC office, purportedly at 6am.


What happened between 6am and 1.30pm should now be the point of any investigation. The question here should also be whether there was a need for Teoh to be subjected to such long hours of questioning.

On the standard operating procedures of the MACC, it is clear that there is an urgent need for CCTVs to be installed in the questioning room. Cameras must be placed in the front and back of the interviewee.

In the case of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission on Anti Corruption, they do not even allow tables with edges to be placed, lest they are accused of causing injuries to the interviewees.

From press reports, it is shocking that there is no CCTV in the room, office and corridors of the building. It’s not the right place for an enforcement agency. In short, security is horrendous and it fails to comply with any safety requirements.

The anger towards the authorities, especially the MACC, is expected. It has had a serious credibility problem since the days when it was known as the Anti Corruption Agency.

It was revamped with a new name, the MACC, and independent panels involving prominent personalities were appointed to help revamp and improve its image.

It has been an uphill task as the MACC has continued to be bogged down with perceptions that it practises selective prosecution.

The latest case has given the MACC another beating and more than that, if not properly handed, it could give rise to serious political implications.

The Prime Minister, who has been riding high with increasing popular ratings, is bound to find himself on the defensive now.

Pakatan Rakyat, reeling from open internal bickering, has seized this issue to regain lost ground.

Just last week, the issue was PKR MP Wee Choo Keong accusing a Selangor exco member of links with underworld activities while another PKR MP, Azmin Ali, called for a revamp in the state exco.

No name or political party was mentioned but there were innuendoes of cases relating to massage parlours and billboard licences. At the same time, several Pakatan assemblymen were probed for misuse of allocations.

All these cases are now being overshadowed by the death of Teoh and surely no PKR politician would dare to pursue the cases further as there would be a political backlash for sure.

Don’t jump the gun

But the Deputy Prime Minister is right. Let’s not be too quick to hurl accusations based on suspicions, emotions and prejudices.

Lest we forget, in 2006, many were too quick to condemn the police for the nude squat incident, where a fair-skinned woman was concluded to be a Chinese national.

A diplomatic row almost erupted with China after a mobile phone video clip was leaked. Chinese tour groups, including those from Taiwan and Hong Kong, even cancelled their tours when the news broke out.

In the end, the woman turned out to be a Malay woman and two Chinese newspaper editors had to resign over the issue.

It may not be a similar comparison as this involves a death and any suggestion to call for calm would be dismissed as being apologetic and sycophantic, given the state of affairs.

The investigations by the MACC, police or hopefully by an independent panel will be closely watched by Malaysians. There should be no room for any wrongdoings or cover-ups and those guilty must be arrested.

This is about a human being who has died in a most tragic manner; we must all help to find the answers.