Cabinet must reject Muhyiddin’s lame decisions about Amri-Raymond ‘taskforce’

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Family members of Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) calls upon the government to act courageously to dismantle the deep state which is battling to protect police impunity in Malaysia,

There has been a tsunami of responses to Home Minister Muyhiddin’s announcement of a “taskforce” to probe Suhakam’s conclusion that the Special Branch of the police forcibly ‘disappeared’ social activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh.

Numerous respected individuals, columnists, and civil society organisations have expressed shock over Muhyiddin’s announcement.

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) calls the cabinet and lawmakers’ attention 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. Retired Brigadier General Mohamed Arshad Raji, the highly respected leader of Patriots, labelled the lateness “procrastination”.

Second, sabotage. Undermining Suhakam’s findings is the goal of the taskforce. Muhyiddin’s announcement omitted the terms of reference, but is sufficient for the public to draw its own conclusions. The profiles of the taskforce members and the absence of respected, professional investigators with police powers to gather evidence from inside and outside the police make this clear: the terms of reference of the taskforce is to undermine Suhakam’s work, 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. Their conflicts of interest are so obvious that Baljit Singh, a highly respected lawyer, said the appointments are “the biggest blunder” made by the Pakatan Harapan government.

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Kuthubal Zaman, another legal paragon, speaking for Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) founded by former human rights and royal Commissioners, said the conflicts of interest are “indisputable.”

We recap here the grounds for saying these individuals have conflicts of interest:

• Datuk Rahim Uda – The Suhakam inquiry relied on a 2014 decision of the Court of Appeal. That court’s coram included Mah Weng Kwai, the chairman of the Suhakam Inquiry. In that decision, the court set aside Rahim’s decision on the cause of death of Teoh Beng Hock. 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, by the canons of law, Rahim should be disqualified from reviewing any decision made by the inquiry.

Zamri Yahya – because he is the head of a department in the police (the “integrity” or internal affairs department) which should be investigated by the taskforce.

Mokhtar Mohd Noor – because he was the head of the legal department of the police during the course of the Suhakam inquiry and because he was the one who made the final submissions. He too 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 legal department of the police, 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 tactics the police used on 45 hearing days over 18 months, and the final written and oral submissions.

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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 recognise and correct the serious shortfalls in Muhyiddin’s decision. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad must recognise that the people have convincingly and rousingly unmasked Muhyiddin’s masquerade.

Rahim, Zamri and Mokhtar must be removed. Caged urges these three individuals to recognise 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 heinous crimes against Amri and Koh.

Also, the taskforce must investigate the Suhakam finding – based on evidence adduced – that police officers fabricated evidence, planted evidence, made false reports and withheld evidence in three cases of serious crime.

In addition, the ridiculous claim that further probing of the enforced disappearance of Koh must be put on ice until the trial of an alleged perpetrator is concluded must be rejected. This is because during the Suhakam public inquiry the police themselves gave ample reason for the public to conclude that there is no basis for charging the alleged perpetrator for abduction or kidnapping.

Caged calls upon the government to act courageously to dismantle the deep state which is battling to protect police impunity in Malaysia – including by appointing to the taskforce credible members of civil society organisations: learn from the difference Latheefa Koya has so quickly made at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

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

Caged calls upon the government to say “no” to pathetic decisions such as those made by Muhyiddin in this instance.

The message carried by the tsunami of responses is clear. The cabinet must reject Muhyiddin’s lame decisions and explanations.

The cabinet can of course choose to be as deaf, aloof and lame as Muhyiddin and his Barisan Nasional predecessors 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 Pakatan government is not serious about police reform.

1 July 2019

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