Not a witch-hunt but cops must prove innocence.
- Government ready to form RCI on abducted victims
- Suhakam clarifies hearsay is allowed in public inquiries, unlike in criminal and civil cases
- Burden on the authorities to prove the police were innocent
Police will have to deal with the complaints in the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) report that blamed the Special Branch for the disappearance of two activists, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“Whatever complaints received by the police, they will need to tackle. We don’t need to fear,” he told reporters.
He also said he has yet to receive the report from Suhakam but has “heard of it”.
He said the government will take the action if necessary based on Suhakam’s findings.
“We will take action whenever we are convinced that action needs to be taken,” he said when asked to comment on calls for the government to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to regulate the force.
Dr Mahathir said if the National Patriots Association (Patriot) and G25 Malaysia want an independent inquiry into the matter, they can go ahead with their plan.
Patriot and G25 had urged the government to address the loss of public confidence in the police.
Suhakam established a public inquiry last year to ascertain if pastor Raymond Koh, Perlis Hope founder Amri Che Mat and two others – Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth – were victims of enforced disappearance.
It concluded that Koh and Amri were abducted by the police’s Special Branch.
The rights body had also recommended that an independent task force to reinvestigate the disappearances.
Earlier, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government was ready to form a royal inquiry to look into the disappearance of the two activists.
Dr Mahathir had said the government would set up a task force if Suhakam provided evidence of police involvement.
His initial response to the findings was Suhakam based its decision on hearsay evidence.
“Please, anyone who is going to have views on this, kindly read it and analyse it,” Suhakam commissioner Mah Weng Kwai said when asked about Dr Mahathir’s comments.
“We are trying to say everything stated is based on the evidence we have received,” he added.
According to Mah, a public inquiry by Suhakam is allowed to accept hearsay evidence unlike a criminal or civil case in court.
He also said that under Section 14 of the Suhakam Act, the inquiry panel was not limited or constrained by the Evidence Act 1950.
“Hearsay becomes admissible…we were very mindful of this because a lot of things said was hearsay evidence.
“The next important thing is how we evaluate evidence.”
Mah said Suhakam’s public inquiry panel found “direct and circumstantial evidence which proved, on balance of probabilities” that Koh and Amri were abducted by the Special Branch of Bukit Aman, the commission said on Wednesday (April 3).
The basis for the conclusion in both cases was found in the evidence of the testimony of Amri’s wife Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, who said that police officer Sergeant Shamzaini Mohd Daud told her that the Special Branch carried out both the abductions.
Shamzaini later lodged a police report, denying that he said those things.
When asked if Shamzaini could have made up a story for Norhayati in the first place, Mah asked why he would do so.
“Why would anybody out of the blue come along and make a story up like this, knowing this will affect him? He’s a serving officer.
“Why would he want to do that? And don’t forget he was a total stranger to Norhayati,” he said, adding that they considered all the evidence presented in a holistic way.
Suhakam must officially submit its report on its inquiry findings into the alleged enforced disappearances of Koh and Amri to the government to be studied before any decision can be made to reopen the two cases.
Muhyiddin said once they have received Suhakam’s report, the cases into the disappearances of the two men over two years ago could be reopened, pending the green light from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
“We hope Suhakam will officially present the report they have prepared to us, and as usual it will reach the prime minister.
“So we wait for it (report) first and then we will study it to see if there is any necessity […] then we can reopen the case (into the disappearances) if permitted by the public prosecutor,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Suhakam has sought to diffuse possible tension with the police following the damning findings of the inquiry pointing the finger at Bukit Aman for the abductions.
Mah assured the police that Suhakam was not out on a witch-hunt against the force.
“No, this is not about us against them.
“I am talking about the rule of law and justice, what is right for the families and the disappeared persons.”
Speaking in a current affairs programme on Astro Awani last night, Mah said the burden is on the authorities to prove the police were innocent.
“Please come and convince us that there is absolutely nothing wrong on your part. We will all be happy.
“I will be the first to admit we have made a mistake.”
Mah, a former judge, said this was the first time he had come across cases of enforced disappearances throughout his many years in the judiciary and legal service.
“This is something which happened very recently, and what is very striking is that within the time span of three months, we had three different cases of four people who have gone missing and nobody knows where they are,” he said, referring to two other missing persons – Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth.
Mah said Malaysia does not have laws to deal with enforced disappearances.
One recommendation from Suhakam is for Malaysia to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).
“Another recommendation is to amend local laws because right now, the laws that govern abductions are in the Penal Code, and if an abduction involves the demand for ransom, it becomes kidnap, which then falls under the Kidnapping Act.
“But there is no provision under local laws for something like this (enforced disappearances),” he said.