By Mariam Mokhtar | malaysiakini.com
Even UMNO members can allegedly fall foul of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). In January 2009, three MACC officers detained 46 year-old Halimi Kamaruzzaman, an UMNO party member, and allegedly assaulted him during his detention.
Six months later, Teoh Beng Hock was asked to report to the MACC office for questioning. Despite the chilling similarities between Teoh’s and Halimi’s cases, the crucial difference is that they went too far with Teoh.
Halimi alleged that the MACC officers wanted to extract a confession from him and implicate UMNO Supreme Council member Norza Zakaria in money politics. Norza has close ties with Khairy Jamaluddin, who was the UMNO Youth deputy chief then.
The injuries inflicted on Halimi (with Norza Zakaria right) were not recorded as the closed circuit television camera in the room had been disconnected. During his four days of detention in Kuantan, he alleged that three MACC officers, including the head of a unit, had physically assaulted and rained blows on his head, stomach and shoulders.
“I was also forced to strip naked, lie down and roll on the floor. An officer choked me against the wall. They threatened me that my wife would also be arrested and be asked to strip if I did not agree to make a confession that I handed over money to UMNO members.
“I had to do squats, sing Negaraku and the UMNO song many times and the officer threatened to burn my private part with a cigarette”.
Very few were aware of this incident. Perhaps, NGO groups and Opposition party members were reluctant to highlight this incident because Halimi was considered one of the ruling coalition. If that is the case, then they have only to search their consciences into why they did not act with more determination to save Halimi from his abusers.
Keeping alive the memory of Teoh until justice is served is relevant to all Malaysians. It matters because one day, it could so easily happen to you.
If we do not demand justice, even for strangers, then who will fight for us, should a similar fate befall us? It matters because someone knows something and is not prepared to speak up. It matters because a man’s life was taken.
Some people will wonder why we still bother to revive the circumstances and investigations surrounding the mysterious death of political aide Teoh. There are a few who will maintain that it is a waste of time and tell us that “the government will never listen”, or “it was so long ago, what’s the point?” Well, they are wrong.
For the living, the torment continues
Teoh wasn’t supposed to die like that. He was in the prime of his life, with marriage on the books and a child on the way. He may be gone, but for the living, the torment continues, none more so than for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
It was Najib who promised the Teoh family three years ago, “No stone will be left unturned in finding out the real cause of death and, if there is any foul play, action will definitely be taken.” To date, he has not fulfilled that promise.
That Teoh lives on in people’s memories and is feared, more in death than when he was alive, is partly Najib’s doing. Had Najib lanced the boil and ordered a proper, detailed investigation into Teoh’s death, his credibility would have been enhanced, and his reputation slightly improved. Najib, who prides himself on being a reformer, failed to live up to his promise.
The Prime Minister is to blame for the growing unrest over Teoh’s death, whilst the Opposition has been able to tap into people’s frustrations. We can record our disgust at the foot dragging, whitewashes and farcical interpretations by so–called government experts in the investigation.
From the outset, the ‘routine’ interrogation of Teoh by the MACC raised more questions than answers. The MACC officers were investigating a claim that Teoh’s boss, Selangor state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, was misusing state funds.
The rakyat is puzzled why the MACC were so thorough in the investigation of Teoh’s case, which allegedly involved RM 2,400 whilst ignoring the bigger cases of corruption involving several hundred millions of ringgits. It was alleged that Najib wanted to wrest back control of Selangor.
The royal commission of inquiry report revealed that three MACC officers had played an instrumental role in Teoh’s death. To date, they have not been punished.
To appease the public, especially in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of Teoh’s death, the MACC Chief Commissioner, Abu Kassim Mohamed, said that the commission would first make its recommendations to its complaints committee before dishing out any disciplinary action.
At a time when public confidence in our public institutions needs to be restored, the leaders and civil societies have failed the rakyat.
Nothing to do with race
Teoh’s death has nothing to do with race. The list of people who died in unexplained circumstances is long – teenager Aminulrasyid Amzah, customs officer Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamed , or car salesman A Kugan. These were perfectly healthy men, but all came out in a box.
When UMNO’s Halimi was allegedly framed to implicate those higher up in UMNO, more should have been done to highlight his plight. NGOs and opposition groups should have rallied to his cause. It does not matter if the victim is Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dusun, Iban or Orang Asli, or that he belongs to UMNO, DAP or any other party.
Abu Kassim has shown poor leadership qualities. He has tainted the MACC and prolonged the agony of everyone involved. He should resign.
Najib, if he had any sense, would tap into the growing frustration of the public and demand that the three MACC men implicated in Teoh’s death be punished. He may well have them jailed before GE13, to save himself, albeit temporarily.
We should remember that Teoh’s death occurred because someone messed up and pushed the boundaries too far. It is up to us to ensure that he and his family gets justice. It is also up to us to make sure others do not suffer the same fate.