MACC looks to High Court to quash assault claims at Teoh’s inquest

Written by Chua Sue-Ann, The Edge

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is headed to the High Court tomorrow in an attempt to exclude from Teoh Beng Hock's inquest allegations that its anti-graft officers had assaulted a previous suspect, amid strong objections from lawyers representing interested parties.

MACC legal affairs and prosecutions director Datuk Abdul Razak Musa filed the review application at about 1.30pm today, seeking to review coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas' Tuesday decision that a police report by Sivanesan Tanggavelu alleging psychological and physical abuse, was relevant to the inquest.

Counsel for Teoh's family Gobind Singh Deo confirmed by SMS that the MACC's application will be heard on Thursday morning at the Petaling Jaya High Court while the inquest would likely be postponed.

Arguments erupted on the outset of today's proceedings when Abdul Razak asked the coroner to direct counsels to submit on the probative value and prejudicial effect of allowing Sivanesan's evidence.

Lawyers argued that Abdul Razak's move appeared misplaced because the issue of the police report's relevance had already been extensively debated and was settled with Azmil's ruling.

Gobind and Selangor state government lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar noted that Azmil had on Tuesday delivered his ruling and strict guidelines for questioning Sivanesan on his police report.

"Tuan [Azmil] has made a ruling and is not in a position to reverse the decision. If my learned friend [Abdul Razak] is not happy, he can take it to another court at an appropriate time," Malik said, accusing Abdul Razak of attempting to "derail" the inquest.

Gobind said Abdul Razak's request to revisit the issue of relevance amounted to contempt, reminding the coroner to maintain his ruling.

"I don't understand why MACC is trying its best to keep the real facts from being produced in this court. If allegations are made against a person which are untrue, I'd have thought the person would be first to ask for an opportunity to rebut," Gobind said.

Gobind also noted that none of the MACC officers were present to hear the "serious nature" of the allegations.

Defending his request, Abdul Razak said he had no intentions of undermining court processes but did not want the inquest be turned into an investigation of the police report.

Earlier, the inquest also took a short break for Azmil to review video recordings of Tuesday's proceedings to clarify earlier confusion on whether he had said the police report was not relevant.

After doing so, Azmil said he did not deem the police report irrelevant but was merely stating Abdul Razak's stand.

The coroner then suggested that the dispute be referred to the High Court for "guidance" on the "legality and correctness" of his ruling, prompting another round of intense objection by Gobind and Malik.

Malik said MACC could seek the review on its own accord while contentious details arising from the police report and witness evidence could later be expunged from the inquest, depending on outcome of the review application.

At one point, Abdul Razak's repeated objections against Sivanesan's police report raised the ire of Gobind, who stood up and ticked off MACC's legal adviser.

"I'm sick and tired of listening to this nonsense coming from Datuk Razak. Tell me how it [the police report] is irrelevant… This is getting out of hand. It's absolute nonsense," Gobind said.

Gobind and Malik also argued that if Sivanesan was prevented from testifying, his presence in open court would have exposed him and sent an unfavourable message to other potential witnesses.

Azmil then told counsels he would stick to his earlier ruling and allow Sivanesan to take to the stand, rejecting Abdul Razak's request for a stay of the inquest pending his application at the High Court.

After hours of arguments, Sivanesan took to the stand as the inquests 20th witness, describing how he was allegedly stripped, kicked and beaten by a group of MACC officers when he was detained for four days from Sept 4, 2008.