Pastor Koh, Amri’s families question fairness of task force probing abductions

Ida Lim
The special task force on the enforced disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat poses for pictures in Putrajaya June 26, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — The families of Pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat today questioned the composition of a special six-man team to probe the duo’s enforced disappearances that were suspected to be linked to the police, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Amri’s wife Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, whose husband has been missing for 944 days or 31 months, said she and her daughters were glad that the Malaysian government has finally taken steps to address the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) April 3 findings of evidence of the police’s special branch’s involvement in the duo’s abductions.

While she was happy that a six-man task force has been formed as announced by the government, Norhayati said she and her daughters were “very concerned” about the task force’s composition and how it would impact the “independence and impartiality necessary for a credible investigation”.

“For instance, we note that Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Noor, the former head of Bukit Aman’s Legal Division, is a member of this Task Force. This is the same division that was implicated in the flawed investigation into Amri’s abduction and later, in the team representing PDRM (Royal Malaysia Police) during the Suhakam inquiry.

“As such, Datuk Mokhtar is clearly an interested party and so, represents a conflict of interest,” she said, also sharing the misgivings expressed by Koh’s wife Susanna Liew in a separate statement.

In a separate statement, Koh’s family acknowledged that the task force has to include a police officer who would have the necessary investigative powers to investigate Koh’s and Amri’s enforced disappearances, in order to expand on what Suhakam was able to find out via its limited powers.

Citing Suhakam as having proposed the special task force’s main objective to be booking the culprits responsible and to track down the abductors via a thorough police probe, Koh’s family highlighted that the task force should have a police officer “who has the power to arrest, search and investigate whether the culprits responsible for these enforced disappearances are members of the police force in particular, Special Branch, Bukit Aman and/or further to identify the police personnel involved, as well as gather any and all evidence available”.

Despite noting this, Koh’s family expressed their grave concern on the six-man task force’s composition, highlighting the strong presence of police officials on the team probing his February 13, 2017 disappearance.

“It is with regret that the family notes that three out of six task force members are police officers and to make matters much worse, YBhg. Datuk Mokhtar bin Mohd Noor who was at the Suhakam hearing submitting on behalf of the police, was appointed as a member of the task force.

“If a police officer who participated in the Suhakam hearing can be appointed into the task force, then a lawyer from each of the families should also be appointed in order to ensure a balanced and fair approach to the investigation and the report that is to be submitted.

“We find this totally unacceptable and we believe that in any part of the democratic civilised world, this would not happen,” the family said in a statement.

Koh’s family also highlighted the lack of diversity in the six-man task force, as well as the government’s failure to take into account their previous suggestion for a more representative panel.

“The composition does not include any woman or any other member of a different race or religion to reflect the composition of this country and the Muhibbah spirit which the Pakatan government promised during election that will be implemented in the administration if they come into power,” they said.

The family said their reported June 10 proposal for the inclusion of a member from the Bar Council, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and an NGO representative to reflect a more “balanced, independent, transparent and representative task force across the board which would be recognised by the public as independent, trustworthy and fair” was not heeded.

Earlier today, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the six-man team to be headed by former High Court judge Datuk Abd Rahim Uda to investigate whether the police were involved in the duo’s abductions, with a six-month timeframe for investigations before submitting a report to him to be then forwarded to the Cabinet for further action.

The five other members of the task force are Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Noor (former head of the police legal department), Datuk Zamri Yahya (Police Integrity and Standard Compliance Department Director), Datuk Muhammad Bukhari Ab. Hamid (Director of Operations for the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission), Mohd Russaini Idrus (Division Secretary for the Police Commission) and Mohd Sophian Zakaria (Attorney-General’s Chambers).

Muhyiddin today said the task force’s investigation will focus on Amri’s case first, and will only look into Koh’s case after the end of an ongoing trial involving a former Uber driver charged in relation to his case to prevent any sub judice.

But Koh’s family listed out several points when arguing today that there was no danger of sub judice, noting that the truth of the matter can only be uncovered with an “independent, thorough and transparent investigation” by the task force.

“It is important that the investigation into Amri’s case and that of Pastor Raymond Koh’s be looked at together as there are similar fact evidence and similar modus operandi and similar vehicles used as well as a similar police officer from Bukit Aman was put in charge of both investigations,” the family said.

Amri’s wife Norhayati also said the task force’s formation does not reduce the family’s suffering of serious anguish over how the police conducted their investigation into his disappearance, pointing out that the government has yet to respond to her lawyers’ May 31 letter to seek compensation over their suffering, despite a 14-day deadline to respond.

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