Do Not Appoint Rubber Stamps into the TBH Royal Commission!

Din Merican

In the 2008 general elections, the Barisan Nasional lost 2/3rd majority  in Parliament and  5 states (later recovered Perak) to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat.Then Prime Minister, Abdullah  Ahmad Badawi came under severe attacks from within and outside UMNO. A mutiny was fomenting from within UMNO and from the other BN component parties. BN appeared to be at its weakest.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi steps down as Prime Minister

On July 10 , 2008, Badawi announced he would step down as UMNO President and Prime Minister in 2009. In the meantime, to shore up his sagging popularity, Abdullah implemented some of the reforms that he had promised the rakyat in the 2004 elections.

One was the reduction of crimes, which had seen an all time high under former IGP Musa Hassan, otherwise more famous for his “Mattress Carrying” antics in the trial of Anwar Ibrahim in Sodomy I.

Ex IGP Musa Hassan is famous for his “Mattress Carrying” episode in Sodomy I

The other was the eradication of corruption which was also perceived to be on the rise despite Badawi’s ulamak (religious) cleric outlook. People made fun of his poem “Aku Mencari Ketenangan Abadi” (I Seek Eternal Peace) which had a verse about seeking AlGhazali’s ascetic conduct whereas talk was rife of increased cronyism and corruption during his administration.

MACC was created to replace discredited Anti-Corruption Agency

On  January 1, 2009, Abdullah abolished the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) and replaced it with a supposedly independent and potent commission called the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) under an act of its own name. The MACC will be Badawi’s lasting legacy – a nightmare that Malaysians will have to live it. Barely 7 months into its establishment, the MACC had shown the monster it has become.

Teoh Beng Hock found dead

On July 15, 2009, Teoh Beng Hock, a former reporter and political secretary to state exco member and Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah, was subjected to a marathon questioning session by the Selangor MACC at its office on the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam. The investigation was about abuse of the opposition assemblymen’s allocation of only RM2,400. According to the MACC, Teoh was questioned until 3.45 am but was already released at 6.00am.

The fact is that at about noon the next day  July 16, 2009, Teoh’s dead body was found on the fifth floor building landing right under the window of the MACC office, Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam, Selangor. It was clear that Teoh had been thrown out of that window. There was public uproar including demands for a Royal Commission Inquiry (RCI).

Coroner’s Inquest, not RCI

To cool off public furor, Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak, promised a thorough investigation to ascertain the cause of death and the parties responsible for it. Upon advice from the Attorney General (A-G) Tan Sri Gani Patail, a Coroner’s Inquest was initiated instead of a RCI.

The public was sceptical and considered the Coroner’s Inquest as just an attempt to pacify public anger. The public was concerned that the Coroner’s Inquest would just be an attempt at a cover up.

The Coroner’s Inquest began on  July 29, 2009, during which 37 witnesses including 12 expert witnesses were called to testify.  On January 5, 2011, the Coroner delivered his verdict.

Most Malaysians consider January 5 as a shameful day for Malaysia when Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas failed in his public duty to ascertain the cause of death of Teoh Beng Hock. This was the very reason for the Coroner’s Inquest, and the Coroner failed.

No Suicide, No Homicide, only Open Verdict

The two possibilities that the Coroner had to determine was suicide or homicide. The other possibilities of death by natural cause or misadventure were never suggested throughout the Inquest. With just these two options available, the Coroner took the convenient route of ruling out both, that is, it was neither suicide or homicide! It’s like a kindergarten kid being asked to tick (a) or (b) and he still gets it wrong. What do you do with such a kid? Send him to detention class?

After almost a year and a half since it began, the Coroner’s open verdict in the inquest into Teoh Beng Hock’s death was bound to create dissatisfaction. What a waste of time! After all that exercise, the Coroner was saying in effect “ I don’t know”. In other words, the Coroner wanted to play safe. It was bound to revive allegations of a cover-up.

It is clear is that Teoh had died while in the custody of MACC. But the investigators and the government’s counsels who were tasked to assist the Coroner to ascertain how Teoh died and who caused the death have failed to make this discovery. The young man’s death remains a mystery today. The Coroner’s open verdict only makes the mystery official.

There was little wisdom in the verdict. The way the case has been handled reflected badly on the authorities especially the MACC which was represented by its Director of Legal and Prosecutions, Datuk Abdul Razak Musa. His role was to assist in discovering the truth. Instead, Dato Razak Musa was seen attacking an expert witness, forensic expert Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, in the now infamous “Self Strangulation” demonstration.

All these are officers of the Attorney General’s Chambers. Thus, A-G Gani Patail should be held accountable for this fiasco. This incident has brought further disrepute to the Malaysian legal system.

A-G Gani Patail’s announcement to apply for a revision of the Coroner’s verdict is not helpful when, in the first place, it was on his advice that the government had proceeded with a Coroner’s Inquest instead of a RCI to establish the cause of death.

Ramon Navaratnam clears A-G Patail of Wrongdoing

The public is also sceptical if there was collusion between the MACC and AG Gani Patail because on January 5, 2011, the same day as the Coroner’s verdict, the MACC Corruption Prevention Panel Chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam had cleared A-G Gani Patail over allegations of Gani Patail’s connection with former MAS Chairman, Tan Sri Tajuddin’s proxy, one En Shahidan Shafie. It was case of ” You scratch my back, I scratch your back”.

There are already public disquiet that the timing of Ramon’s announcement of clearing A-G Gani during a confidential meeting was calculated to make it to be overshadowed by the Coroner’s verdict in Teoh’s death. That A-G Gani Patail was cleared by the MACC on the same day that the MACC was cleared of homicide allegations by the Coroner further fuelled suspicions of a possible collusion. After all, the Coroner is an officer of the Legal Services headed by A-G Gani Patail.