Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian wife Ruth Sitepu as well as Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat disappeared within a brief period between Nov 2016 and Feb 2017, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) inquiry heard today.
Sitepu’s counsel Phillip Koh submitted that the disappearances took place immediately after a speech by a then senior special branch officer at KDN Complex, Kuala Lumpur, in Nov 2016.
The lawyer claimed that the speech, delivered during a seminar on terrorism, had alleged that while the Malaysian government were busy looking at terror groups like Islamic State, that it had forgotten the “real enemies” like “Christian proselytisers and Shia converts”.
Phillip claimed that the speech had alleged that due to the then abolishment of the Internal Security Act (ISA), the authorities had to resort to extra-legal means to deal with alleged proselytisation to the Malay community.
The lawyer pointed out that following the speech, Amri – an alleged Shia convert – was abducted on Nov 24, 2016, then Hilmy and Sitepu were last seen on Nov 30, 2016, then Pastor Koh was abducted on Feb 13, 2017.
Phillip contended that the disappearance of Hilmy and Sitepu (above) is enforced disappearance by the state due to the couple’s involvement in the proselytisation of the Christian faith.
Pastor Koh was also allegedly involved in Christian proselytisation.
Hilmy and Sitepu were last seen on Nov 30, 2016. However, they were only reported missing on March 6, 2017.
“The disappearance of Joshua Hilmy (and Sitepu) need to be put in the context of (the disappearance of) Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat as well.
“These disappearances arose from extra-legal and extra-judicial religious policing, following the abolishment of the ISA,” Phillip contended.
On April 3, 2019, Suhakam concluded that Pastor Koh and Amri were victims of enforced disappearances due to the involvement of the Special Branch from police headquarters in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur.
Phillip today was delivering his closing oral submissions on the last day of Suhakam public inquiry into the disappearance of Hilmy and Sitepu.
However, during today’s inquiry, SAC Ahmad Dzaffir Mohd Yusoff, who appeared on behalf of the police, denied that the authorities were involved in the alleged enforced disappearance of Hilmy and Sitepu.
He contended that the police are still investigating the case which they classified as a missing person case and that all steps have been taken and are still being taken to locate the couple.
“The act of enforced disappearance did not arise and no evidence was presented during this enquiry,” he said.
Dzaffir contended that the testimony from various police personnel during the Suhakam inquiry showed that there was no criminal element behind the couple’s disappearance.
He claimed that there is a big possibility that Hilmy and Sitepu tried to leave Malaysia via unofficial routes due to the authorities investigating the Pastor over a report of insulting religion lodged against him (Hilmy).
“Ungazetted routes (out of Malaysia) carries a high risk and could bring the risk of loss of life,” he contended.
Meanwhile, during closing oral submissions on behalf of the Bar Council, lawyer Andrew Khoo noted that the police investigation into the couple’s disappearance lacked results due to the authorities’ “lack of urgency and lack of curiosity” in the matter.
Khoo submitted that this is seen in police witnesses during the Suhakam inquiry, who claimed not to know about the controversial disappearance of Pastor Koh.
The lawyer contended that this lack of curiosity is all the more evident when the disappearance of Hilmy and Sitepu took place within the short period of time after Amri’s disappearance and before Pastor Koh’s disappearance.
At the close of inquiry today, the Suhakam bench chaired by Hishamuddin Yunus said that they would need time to deliberate on a decision, and would inform parties on the verdict date.
The other members of the panel are Jerald Joseph and Madeline Berma.
The Suhakam inquiry first began on Feb 18 2020.