Cabinet must reject Muhyiddin’s lame explanations on task force

Cabinet must reject Muhyiddin’s lame explanations on task force

There has been a tsunami of responses to Home Minister Tan Sri Muyhiddin’s announcement of a “task force” to probe Suhakam’s conclusion that the Special Branch of the Malaysian Police (PDRM) forcibly disappeared social activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh.

Numerous respected individuals, columnists, and civil society organizations have expressed shock over Muhyiddin’s announcement. CAGED, Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances, calls the attention of the Cabinet and lawmakers to three key points in the public responses.

First, procrastination. Muhyiddin’s announcement was incredibly late – almost 3 months after the Suhakam decision was announced. Tan Sri Mohamed Arshad Raji, the highly respected leader of Patriots, labelled the lateness “procrastination.”

Second, sabotage. Undermining Suhakam’s findings is the goal of the “task force”. Muhyiddin’s announcement omitted the Terms of Reference (ToR), but is sufficient for the public to draw its own conclusions. The profiles of the “task force” members and the absence of respected, professional investigators with police powers to gather evidence from inside and outside PDRM makes this clear: the ToR of the “task force” is to undermine Suhakam’s work, NOT to investigate the erratic and slipshod police “investigation” to-date.

Third, conflict of interest. Three of the six members should have been rejected the moment their names were proposed. Their conflicts of interest are so obvious that Datuk Baljit Singh, a highly respected lawyer, said the appointments are “the biggest blunder” made by the Pakatan Harapan government. Dato’ Kuthubal Zaman, another legal paragon, speaking for Proham (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, founded by former Royal Commissioners) said the conflicts of interest are “indisputable.” We recap here the grounds for saying these individuals have conflicts of interest:

Datuk Rahim Uda. The Suhakam Inquiry relied on a 2014 decision of the Court of Appeal (CoA). That CoA coram included Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai, the Chairman of the Suhakam Inquiry. In that decision, the CoA set aside Rahim’s decision in the cause of death of Teoh Beng Hock. The Inquiry’s reports explicitly state that the grounds on which the CoA rejected Rahim’s decision are a foundation of the Inquiry’s decision. Therefore, by the canons of law, Rahim should be disqualified from reviewing any decision made by the Inquiry.

Dato’ Zamri Yahya. Because he’s the head of a department in the police (the “Integrity” or internal affairs department) which should be investigated by the task force.

Dato’ Mokhtar Mohd Noor. Because he was the head of the legal department of the police during the course of the Suhakam Inquiry and because he was the one who made the final submissions. He too should be investigated.

Muhyiddin’s attempt to defend the appointment of Mokhtar is lame, misleading and astonishing. He claims Mokhtar is acceptable because “He was not involved in the hearing. He merely attended an open session.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

As head of the legal department of PDRM, Mokhtar was responsible for the entirety of the police case presented at the Inquiry. This ranges from the “police position” listed at the beginning of Suhakam’s Inquiry reports, the tactics PDRM used on 45 hearing days over 18 months, and the written and oral final submissions.

The Notes of Proceedings show that Mokhtar didn’t merely “attend an open session.” During the final oral submissions, he addressed the Inquiry Panel 32 times on behalf of PDRM. He even expressed disappointment with questions posed on the day of the final oral submissions.

CAGED calls upon the Cabinet and all lawmakers to recognize and correct the serious shortfalls in Muhyiddin’s decision. Prime Minister Tun Mahathir must recognize that the people have convincingly and rousingly unmasked Muhyiddin’s masquerade.

Rahim, Zamri and Mokhtar must be removed. CAGED urges these three individuals to recognize the overwhelming public perception of their conflicts of interest and resign.

The government’s focus must shift from undermining Suhakam’s findings to doing what the police patently failed to do: thoroughly flush out and investigate all possible perpetrators of the heinous crimes against Amri and Raymond. Also, the task force must investigate the Suhakam finding – based on evidence adduced – that police officers fabricated evidence, planted evidence, made false reports and withheld evidence in three cases of serious crime.

In addition, the ridiculous claim that further probing of the enforced disappearance of Raymond Koh must be put on ice until the trial of an alleged perpetrator is concluded must be rejected. This is because during the Suhakam public Inquiry the police themselves gave ample reason for the public to conclude that there is no basis for charging the alleged perpetrator for abduction or kidnapping.

CAGED calls upon the government to act courageously to dismantle the deep state which is battling to protect police impunity in Malaysia – including by appointing to the task force credible members of CSOs: learn from the difference Latheefa Koya has so quickly made at MACC!

CAGED calls upon the government to act decisively to reform PDRM.

CAGED calls upon the government to say “no” to pathetic decisions such as those made by Muhyiddin in this instance.

The message carried by the tsunami of responses is clear. At its meeting this week, the Cabinet must reject Muhyiddin’s lame decisions and explanations.

The Cabinet can of course choose to be as deaf, aloof and lame as Muhyiddin and his BN predecessors in the face of abuse of power by the police. If it makes this choice, the Cabinet will confirm the public’s growing conviction that the Pakatan government is not serious about police reform.

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED)

By: Rama Ramanathan

Rama Ramanathan is a member of CAGED.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online.

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