The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) must quickly provide the investigation papers on missing Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) heard today.
Lawyer Philip Koh who is representing Ruth’s family said it is crucial that the inquiry get all the relevant documents.
He said they are concerned about the AGC decision to not disclose the documents as they ought to assist in seeking the truth of the matter.
“They (AGC) are claiming it will jeopardise investigations, but the documents are critical information that is needed.
“We hope Suhakam can request Idrus Harun (attorney-general) to clarify if the information requested will jeopardise the investigations,” he told the Suhakam public inquiry into the disappearances of Joshua and Ruth.
Koh had made the request for the papers in January
Koh said Suhakam is a body set up by the people of Malaysia and a body mandated by Parliament.
Koh added that other documents from Immigration Department, Maybank, Maxis, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia (MCMC) are also needed.
Suhakam officer Simon Karunagaram said he had written to the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) requesting for the investigation papers.
“The DPP said that it can’t share the information because any information leak will affect the investigations.
“They (DPP) also said that the police have not breached any laws pertaining to the inquiry.”
He said they have written to AGC on January 19 and received their reply on February 2.
“They (AGC) said they need more time. We then sent another letter on March 24 and the AGC said again they need more time to discuss the information that had been requested.”
Koh said there are allegations that Ruth has exited the country and there is no reason why the Immigration Department records can’t be shown that she exited.
“Another critical information is the identity of the owner of the email using a pseudonym “Wifi girl” with the persona of former Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin that had conversations with Joshua.
“Now, MCMC said they can’t trace it (email account) because it registered as Yahoo mail. We need to uncover who is behind the emails.”
He said the public is concerned that MCMC and police need to be engaged in this case.
Last year, witness Selvakumar Peace John Harris claimed that Khairy had email exchanges with Joshua and asked him to leave the country.
Khairy had denied the allegations, saying that he did not personally know the pastor or the witness.
Meanwhile, Council of Churches of Malaysia secretary-general Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri was called as a witness by Suhakam to provide expert testimony on the nature and meaning of baptism for a person as a conversion rite.
Koh asked if a person is baptised is he or she a member of the Christian faith.
Hermen said any person who wants to enter Christianity must accept the faith first.
“It is not just simply converting people. If there are instances of that, then the church won’t be responsible (for conversion).
“There are steps for conversion and we constantly teach and guide our pastors to be sensitive to other cultures. Christianity doesn’t coerce or force people into their faith.”
As for other races seeking conversion, Hermen said it is their duty of providing spiritual assistance.
“If a Malay person wants to know about Christianity, we can explain to them. If they want to convert, it in their own right.
“There is no coercion as we draw no distinction from any people who want to come into the faith.”
Koh then asked Hermen to explain what if there was someone who claimed that they were baptised by a person who is not ordained.
Hermen then said they will have to do background checks on the person.
Koh then asked about Joshua and Ruth allegedly proselytising and baptising people.
Hermen said he had never met the couple but aware of their missing status
Koh added that even Archbishop Julian Leow of Roman Catholic Diocese and Chairman of Christian Federation of Malaysia accepts missing Pastor Raymond Koh, Joshua and Ruth as fellow brothers and sister in Christ
The public inquiry is held to unearth what had happened to Joshua and Ruth, who are suspected to be victims of enforced disappearance.
International human rights laws define enforced disappearance as when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organisation, or by a third party with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of a state or political organisation.
In 2018, two years after their disappearance, Ruth’s siblings lodged a missing person’s report.
Ruth’s family is from the fishing village of Nambiki in northern Sumatra, Indonesia.
The Suhakam panel is chaired by commissioner Hishamudin and assisted by commissioners Jerald Joseph and Madeline Berma.
Previously, another Suhakam panel, held similar inquiries into the disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat.
After exhaustive investigations, the Suhakam panel concluded that the Special Branch from the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman was responsible for the disappearance of Koh and Amri Che Mat, a Muslim social activist.
No one has been charged with the abduction of the two. – TMI