Missing Activist Amri’s NGO Had Nothing to Do with Religion

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The wife of missing activist Amri Che Mat suspects his disappearance had to do with Perlis Hope, a charity organisation that her husband co-founded in 2015 and which she asserts has nothing to do with religion and politics.

  • Allegations of Shahidan criticising Perlis Hope, Perlis mufti’s warning that the NGO was involved in extremist activities
  • Now Shahidan says no issue with NGO
  • Amri the target of investigations and accusations for alleged involvement in Shia teachings
  • Modus operandi of abduction almost the same as in Raymond Koh’s case
  • Similar to Koh’s case, the police do not keep the family updated
  • Clinging to the hope her husband is still alive, Norhayati is now a single parent raising four children aged 11 to 19

Speaking at the inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on the disappearance of her husband who has been missing since Nov 24, 2016, Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, 45, claimed former Perlis mentri besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim had criticised Perlis Hope over its programmes.

According to Norhayati, Shahidan had criticised Perlis Hope on Facebook after Amri helped build houses for the poor near the minister’s house in Arau.

Perlis Hope

She also claimed that Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin had allegedly warned that Perlis Hope was involved in extremist activities.

She told the inquiry that Perlis Hope was set up to help the poor, single mothers, children with terminal illness and fire victims, among others.

“We help everyone regardless of their background or religion,” she said.

She added that the organisation donated rice and provisions to the needy, as well as helped build houses for the poor.

Norhayati revealed that the Perlis Mufti Office together with the police raided their house and the Perlis Hope office, which was located next to their house, in October 2015, following accusations on Amri’s alleged Shia activities.

Shia is a sect in Islam which has been deemed ‘haram’ (forbidden) by the National Fatwa Council.

Norhayati claimed that Asri was present during the raid by the team of some 20 officers and that the mufti had requested Amri to go to his office.

The next day, during the meeting at the mufti’s office which was also attended by several police and religious officers, Asri was said to have told Amri that Shia activities could be carried out as long as it was done discreetly.

“After the meeting, Amri had told me that the authorities had suspected him of being involved with Shia (activities),” Norhayati said.

“However, the mufti told him that the Perlis Mufti Department had no objection to that if such activities were done discreetly,” she added.

Norhayati said Amri and Perlis Hope had become the target of Perlis authorities since 2015 following allegations linked to Shia activities.

She added that a month before he went missing, Amri became restless as Asri had uploaded a post on his Facebook telling the public to be wary of Perlis Hope.

She also said a letter from Perlis Islamic Religious Department (JAIPs) director Hazman Hassan to the state education department had also made allegations towards Perlis Hope.

“My husband had become the target of investigations and accusations by JAIPs, MAIPs, political leader and the police for allegedly involved with Shia teachings,” she said.

Chairman of the inquiry Datuk Mah Weng Kwai later said that Suhakam might subpoena Asri to testify as a witness.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department told FMT that he does not know Amri and only knows Perlis Hope through the social media.

As for the allegation that he had criticised the NGO after it helped build houses for the poor near his house in Arau, Shahidan reportedly said he had no issue with any NGO doing this as they are volunteers.

“If they want to build homes, I have no problems.

“I encourage people to build houses. I am in charge of volunteers from both Barisan Nasional and the opposition who help me during disasters,” he was quoted saying.

Yusof Mat Isa

The minister, however, declined to comment further, saying: “I don’t want to get involved because I don’t know head or tail (of the matter).”

Norhayati said she last saw her husband at about 10.30pm on Nov 24, 2016, at their home.

He went out at about 11.30pm the same day in a black Toyota Fortuner.

Norhayati said that five vehicles had blocked Amri’s car before he was whisked away, just 550 metres from their home in Bukit Chabang, Perlis.

She added that she only found out about her husband’s disappearance at 6am the next day from her younger brother.His 4WD, she said, was found later near the construction site of the Bukit Cabang Sports School with the windscreen smashed.

Also missing were Amri’s wallet, handphone, road tax, number plate and stickers on the car.

Norhayati said her suspicion was also raised when the police informed her that only Amri’s fingerprint was found in his car, despite the fact that she and her children had been on board the car hours before the disappearance.

A foreign exchange trader, Amri is an avid mountain climber and was a member of the 1997 Mount Everest Malaysian expedition team.

The couple were married in 1997 and have four daughters aged between 11 and 19.

“I am now a single mother and have to raise my four children on my own. My youngest is 11 and she needs the love of a father,” Norhayati said in tears.

She added that she was “confused and aggrieved” because until now she has not received any updates from the police on her husband.

“I have had to accept many false accusations because there is not one correct answer about his disappearance,” she said.

However, she still clings to the hope that her husband is alive.

“I always prayed for the inquiry to be able to provide a conclusion…I hope those involved will receive their punishments,” she added.

The inquiry is being held under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act in connection with the disappearances of Raymond Koh, Amri, Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Sitepu.

Last week, Suhakam halted the inquiry into Koh’s disappearance as a suspect had been charged in court in relation to the case.

Related reports:

Oct 6, Suhakam Inquiry on Missing Pastor and Three Others

Apr 12, Missing Persons: More Questions Than Answers

Mar 29, Activists Disappearing in Uncannily Similar Circumstances