The man charged with extorting Koh’s son has now been charged with Koh’s abduction, halting the Suhakam inquiry and raising many disturbing questions.
- Suhakam clarifies suspension of inquiry required by law
- IGP alleges new evidence led to charging suspect with Koh’s kidnapping
- Suspect’s lawyer expresses shock on new charge
- Koh’s family devastated by sudden halt to inquiry
- NGO questions if “scapegoat” used to block Suhakam inquiry, the police’s seeming eagerness to stop the inquiry
- Other questions raised:
– Why charge the suspect when he was previously cleared of abducting Koh?
– Why the timing, just before 3 crucial police witnesses that would cast a great deal of light on the case were to appear before the inquiry?
– Why did the charge sheet state 8 people involved in the kidnapping when CCTV footage showed 14 persons?
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) clarified at a press conference today that it ceased the inquiry into the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh as law requires it, and not because it “caved in to the police”.
Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, who was leading the inquiry, cited Section 12(3) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act which states that it should “immediately cease” an inquiry if the allegation becomes the subject matter of any court proceeding.
Suhakam had received a letter from Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun at 3pm on Monday Jan 15, informing them that a suspect had been charged in court in relation to the case.
The inquiry is being held under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act in connection with the disappearances of Koh, social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Sitepu.
In March 2017, part-time driver Uber Lam Chang Nam was charged with extorting RM30,000 from Jonathan Koh Szu Hao, 33, for the release of his father.
Lam, 31, allegedly committed the offence at Paradigm Mall in Kelana Jaya at 9.46pm on March 6.
On Jan 15, he was charged under Section 365 of the Penal Code for the abduction of Koh.
Lam’s lawyer Aaron Mark Pius expressed his shock on the new charge when he spoke to The Star on Tuesday.
“Yesterday, Lam was charged with another serious offence, for kidnapping. My client pleaded not guilty to the charge,” Pius said.
“We did not see this coming. The position we are taking is that my client denies all the allegations against him,” he added.
According to Pius, the first witness in the extortion case had already testified.
He said bail was granted at RM5,000 and the Petaling Jaya magistrate’s court fixed Feb 26 for mention.
On Tuesday night, the IGP said new evidence led the authorities to charge Lam with the kidnapping of Koh.
“The police have found new leads to link Lam Chang Nam to the case. Our investigation on the kidnapping is still ongoing.
“He is a suspect in the kidnapping of Pastor Raymond Koh early last year along with seven more individuals still at large,” Fuzi said.
Koh’s family members are devastated over the abrupt halt to Suhakam’s public inquiry into his disappearance.
“It is very shocking for us as a family, as we had no idea this was going to happen,” Koh’s wife Susanna Liew told reporters yesterday at Suhakam’s office.
She said they had come to find answers to the many questions they have over Koh’s disappearance.
“We hope that there will be justice.
“We still have hope in the system but I’m afraid today this hope has been crushed.
“I will have to seek advice from my lawyers on how to go forward,” Liew added.
Meanwhile, activist group Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) urged authorities to explain the sudden prosecution of Lam for the abduction of Koh.
The group noted that Suhakam was making headway in its inquiry into the disappearance of Koh and several others before the charge against Lam on Monday forced the commission to stop.
Caged questioned both the timing of the charge against Lam for Koh’s abduction as well as the authorities’ failure to publicise the development in the case that has both global and local attention.
It also noted that the charge came just before three police witnesses were due to testify in the Suhakam inquiry.
Caged questioned whether Lam was made a scapegoat to block the Suhakam inquiry into Koh’s kidnapping, Malaysiakini reported.
The group noted that Selangor Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief SAC Fadzil Ahmat, who led the special task force into Koh’s disappearance, had previously testified to Suhakam under oath that Lam had nothing to do with the abduction.
“The timing of the charge against Lam for kidnapping, on the eve of the 12th hearing day, just before an additional three police witnesses were to be called to assist the inquiry to establish truth and justice, also raises questions.
“Are the police trying to hide the truth?” it said in a statement.
It pointed out that the charge sheet against Lam said eight people were involved in the kidnapping but CCTV footage which captured the abduction showed 14 persons.
“What is Lam’s role in this supposed ‘team of eight’ when the video of the abduction – admitted by the police as reliable evidence – shows a team of about 14 persons who executed the abduction with military precision?
“Isn’t it much more likely that Lam is a convenient scapegoat? In short, the arrest and charge against Lam for kidnapping Koh is both shocking, illogical and begs belief,” the NGO said.
Caged also stated that the inquiry had revealed a “vast array of shortcomings in the police investigations” and alleged the cops of trying to derail the hearings.
“Why would the police be less than forthcoming in assisting Suhakam to uncover the truth about Pastor Koh and why the seeming eagerness to stop the public inquiry?
“Do they already know who abducted Pastor Raymond Koh?
“This issue of the disappearances of Pastor Koh and the others is not just a matter of importance to the families of the victims. At stake is the reputation of the Royal Malaysian Police force, a force that is highly respected for its competency in crime-solving and its ability to protect us as citizens,” it said.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Koh’s family lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar questioned the move to charge someone whom the police had clearly stated was not involved in the kidnapping.
“Now suddenly as we approach the end of the inquiry, and we have three crucial witnesses lined up for today that would cast a great deal of light on the case, they say they have charged someone.
“The public might ask what is the game plan of the police at this late hour,” the lawyer said, adding that it could be seen as a deliberate attempt to derail the conclusion of the inquiry.
“This is the first time this has happened at an inquiry. We have to look at what ought to be the follow-up positions.”
He added, however, that the inquiries into the disappearance of activist Amri Che Mat, and Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, would continue.
“Let’s hope that there are no surprises in those inquiries as well.”