Joshua Hilmy inquiry: No evidence of baptism activities by pastor and wife

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Police did not find any evidence of baptism during investigations into the disappearance of pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu, a Suhakam public inquiry was told today.

Witness Zulfadhly Yacob said he did not come across any records of baptism activities conducted by the couple when he was the investigating officer (IO) for the case.

“My investigations were on missing persons. There was nothing about baptism,” he said when questioned by Suhakam commissioner and inquiry chairman Mohd Hishamudin Yunus.

Lawyer Philip Koh, who was holding a watching brief for Ruth’s family, asked if the witness was aware that Joshua was an apostate from Islam and that he had identified himself as a pastor.

“I do not know, but when I recorded the statements of a husband and wife, I remember they met (him) to seek treatment. They never mentioned he was a pastor,” said Zulfadhly.

He added that he did not seek further details on whether this “treatment” was linked to baptism. He could not remember anything else from the recorded statement.

Asked by Roger Chan, observer for the Malaysian Bar, if he had drawn up any hypotheses as leads for the investigation, Zulfadhly admitted there were none.

Based on documents provided by police, the inquiry found that the police had written to the immigration department for details of Joshua’s travels in and out of the country in April 2017. The department replied that there were no such records in its system.

The police had written to the department again in October 2018 and September 2020 and received records of Joshua entering and leaving the country between 2006 and 2012.

According to Zulfadhly, the inconsistencies were because the department had made a typo error and keyed in the wrong IC number after the first request.

He also denied that the case was being taken lightly as it involved a missing Indonesian national and said he had played his part in assisting the investigation during his time as IO.

The inquiry also found that the police had only written in for details on Ruth’s movements in March 2018, nearly a year after they had asked for Joshua’s records. Zulfadhly said it was up to the IO to decide when to follow up with the relevant government authorities.

In reference to the delayed investigations, Syahar Banu, from the impunity watch in advocacy division of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Indonesia, then asked what qualified as a case that required police to take urgent action.

Muhamad Sabri, the police representative for the inquiry, gave an assurance that all cases were handled with equal importance and conducted based on SOPs set by the top leadership.

Joshua, a Malay who had converted to Christianity, and his wife Ruth have been missing since November 2016. The next hearing is set for Aug 26 at 2pm. – FMT