By P Ramakrishnan
P Ramakrishnan calls for a royal commission of inquiry to replace the discredited inquest into Teoh Beng Hock’s sudden death.
We are gathered here today to express our solidarity with the Teoh family. We are here to express our sorrow over the tragic death of Teoh Beng Hock. We are here to share the pain and anguish that his family is suffering on a daily basis.
Teoh Beng Hock’s death has outraged the conscience of this nation. It is difficult to understand how his death could have taken place in a security area without the knowledge of MACC officials who had complete control over the premises.
His death has distressed us and has raised many questions of propriety in the manner he was treated by the investigating personnel.
He was on his feet working the whole of Wednesday, 15 July 2009, when he was taken in at 5.00pm for questioning. His cruel grilling continued into the wee hours of the next morning until 3.45am the next day – nearly 11 hours after he had gone into the MACC building. Why should he be subjected to this inhuman torture when he was taken in as a witness to help the MACC?
It is public knowledge that one Tan Boon Wah, another witness, who was in the building at the same time as Beng Hock, had stated that he had to stand the whole time he was being questioned without food, sleep, rest or break. Beng Hock’s session could not have been any different. He must have been deprived of food, denied sleep and rest and subjected to intense questioning for nearly 11 hours.
Anyone who had been subjected to this torture would have bolted from this hell hole when he was released at 3.45am. Why then didn’t he leave the place in a hurry?
How, why and when did he die? Is it believable that his death took place without the knowledge of the MACC?
“How can a bright young man walk into MACC office as a witness, only to return as a dead body?” Lim Kit Siang rightly demanded to know.
But after more than one year we are still waiting for answers that are not forthcoming to reveal the truth. We were told that the findings would be made known within two months. Now after more than one year, we are nowhere nearer the truth; no one is any wiser when the findings would be concluded.
We are still in the dark as to what caused his death and who contributed to this tragic episode.
The mystery surrounding Beng Hock’s death should have been vigorously and relentlessly pursued to unravel the truth at the shortest possible time. But what we are witnessing is the sad fact that the inquest has not moved with the speed this issue deserves. There is no sense of urgency. All that we have witnessed are delays and denials adding to the agony and anguish to the Teoh family. It is totally unfair to them that they should suffer this dereliction without any sign of closure to this tragedy.
A ‘suicide note’ surfaces
There is now a ridiculous attempt to introduce so-called new evidence to suggest suicide. Suddenly a handwritten note has been discovered but which was not submitted as evidence at the beginning of the inquest – nor was this fact disclosed to the lawyers representing the Teoh family and the Selangor state government.
There was even this absurd suggestion that Beng Hock could have strangled himself. When asked by Gobind Singh how this could be possible, the DPP Abdul Razak Musa came across as a clown when he tried to choke himself. I wish that he had succeeded and spared us the torment of listening to his ludicrous cross examination of Dr Pornthip!
There was yet another opportunity for him to escape the embarrassment that he was going through. However, it is a pity that when Abdul Razak asked Dr Pornthip if she had jumped off a building, nobody took advantage of this and to ask him how does one do that! His demonstration would have ended this comic opera!
When one is seeking the truth, no stone should be left unturned; no scrap of evidence should be overlooked. But – unfortunately – this wasn’t the case with this inquiry.
According to the investigating officer, he found a note in Beng Hock’s sling bag but put it aside because he “did not realise the significance of it”. What gave him that right to come to this conclusion? His duty and business should have been to sieve through every item that was in that sling bag for possible clues. But he behaved like a clueless clot displaying a total lack of discernment.
The Attorney-General’s conduct was no better. The AG’s clarification – that when this note was finally brought to his attention on 7 October 2009, he wanted further investigations to be carried out – is indeed baffling. He should have tendered this note to the coroner for the court to determine its authenticity and relevance to the case. To submit this so-called “new evidence” some 10 months later is totally unacceptable. It only raises questions of ethics and propriety.
From whatever angle one may look at this situation, there is only one inevitable conclusion — evidence has been clearly and surreptitiously suppressed.
Instead of assisting by all means to arrive at the truth, the AG’s Chambers have not acted in a transparent and honest manner by hanging on to this so-called “new evidence” that now suddenly seems to have assumed “significance”.
This so-called “new evidence” has unfairly disrupted the entire proceedings and made the inquiry untenable. If it had been tendered from the very beginning, the trend of questioning would have taken a different form and direction.
There seems to be a serious contradiction in the statement issued by the AG’s Chambers as to when the note was discovered. In Paragraph 4, the statement reads: “According to the investigation officer, it was not found when he first searched the deceased’s sling bag after the incident.” But in Paragraph 10, we are told: “However, recently the investigation officer owned up by admitting that he did in fact find the note when he searched the sling bag on July 17…” What then is the truth?
Why did the investigating officer lie in the first place? What was he trying to cover up? Why should we believe him?
We must unravel the mystery that shrouds his death. But in no way can we reconcile to the possibility of a suicide. Why would a young man about to marry the day after, a young man happily looking forward to becoming a father for the first time, want to take his life!
The inquest into the death of Teoh Beng Hock has been totally discredited. It has turned out to be a sham inquest. Nobody is going to believe the coroner’s verdict.
It is Aliran’s stand that the inquest should be disbanded and discontinued; it should make way for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Anything short of this would be a travesty of justice. Only a Royal Commission can determine what caused his death and who contributed to this tragic episode.
Someone who had suffered terribly in the Nazi death camp put it rightly: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
Yes, we couldn’t prevent the injustice that was meted out to Beng Hock but we can protest to express our outrage, to demand justice for the Teoh family; to mobilise support so that an injustice can be remedied.
P Ramakrishnan is president of Aliran.