As Suhakam inquiry continues, Indonesian siblings lodge report on missing sister Ruth

18th Mar 2018

TWO Indonesian siblings were recently in Kuala Lumpur to lodge a missing persons report on their sister, Ruth Sitepu, who had disappeared in November 2016.

This, however, is not just another missing person’s report. Ruth is the wife of Pastor Joshua Hilmy, a Muslim convert, whose disappearance in 2016 is now the subject of a Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) public inquiry.

Very little was known about this couple, both aged 49, until the police report was lodged by Ruth’s brother, Iman Setiawan Sitepu, 37, and sister Ram Ram Elisabeth, 42, late last month.

Ruth’s family lives in the fishing village of Nambiki in Northern Sumatra. They knew of her disappearance in March last year, but could not come down earlier due to financial constraints.

Iman said the family was shocked to find that Ruth, who is Christian by birth, had gone missing despite being in constant contact with the family.

“The last we spoke to her was in November, 2016. She sounded cheerful and there were no issues. She used to call twice a month to talk to my wife and her siblings.

“In December 2016, my brother, Gunawan, called her phone but no one answered. Since November, Ruth also stopped calling, but we thought she was busy travelling with Joshua.

“It was only in March last year that we found out through a friend in Indonesia that Ruth and Joshua were missing. That was when we started worrying about their safety,” Iman told The Malaysian Insight.

With the help of the church in Indonesia and Ruth’s friends who collected funds for the family, Iman and Ram Ram came to Kuala Lumpur last month to lodge the police report.

Iman said Ruth came to Malaysia in 2000 and got a job working in a tailor’s shop in Ipoh, Perak. She met Joshua in 2004 in Perak and they got married in 2006. They came to Indonesia to meet the family.

“We also had a traditional wedding for them in Indonesia. Joshua told us that he was a Muslim and had converted to Christianity. He didn’t speak much about what he was doing back in Malaysia,” Iman recalled.

He said the couple then went back to Malaysia and returned to Nambiki in 2007 where they started a fish farm. They were there till 2009 before returning to Malaysia.

They came back to Indonesia the same year for Ruth’s father’s funeral, and that was the last time the family saw them, but they were always in contact.

“If they had run away or moved, they would have still contacted us. That is why we think they have been abducted,” he added.

The first person to lodge a missing person’s report on the couple was Peter Pormannan who lives in Klang. He said that he first met Joshua and Ruth in 2012.

“Joshua approached me and we spoke for a while and when I found we shared the same faith, I invited them for a drink. After that we exchanged numbers and kept in contact,” said the 55-year-old insurance salesman.

A couple of months later, Pormannan said Joshua called him and said he was not working and that he and his wife needed a place to stay.

“I spoke to my wife to allow them to move into my mother-in-law’s house which is also in Klang.”

After living for a year in Klang until the end of 2013, Joshua and Ruth moved into a single storey house at Kampung Tunku, in Petaling Jaya.

Pormannan said they used to meet up at least once a month and they also used to keep in touch by calling each other twice a month, but he insisted that Joshua revealed little about his background.

The last he saw the couple was in September 2016 at their home in Petaling Jaya.

“Two of my children who are studying in Petaling Jaya were renting a room at their home. I went there to pass them some food and spoke to Joshua. That was the last time I saw the both of them,” he said.

When Promannan did not hear from Joshua for a couple of months, he lodged a police report at the Klang Selatan police station in March last year.

He said three weeks later, police called him to have his statement taken. He also took police to the couple’s house and was surprised to see that the Christmas tree was still up and all their clothes were in the room.

Suhakam is holding a public inquiry to determine whether Joshua and Ruth, along with Pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat, all of whom disappeared between November 2016 and Feb 2017, were cases of enforced disappearance sanctioned by the state.

The inquiry resumes tomorrow. – March 18, 2018.

Link to article found here: