Family lawyer urges Suhakam to continue Pastor Koh inquiry

18th Feb 2018

THE Suhakam public inquiry into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh should proceed because the subject matter before the court is different from what is before the inquiry, said lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) inquiry is to determine if Koh’s case was an enforced disappearance – one that was conducted by the state – while the court matter is on his kidnapping.

The inquiry into Koh’s disappearance was suspended after police said they have charged part-time Uber driver Lam Chang Nam with kidnapping the pastor.

Police directed the inquiry panel to Section 12 (3) of the Suhakam Act 1999, which states that during an inquiry into the infringement of the human rights of a person, if the allegation becomes the subject matter of any proceeding in any court, the commission shall immediately cease to do the inquiry.

Gurdial, who is Koh’s family lawyer, however, said the inquiry should only be stopped if the subject matter was the same (in both the inquiry and court proceedings).

“You cannot have the court and the inquiry deciding this issue. It has to be one or the other that is deciding the issue.

“But now the issue (Lam’s case) is within the court and has nothing to do with whether the state was complicit or not (in Koh’s disappearance).

“If this person (Lam) is found guilty was there any involvement by the state?” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Gurdial said the inquiry is not about whether Lam committed the offence or not, adding that its main aim was to ascertain if the state had a hand in Koh’s abduction.

He said that issue is not in court.

“In our case, the crux of the inquiry is the term ‘enforced disappearance’. If so, who is responsible for the disappearance?   

“Did the higher-ups know about it? And how high does it reach? This is our inquiry.”

Gurdial said the Koh family legal team would try to persuade the commission, on March 6, to continue with the inquiry.

Koh is missed by his wife Susanna Liew, son Jonathan, 33, and daughters Esther, 32, and Elizabeth, 22.

He was abducted in Petaling Jaya on February 13 last year by about 15 men in three black SUVs.

The abduction was caught on closed-circuit television cameras and has been described as a well-coordinated operation.

Timing of suspension

Gurdial said the suspension of Koh’s inquiry came at a time when two critical police witnesses were to testify.

One was a deputy commissioner in the Special Branch, who made some strong statements in the media about the need to act against people who proselytise.

“When we asked the former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar about this allegation (proselytising), he said to ask him (DCP). So, he was a crucial witness.

“Similarly, we wanted to question the technical officer about the critical closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) that were not working and information related to the condition of the CCTVs.

“Just when we were about to embark on the final stage, it (inquiry) was aborted.”

Gurdial said this raised eyebrows.

“We were taken completely by surprise. The police who have been part and parcel of the process, were not present to answer any query and address our concerns.

“How could they know whether the inquiry will proceed or not? How can they be so presumptuous and not attend?  

“Basic courtesy demands that they come to the inquiry and abide by whatever ruling the inquiry makes.”

‘Police must clarify issue’

Gurdial said the perception on people’s minds now was that police derailed the inquiry because of the direction it was taking.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions because of this turn of events.

“So, it’s important for the police to clarify the issue and the best way would be at the inquiry.”

Gurdial said if the police explanation is plausible and cogent, the family and the public will accept it.

“But now, the public are suspicious of the police and this cannot be good for the force.” – February 18, 2018.

Link to article found here: