TBH inquisition reveals racist underpinnings


What is most telling about the Royal Commission report on Teoh Beng Hock is its total neglect of the two major structural factors accounting for the tragedy – the Umno and MACC agenda convergence, and the racist character of the civil service.

These ingredients together created a scenario where it is difficult to escape the implications that our independent public institutions, like the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, are neither independent nor public.

It is unsettling to see the MACC operate as a tool of the state. It could be even more unsettling if there was perversion in the MACC’s function such that it resembles the interrogation unit of the secret police as found in some autocracies.

A deconstruction of events leading and consequent to the deadly outcome is necessary to assess the repercussions of Teoh’s tragedy.

Mind and methods of MACC

Firstly, all the deliberate obfuscation and obstructions put up against the fact-finders seeking the truth of Teoh’s death implies a collusion to serve the interest of the executive branch. This type direction seemingly coming from high levels is an indication of a political landscape where the state is the party. So has our ruling party Umno become now indistinguishable from the state?

MACC investigation into Ean Yong Hian Wah, the DAP Seri Kembangan assemblyman who was Teoh’s employer, commenced amidst Barisan Nasional hopes that it could take over Selangor following its successful toppling of the Pakatan government in Perak. Was the initial investigation and subsequent campaign of harassment by the MACC started at Umno’s behest?

Kicking into action through selectively targeting DAP, the federal agency put the party assemblymen under the microscope. At the same time, the elephant in the room – former Selangor Menteri Besar Mohd Khir Toyo with his unexplained wealth and stunning ‘Bali castle’ for all to see – somehow escaped notice.

The difference in treatment against mere witnesses from the opposition ranks and suspects from within establishment circles is stark. This is demonstrable from the vast discrepancy in the sum for which Ean Yong (RM2,400 order for national flags) and Khir (millions to buy land and build mansion) were respectively investigated.

Further contrast is clearly seen in the varied harshness of the process – “aggressive, relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous interrogation” according to the RCI report on Teoh. A comparison between the two cases as well as drawing the necessary inferences will reveal the racial discrimination, on top of the political bias practised by the MACC.

Unless the agency is detached from state (read Umno) control and made answerable to an independent body – and Parliament be given oversight – it will continue to function as a political appendage of the party in power and not in any circumstances to regain public trust.

Everything under Umno umbrella

Secondly, the RCI ruling on Teoh Beng Hock runs contrary to the more compelling evidence suggesting murder. Its conjectures are weak speculation and too far-fetched for arriving at a finding of suicide whereas on the other hand homicide cannot be dismissed.

The issue of distrust re-emerges when the commissioners are seen as aligned to the powers that be. In the court of public opinion, the judiciary and public prosecutors are part of the Umno-dominated power axis or have been co-opted by the authorities (synonymous with Umno).

Previously, a royal commission had put forward concrete proposals, including the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) for the purpose of reforming the police force. The recommendations contained in the extensive RCI report have been largely ignored to date.

Yet another set of conclusions from a different RCI on the VK Lingam judge fixing has dissipated into thin air.

In the face of the aborted attempts at reform and NFA (no further action), the public is entitled to query the symbiotic relationship between Umno and judiciary and police. Does the 1party control the bench and the men in blue?

Inversely, do the police being in possession of sensitive intelligence hold certain levers to control key Umno personalities? Or else how do we explain the police top brass thumbing their nose at the implementation of the IPCMC?

Recently we had the royal commission with terms of reference to enquire into MACC investigative procedures. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the RCI recommendations will once again be more of the same morass. What traditionally arise from these so-called royal commissions are cosmetic changes (e.g. moving the MACC interrogation room to the basement), and the inevitable stonewalling on cleaning up the outfits.

After all, Selangor MACC deputy director Hishamuddin Hashim who was the field mastermind behind the torture of Beng Hock was even promoted to MACC director in Negri Sembilan.

The state-party nexus between those officials in government pay and Umno is more often than not reflected in the arrangement ‘you do our bidding, we cover your back’. It is this mutual protection racket that helped obliterate incriminating traces of what really happened the night of Teoh’s death. Instead of promoting the rule of law, such destructive living in each other’s pocket only promotes lawlessness as evidenced in the brutish behaviour of the MACC inquisitors.

How the long-drawn saga eventually panned out is not only causing immense anguish to the Teoh family and heaping insult on the memory of the deceased but has also inflamed public anger.