Cabinet needs to correct shortfalls in task force

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged)

Modified 2 Jul 2019, 8:43 am

LETTER | There were plenty of responses to Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement of the task force (photo, above) to probe Suhakam’s conclusion that Bukit Aman’s Special Branch police were involved in the disappearance of social activist Amri Che Mat and pastor Raymond Koh.

Numerous individuals, columnists, and civil society organisations expressed shock over Muhyiddin’s announcement. Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) calls the attention of the Cabinet and lawmakers to three key points in the public responses.

First, procrastination. Muhyiddin’s announcement was incredibly late – almost three months after the Suhakam decision was announced. Mohamed Arshad Raji, president of the armed forces veterans group Patriot, labelled the lateness “procrastination.”

Second, sabotage. Undermining Suhakam’s findings is the task force’s goals. Muhyiddin’s announcement omitted the terms of reference but is sufficient for the public to draw its own conclusions.

The task force members’ profiles and the absence of respected, professional investigators with police powers to gather evidence from inside and outside the police force makes this clear: the terms of reference of the task force is to undermine Suhakam’s work, and not to investigate the erratic and slipshod police investigation to-date.

Third, conflict of interest. Three of the six members should have been rejected the moment their names were proposed for the task force. The conflicts of interest are so obvious that prominent lawyer Baljit Singh said the appointments were “the biggest blunder” made by the Pakatan Harapan government.

Kuthubal Zaman, another prominent lawyer, speaking for Proham (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights), said the conflicts of interest are “indisputable.”

Let’s recap here the grounds for saying these individuals have conflicts of interest:

Rahim Uda

Rahim is a former judge who handled the Teoh Beng Hock case in 2011 and upheld a coroner's open verdict on the political aide’s death.

Suhakam’s inquiry relied on a 2014 decision of the Court of Appeal. The people involved in that important decision included Mah Weng Kwai, the Suhakam inquiry chairman. In that decision, the court set aside Rahim’s decision in the cause of Teoh's death.

The inquiry’s reports explicitly state that the grounds on which the court rejected Rahim’s decision are a foundation of the inquiry’s decision. Therefore, Rahim should be disqualified from reviewing any decisions made by the inquiry.

Zamri Yahya

Because he’s the head of a police department (the internal affairs department) which should be investigated by the task force.

Mokhtar Mohd Noor

Because he was the head of the police legal department and made the final submissions during the Suhakam inquiry. He should be investigated.

Muhyiddin’s attempt to defend the appointment of Mokhtar is lame, misleading and astonishing. He claims Mokhtar is acceptable because “he was not involved in the hearing. He merely attended an open session.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As head of the PDRM legal department, Mokhtar was responsible for the entirety of the police case presented at the inquiry. This ranges from the “police position” listed at the beginning of Suhakam’s inquiry reports, the strategies used by the police throughout 45 hearing days over 18 months, and the written and oral final submissions.

The notes of proceedings show that Mokhtar didn’t merely “attend an open session.” During the final oral submissions, he addressed the inquiry panel 32 times on behalf of the police. He even expressed disappointment with questions posed on the day of the final oral submissions.

Caged calls upon the Cabinet and all lawmakers to recognize and correct the serious shortfalls in Muhyiddin’s decision. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad must recognise that the people have convincingly and rousingly unmasked the masquerade.

Rahim, Zamri and Mokhtar must be removed. Caged urges these three individuals to recognize the overwhelming public perception of their conflicts of interest and resign.

The government’s focus must shift from undermining Suhakam’s findings to doing what the police patently failed to do: thoroughly flush out and investigate all possible perpetrators of the crimes against Amri and Raymond.

Also, the task force must investigate the Suhakam finding police officers fabricated proof, planted evidence, made false reports and withheld information or facts in three serious crime cases.

Caged calls upon the government to act courageously not to protect police impunity in Malaysia – including by appointing to the task force credible members of civil society organisations. Just learn from the difference (newly appointed chief commissioner) Latheefa Koya has quickly made at MACC.

Caged calls upon the government to act decisively to reform the police force.

Caged calls upon the government to say no to pathetic decisions such as the selection of the task force members. The message carried by the public’s responses is clear. During the Cabinet meeting this week, the ministers must reject Muhyiddin’s explanations.

The Cabinet can, of course, choose to be deaf, aloof and lame in the face of abuse of power by the police. If it makes this choice, the Cabinet will confirm the public’s growing conviction that the Harapan government is not serious about police reform.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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