Human trafficking camps run by different syndicates.
The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) decided not to investigate an alleged “coordinated cover-up” by the police in the discovery of human trafficking camps and graves in Wang Kelian as there was no evidence to support this.
EAIC chairman A Aziz A Rahim said this was decided at a meeting of the commission on Feb 6 last year, where he raised the issue.
“I raised this at a meeting. We discussed and decided there was no evidence to support allegations of a coordinated cover-up.
“At the borders, it is not just the police carrying out duties. The customs, immigration, military and the general operations force (GOF) are also there. If there was a cover-up, they would all be implicated,” he told the Wang Kelian Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) today.
Aziz said the decision was reached after taking into account several factors — police had taken action, there was no misconduct and the news report by the New Straits Times (NST) on the alleged cover-up did not pinpoint any police officers.
Former New Straits Times Press (NSTP) investigative editor Farrah Naz Abd Karim had co-written a Dec 20, 2017 article with NST reporter Aliza Shah Muhammad Shah alleging that police had discovered the human trafficking camps in January 2015 — not May 2015 as officially announced.
She said this pointed to a “coordinated cover-up”.
Farrah, together with then NST executive editor Muzli Md Zin, was invited by the EAIC to assist in its investigation into possible police misconduct at the Malaysia-Thailand border on Jan 23, 2018.
Farrah said at the end of the two-hour session, EAIC officials had told her that there were enough grounds to open an investigation.
In previous inquiry proceedings, Farrah had claimed that EAIC decided not to investigate the alleged police misconduct in the discovery of human trafficking camps and graves in Perlis after a closed-door meeting with the top management of the police force.
In clearing the air, Aziz said he did not recall ever saying there were enough grounds to open an investigation, but claimed he said “we will look into it”.
Aziz, who is the 42nd witness, denied getting the case dropped following a courtesy call by the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
On the closed-door meeting with the police top brass, Aziz said the visit had already been planned earlier, before they met the NST representatives.
“We met with then IGP Mohamad Fuzi Harun for networking purposes. When we wrote to the police, they gave us a date after Jan 23, 2018, to meet not just Fuzi, but all senior police officers.
“During the courtesy call, I asked the police what was happening in Wang Kelian without revealing details of my meeting with the NST representatives. The police officials then briefed us on the situation.”
“In our opinion, action had already been taken by the police. They had done something. Whether or not it was enough, that is a different question. There was no issue of a cover-up.
“The decision not to pursue the case was made during the EAIC meeting on Feb 6, 2018, as the police had taken the necessary actions, including discovering and clearing the campsites in January.
“Also, there was no evidence of misconduct, as there were no names of police officers who were allegedly involved in the alleged cover-up. If there was, we need to find the person in question as we can’t be investigating the entire force.
“It is not true that we decided not to investigate the matter following the meeting with the former IGP,” he said.
Aziz also pointed out that the incident in Wang Kelian took place in 2015, but investigations were carried out from 2017.
“At that time, the graves had already been exposed. There was no more physical evidence. In terms of the time frame, it was already a cold case,” he said, adding that even if they had gone to the site, they would not have found anything there.
Aziz said if there had really been a cover-up, EAIC would have investigated it. He said during their investigations, they needed to get their facts right and not just listen to one side. This was why they verified facts with the police.
Aziz said if the commission decided to pursue an investigation, it would deploy EAIC’s operation team to prove the matter.
“We will then forward the matter to the relevant authorities and give our recommendations in accordance with Act 700 (EAIC Act),” he said.
Aziz said the commission could also submit the findings of their investigation to the Attorney-General for the next course of action, including prosecution.
Meanwhile, a member of an elite police force today alluded to the possibility of different syndicates involved in alleged human trafficking in Perlis, owing to varying types of camps discovered in Wang Kelian four years ago.
The then VAT69 group commander, Mohd Yusof Ariffin, said the camps discovered in Wang Kelian had different characteristics.
“I only looked at the shape, structure and equipment used. In my opinion, the camps have different heads. For instance, there are bases which used food trays (talam) and there were bases which did not have food trays.
“Some used barbed wire, while some used only wood,” he said in reply to a question on whether the bases were run by different human trafficking syndicates.
On whether the camps shared a single water source, Yusof said there were camps which had no water source, while others had.
“For instance, camps three and four did not have a water source, while camps nine, 10 and 11 were located near a water source.
“There were camps which needed to get their water from other places,” he said.
On whether these camps had all existed at the same time, Yusof said the physical condition of the camps revealed some had been long abandoned, while others were new.
“For instance, in one of the camps, we found traces of rice. This showed it was very new, probably four to five days old.
“In another base, there were traces of farming. Based on the plants and the grass, we estimated there had been no activity for three to four months.”
The mass graves, 139 in total, and 28 abandoned camps were discovered at Bukit Wang Burma in Wang Kelian, near the Malaysia-Thailand border.
More than 100 skeletal remains, believed to be that of Rohingya refugees, were found in the graves.
The government at the time was criticised for the lack of action against top officials. Although four individuals were charged in court, critics said these were merely small-time traffickers.
The RCI resumes on Monday.
Jun 12, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 14
May 27, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 12
May 16, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 11
May 15, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 10
May 14, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Nine
May 10, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Eight
May 8, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Seven
Apr 26, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Six
Apr 24, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Five
Apr 23, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Four
Apr 22, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Three
Apr 17, Wang Kelian RCI: Day One