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Teoh Beng Hock saga - a festering sore that refuses to heal

Steve Oh  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | The Teoh Beng Hock saga is like a festering sore that refuses to heal, which is unsurprising because it has not received the right treatment.

The latest move by the police to investigate the case as one of wrongful confinement instead of culpable homicide is as ridiculous as it gets.

If Teoh were still alive today, that course of action might have been reasonable. But it is utterly unreasonable given that Teoh died while in MACC custody. 

His fatal confinement equates to culpable homicide – a charge consistent with the crime.

Where is the logic, the justice, the common sense? Especially with the Court of Appeal ruling five years ago that one or more persons and MACC officers had caused Teoh's death while he was in their custody.

Surely the police would not charge a car thief for just stealing when the perpetrator has run down and killed the owner or an innocent bystander? Does not justice demand the culprit be appropriately charged for car theft and manslaughter?

Likewise, those responsible for Teoh's death ought to be doubly charged for wrongful confinement and culpable homicide. The charge must commensurate with the crime. 

The lesser charge of wrongful confinement sounds like a joke.

What more incriminating reason to support a culpable homicide charge than the Court of Appeal ruling? What other evidence resulted in the Court of Appeal's ruling? 

Are those persons and MACC officers to be left untouched despite the ruling? What about the police investigations?

Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy with Bukit Aman police in January 2019.

What more reason do police need to find out who the culprits were in causing his death? What did the police do after that ruling? And if the police had done a thorough investigation, they should have the evidence to appropriately lay the right charges.

What disappoints is that the government is not just letting down Teoh's family, but the public.

There is a world of difference between culpable homicide and wrongful confinement. Even a non-lawyer knows that.

Broken promises

There is considerable public interest in Teoh's untimely and suspicious death. He was victimised and put through an unnecessary interrogation over a relatively minor matter.

The circumstances of his tragic death were shrouded in suspicions of foul play and allegations of a cover-up. That shroud has not lifted.

Adding insult to injury, why has the cabinet not kept its promise to get to the bottom of Teoh's death as promised?

There is an expectation that the one-year-old Pakatan Harapan government will be different from the former BN government. Is it unrealistic of those who put Harapan and Dr Mahathir Mohamad in power to expect them to act differently?

Where promise-breaking is concerned, I trust Mahathir will not be like former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak. The latter promised to repeal the Sedition Act. He did not.

How different is Mahathir in making promises and keeping them? Sadly, the broken promises, as in Teoh's case, reflect badly on the new government.

Teoh's loyal and still grieving sister Lee Lan is distraught – rightly and understandably so. She pines for the late Karpal Singh, and why not?

Karpal Singh and Teoh Lee Lan in 2015.

The indefatigable former DAP national chairperson pursued the truth with tenacity and relentlessly sought justice for Teoh.

Strange silence

Why are those who once spearheaded justice for Teoh now strangely silent? You would think they would be outraged.

There is no justice for Teoh until those who are responsible for his death are named, shamed, face the judge and get their just desserts.

They were given public trust to investigate wrongdoing, not commit a grave wrongdoing. It is a lesson all law enforcers need to learn – that they are accountable to the law.

Justice for Teoh is justice regained in a country which has been mismanaged and where the rules have been bent. The events leading up to the crimes committed in the 1MDB kleptocracy scandal and the events surrounding Teoh's case bear similarities of a cover-up.

Suspicions and allegations of a cover-up are not misplaced, as the 1MDB scandal reveals.

Many murders have been committed in the country where the killers are still at large or have been convicted but are still not punished. One unsolved case is another nail in the coffin of justice.

The public expects Sirul Azhar Umar, the killer of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, to be brought back to Malaysia from Australia to receive his punishment, and to tell us who gave him the orders to murder an innocent woman and her allegedly unborn child.

Like Lee Lan, Altantuya's father wants justice for murdered loved ones. Wouldn't anyone, who believes in the rule of law and trusts in a government of justice?

Right treatment

Convicting Teoh's killer or killers will be the right treatment for the festering sore of his unpunished death.

It will be a symbolic win for the rule of law that Mahathir talks about. Watering down a serious case of homicide to unlawful detention is not the rule of law. It is a misuse and misrule of law.

That the police have no volition to hunt down Teoh's killers and simply take orders from the Attorney-General's Chambers ought to be a cause of public concern.

If they have the evidence, why are the killers still not charged for culpable homicide? And if they don't have the evidence, why not?

If this is the best a reformist government can do, perhaps reformasi may now have a different meaning. I hope not. Then it will be a sad day when the true believers end up hoping against hope.

The new government is a vast improvement on the old, but has made serious errors of judgement that need public censure. The honeymoon is over.

Give Teoh's family the closure they need, mete out the right punishment to the wrongdoers. Only then would Teoh not have died nor would voters of GE14 have voted in vain.


STEVE OH is author and composer of the novel and musical Tiger King of the Golden Jungle. He believes good governance and an engaging civil society are paramount to Malaysia being a unique and successful nation.

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

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