The death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim in 2018 was a deeply divisive moment for the country and one that haunted lawyer Tommy Thomas’ time as attorney-general.
The death, and subsequent lack of prosecution of any suspect, had been used as political fodder, especially by those in Umno, to attack Thomas and the then-Pakatan Harapan government.
Thomas had often been accused of letting go of the suspects who were alleged to have caused Adib’s demise.
Recounting the events in his memoir, the former attorney-general said police carried out a careful and thorough probe in the days after Adib sustained his injuries during a riot outside the USJ Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in November 2018.
While many at the time claimed that Adib was injured by rioters, the police, however, ruled out foul play.
“Apparently, the injuries were suffered by Adib when the fire engine reversed, pushing backwards the vehicle Adib was travelling in.
“Adib was apparently trying to re-enter his car when he was pinned down. It was therefore an accident. No one was to be blamed. No crime had been committed.
“It followed that the police could not be expected to arrest any person for a non-existent crime. And that was the finding after many rounds of the investigation by different police units,” Thomas wrote.
However, when Adib died three weeks later on Dec 17, Thomas said there was an uproar, stoked by racists claiming Adib was killed by rioters outside the Hindu temple.
“Nothing short of murder charges against some Indians would appease the mob,” he said.
This, he said, was what prompted the call for an inquest into the death.
According to Thomas, the evidence presented during the inquest confirmed police’s findings that Adib was injured by accident and was not beaten.
However, Coroner Rofiah Mohamad found that Adib’s death was due to a criminal act perpetrated by two or three unidentified assailants during the riot.
She also found that the police and FRU’s failure to control the riot had contributed to Adib’s death.
This finding, according to Thomas, was mind-boggling.
“How she could reach this finding is mind-boggling, when the police, with their experience, expertise, manpower and resources, could not.
“The coroner was also specific: two or three persons. Why not one? Why not five or more? It was a bizarre decision, rightly criticised by many,” he said.
Thomas said many officers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers wanted him to appeal against the finding at the High Court.
However, he decided not to, as the coroner’s decision on the matter was merely that police resume their investigations, which he did not object to.
As of August last year, police still could not find any evidence to support the finding that Adib was beaten.
“Whatever it is, investigations were completed but we could not find concrete evidence that the late Muhammad Adib was captured, beaten and so forth,” Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said.
Police want another inquest to be held into the death, with fresh witnesses called in. – Malaysiakini