The public inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to seek answers into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh, social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Sitepu.
- Ex-IGP suggested Koh’s abductors learnt modus operandi from “movies”
- Koh’s phone signal detected to Taman Mayang three hours after abduction
- Police questioning more focused on Koh’s charity work and allegations of proselytising than investigating abduction
- Koh knew he was a marked man, harassed by Special Branch for years
- Received death threat and two bullets in mailbox
- Witness described abduction as resembling a police operation
Koh, 62, was reported as being abducted by a group of more than 10 men in a convoy of vehicles on February 13.
Amri Che Mat, 44, who co-founded charity organisation Perlis Hope, has been reported missing since Nov 24 last year. His wife, Norhayati Ariffin, said witnesses saw five vehicles blocking the path of Amri’s car before he was taken away just 550 metres from their home in Bukit Chabang, Perlis.
Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth Hilmy, were last seen by friends on Nov 30 last year before disappearing without a trace.
The main aim of the inquiry is to determine if these are cases of enforced disappearance, a term which describes abductions involving the authorities.
The inquiry is chaired by Suhakam commissioners Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, Dr Aishah Bidin and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh.
Lawyers representing Koh’s family, the Bar Council and the police are also at the inquiry as observers.
Day 3, 30 Oct
Former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar admitted that police were slow and should have acted quicker in investigating the disappearance of Koh.
When asked if the time taken by the police to record the first statement of the case from the first witness was too long and, therefore, not efficient.
“Yes (valuable time was lost),” he answered.
When asked if this was a lapse by the police, he said: “Yes I agree.”
A point raised by Gurdial Singh, who is representing Koh’s family, was that it was Koh’s children instead of the police who obtained CCTV recordings of the abduction from the houses near where the incident occurred.
“They are ordinary citizens doing the work the police should have done,” he remarked to Khalid, who agreed with him that this was not acceptable conduct by the investigators.
Asked why the police focused more on the alleged proselytisation of Muslims by Koh, Khalid said they had to investigate every lead and look at the case in its entirety.
“But that doesn’t take us away from the main investigation of the abduction,” he added.
As for many other questions regarding the abduction, Khalid either declined or was unable to answer.
When asked to elaborate about the suspects arrested in connection with the case, he refused to answer, saying, “I reserve my right not to answer questions pertaining to the suspects as the case is still ongoing. The suspect might be arrested in the future so I cannot say anything.”
When Mah asked who would know the answers to these questions, Khalid said, “The Selangor CID chief who is also the head of the task force set up to look into the disappearance of Koh.”
Regarding a shootout in Perlis in which evidence pertaining to the abduction of Koh was allegedly found in a suspect’s house, Khalid clarified that the items were found by officers of the Bukit Aman Serious Crime Department.
However, he refused to disclose further details about the suspects when asked about their race or if they were police informers.
When asked if he thought the modus operandi of Koh’s abduction was similar to that of special police operations, Khalid disagreed.
“I agree the abduction operation was systematic but chaotic and not a special op. You can see this in movies every day and later emulated. I do not think this is a special op.
“It may appear professional and efficient to the layman. I have seen a gang-related murder in the middle of a road in Setapak that was more efficient than this.
“If it was a police op, the fake number plates would have appeared on our records but in this case, it didn’t. A few people will also be wearing police insignia on their outfits. In this case, nobody was seen with it,” he said.
When asked to compare the disappearance of Koh and Amri, Khalid refused to answer.
“I would not relate the two. I would not want to cloud my own mind. I do not want to speculate about things that did not happen (when asked for his opinion).
“You can’t put something that did not happen in my mind. Please ask the investigating officer.”
On March 3, it was reported that Khalid was looking at three theories related to Koh’s abduction – personal issues, links to extremists and kidnap-for-ransom.
On March 20, Khalid told off the media for speculating too much about the abduction and giving it too much publicity, although police had no new leads.
On June 25, Khalid was reported to have linked Koh’s abduction to a human trafficking group in southern Thailand, and that police were working with Thai police on the matter.
Earlier, Koh’s son Jonathan said that a “technical officer” from the police had told him that his father’s mobile phone signal was last detected about three hours after his abduction at Taman Mayang in Petaling Jaya.
The police, however, did not find anything there, he told the inquiry.
Asked about any threats to his father, he said that he did not know of any although Koh did tell him about receiving an unknown call in Arabic, which was believed to be a threat, in 2016.
“I only heard it being mentioned. It was with music and some words in the background. In Arabic, ‘Allahuakbar’ (God is great).
“It is like a song, not a statement,” Jonathan said.
He said he was distraught and worried with the questioning by police following the abduction, saying: “I was confused as the police seemed more interested in my father’s work rather than investigating the case.”
Day 2, Oct 20
Koh’s wife, Susanna Liew, said when she suspected Koh was missing, she called lawyer Philip Koh who suggested she make a missing person’s report.
“When we went to the police station at 10pm and said we wanted to make a police report, they ushered us into an investigation room.
“Inspector Ali (Asra) was there and started to ask questions until 3am.
“One of the questions I was repeatedly asked is whether he was involved in proselytising,” Liew said.
She said that on March 6, they had a meeting with Selangor police Criminal Investigation Department chief Fadzil Ahmad and he said there were no significant leads.
Liew said she was told the police had collected some pictures from a CCTV camera mounted on an advertisement board near the scene of the abduction.
“I was shown photos of three vehicles: Raymond’s Honda Accord (ST5515D), a black pick-up truck (number plate starting with WC) and a Toyota Unser (number plate starting with BKB).
“The number plates were very clear and when I asked if the numbers had been traced, Fadzil said there were no such numbers in the car registration records, implying that they were fake,” Liew said.
She said that she during her meeting with Fadzil she was given instructions not to speak to the media, nor to appear at candlelight vigils.
This was reiterated by then IGP Khalid at a separate meeting on March 23 who said speaking to the press would complicate the investigation.
“This makes things difficult…the abductors may go silent and it becomes tough to find them,” Liew claimed Khalid had said.
When asked if Koh was harassed before his abduction, Liew told the inquiry that she and Koh were frequently stopped at the immigration checkpoint when they headed to Singapore and other countries.
“Raymond was stopped nine times and I seven times from October 2011 to October 2012 at the Johor Bahru immigration checkpoint.
“On Dec 26, 2011, when I was coming back from Singapore at the JB checkpoint, they took away my passport and asked me to follow them to meet a Special Branch officer. I was scared and worried.
“The officer asked me why I went to Singapore many times and about a kindergarten I had sold five years prior to that. He asked me what activities I conducted and what I taught there,” Liew said.
She said there was also one incident when she and her family returned from New Zealand in September 2011 and noticed a group of well-built men following them, taking photos and videos of them at the airport.
She said such checks at the departure points occurred after the Selangor Religious Islamic Department (Jais) raided the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) where Koh was hosting a dinner with Malays in attendance in September 2011.
The dinner at DUMC was a thanksgiving event Koh had hosted for his non-profit welfare organisation, Harapan Komuniti, that helps the underprivileged and marginalised.
The Jais officers, some 50 of them, were accompanied by policemen.
Jais reportedly received reports that Koh and Harapan Komuniti were conducting proselytisation activities on Muslims. Twelve Muslim men and women were brought in for questioning by Jais during that incident.
On August 26 the same year, Koh and his family reportedly received a death threat and two bullets in their mailbox. On recalling the incident, Liew broke down in tears.
To a question whether Harapan Komuniti was involved in preaching, Liew said her husband had made it clear to the volunteers that there would be no preaching of religion to the marginalised communities that he was helping,
She said that through the organisation, Koh provided assistance to the poor regardless of their background and religion, adding that they had never received any complaints about Harapan’s activities.
Among others, it runs a reading room in Petaling Jaya and a prison programme with the Prisons Department and works with people living with HIV/AIDS, recovering drug addicts, single mothers and their children.
“Harapan Komuniti is not linked to any religion. It is not a Christian entity.
“The volunteers are from different colleges and from all races,” Liew told the inquiry.
Proselytisation was first mentioned by Khalid in April, who said the police had received reports of Koh allegedly conducting evangelism activities to Muslim youths in Kangar, Perlis.
Liew revealed that after the frequent stops by Malaysian immigration, she and Koh thought of migrating to Australia.
“We wanted to leave the country but Raymond said he loved Malaysia too much.”
G Sri Ram
The director of Harapan Komuniti, who has known Koh since 1977, claimed Koh had been harassed by the police Special Branch for years.
“I was his good friend and I saw how he was being harassed and the pressure he faced from them,” G Sri Ram told the inquiry.
He said the pastor complained about the harassment by the Special Branch the last time they met.
“I told him he was a marked man since 2011, which he agreed. He had been threatened by calls, over the Internet and even received a Bank Negara notice demanding complete details of all donors and expenditures which all seemed suspect,” Sri Ram said.
“He was being followed by someone he didn’t know, by motorbikes and by car. There are people taking photos of him,” he added.
He said that after Koh’s abduction, he was questioned by an ASP Supari.
“The questioning irked me because it was going in circles focusing on Raymond’s charitable work and allegations of proselytising Muslims.
“It seemed they were not investigating his abduction.
“Supari later asked me who I thought kidnapped Koh, and I answered that the police kidnapped him.
“I explained that I thought so because, since the 2011 incident, Raymond was harassed by the police especially the Special Branch.”
At this juncture, one of the police observers stood and asked for Sri Ram’s allegation against the police to be struck off the record.
“This is a serious allegation against the police and I ask the witness to delete his statement,” the police observer said.
Mah, however, stopped the police observer from continuing.
“This is the statement from the witness, why stop him? Let Supari come here and answer this, why ask the question in the first place?
“You ask the question you should be prepared for the answer. You can’t stop him from saying it unless you want to challenge that he never said it to the cops,” said Mah.
The police observer then said he would inform Supari about the matter and sat down.
He said the Harapan Komuniti office was “raided” by the police two days after the disappearance of Koh and took out a page from the students’ register.
“They took photos of details of the students. We have students coming there for tuition classes,” he said, adding that the police had also requested to question one of the students.
He said several days later, one of the students went to the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters for questioning.
The student was asked whether he had received any religious teaching at Harapan Komuniti or whether he had ever been to church, to which he replied no.
Sri Ram said the police went to Harapan Komuniti office again on March 1 for a questioning session with five other students, an Indian Muslim girl and four Malay boys.
“Police did not give reasons on the questioning. I asked why. They said they just wanted to find out the activities of Harapan Komuniti,” he said.
When asked by the panel whether there were any proselytising activities conducted by Harapan Komuniti or Koh, Sri Ram replied no.
Day 1, Oct 19
Roeshan Celestine Gomez
Chambering student Roeshan Celestine Gomez told the inquiry that he had “stumbled” upon the abduction while he and a friend were driving to a crematorium for a funeral on Feb 13.
He at first thought it was a movie shoot, but when he realised there were no cameras around, he knew something was amiss.
The 25-year-old said he saw three black big cars surrounding a silver car in SS4 Petaling Jaya that day. Several men who were in the cars wore masks and were covered from head to toe.
Gomez said he then saw a struggle between one of the men and the driver of the silver car, adding that the windscreen of the silver car was smashed.
He said his friend who was sitting next to him had pulled out her handphone to record the incident when an Indian man approached them and stood in front of their car.
The man gestured to her to stop recording.
“He was agitated and pointed at my friend who put her phone down.
“I reversed my car but he continued to come at us,” Gomez said.
He said he saw another man who was also recording the incident with a handphone and there were a few motorcyclists circling the scene.
He said the whole group later then drove away taking with them the silver car.
Gomez said after the incident was over, he saw shattered glass on the road.
He said he and his friend headed to the crematorium and later made a police report at the Kelana Jaya police station.
The panel were shown three closed-circuit camera recordings taken from two houses in the vicinity of where Koh was allegedly abducted. The video clips showed three black vehicles surrounding a white car and forcing it to stop.
Two motorcycles and another white car, which Gomez confirmed to be his, were also shown appearing on the scene in the recording.
Gomez described the alleged abduction as resembling a police operation.
He told the inquiry that a police investigating officer had made the remark while recording his statement.
“After I described the situation to the investigating officer Ali (Kelana Jaya police station investigating officer Inspector Ali Asra), he said this could be similar to how a police operation is conducted.
“On July 7, I was called by the police who said that they had a suspect and asked me to come to identify the person at a police line-up. I went to the station with my lawyer.
“There were three sets of line-up consisting two Malay groups and one Indian group.
“I told the police that I couldn’t identify anyone,” Gomez said.
After the line-up, he said his lawyer asked the police why was his client called.
“They said they had conducted an operation in Kedah where they got a suspect. They also said that they found Pastor Koh’s number plates,” Gomez said.
He revealed that there was one “odd” incident in June – his car was broken into while he was having dinner at Kota Damansara.
His laptop bag, which contained his work notes, a witness statement he prepared for himself and several photocopies of his MyKad, was stolen.
He did not make a report because he thought that it was his own mistake for leaving his bag on the backseat.
However, about a month later, the bag was returned to his home, which is in a gated community.
The bag was lodged on the gate. When he saw it, he hesitated at first because he feared that there might be a bomb in it. An inspection of the bag later found all the contents were intact, with the exception of a plastic file.
“After that, I was more curious. It was odd. Why did they return it?” he said, adding that his family was frightened by the incident and they thought that it was linked to the Pastor Koh case.