20th Oct 2017

“I told him he was a marked man”- Abducted pastor’s friend recounts their last conversation

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 20 October 2017 – The Public Inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (“SUHAKAM”) into the disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh (“Raymond”), social activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife Ruth entered its second day with three witnesses called by the Inquiry panel.

First to be called was Raymond’s wife Susanna Liew, who testified during the morning session. She recounted in detail the events on the day of Raymond’s abduction, 13th February 2017, and the days that followed, specifically her interactions with the police. She described how she was questioned during three separate sessions by the police, starting with the night of 13th February when she went to the Kelana Jaya Police Station to lodge a missing person’s report after hearing from friends and family members that they had been unable to contact Raymond since that morning. Upon arriving at the police station, she said she was brought to an investigation room at the station and questioned there for five hours, from 10pm to 3am.

“At the end of these five hours, I was exhausted…I was anxious and extremely worried about my husband’s whereabouts and his well-being. The police did not give me any information and continued to ask questions about his work and activities as a social worker. I was utterly confused by this line of questioning,” she related, referring to the investigation officer Inspector Ali’s repeated questions to her if Raymond was involved in “proselytizing” and “Christianization” activities.

This line of questioning continued in subsequent sessions she had with other police officers on 14th and 16th February 2017, even though she had pointed out to them that their queries about Raymond proselytizing Muslims “were unrelated to finding Raymond and that they were losing precious time.”

This line of questioning was also the experience of the next witness who testified after her: Sri Ram K.S. Gopala Iyer, a director of Harapan Komuniti, the nonprofit organisation that Raymond had founded. Sri Ram, 57, recounted his interactions with the police after the abduction. He recollected a police raid at Harapan Komuniti’s Inspirasi KL reading room in Taman Sri Manja on 15th February. During this raid, Sri Ram recalled the police removing a page from the Inspirasi KL reading room register book, which had a list of names of children who used the room.

The police followed up on this with two sessions of questioning Muslim children and youth who attended tuition or studied at the Inspirasi KL premises, with all these sessions conducted with neither lawyers nor guardians present. Some of these questions were religiously loaded queries, like asking a Muslim youth his religion, if he attended church and if the Bible was talked about in Inspirasi KL.

Sri Ram also recounted that during a session on 14th February, the police officer questioning him had asked whom Sri Ram thought had kidnapped Raymond: “I replied: ‘The police’.”

When asked later during the Inquiry why he had said this, Sri Ram replied that during his last meeting with Raymond in early January 2017, Raymond had confided that he was “still under pressure by the special branch”. Sri Ram continued: “I told Raymond that he was a marked man.”
In reply to a follow up question on this by Panel Chairperson Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai (“Dato’ Mah”), Sri Ram elaborated that he had based this on past experiences, including the 3rd August 2011 raid by JAIS on a Harapan Komuniti thanksgiving and fundraising dinner and the harassment faced by Harapan Komuniti and Raymond since then.

Sri Ram also referred to the harassment at immigration when Raymond travelled in and out of Malaysia, either alone or with his family, in 2011. (These episodes at Malaysian border control checkpoints had been recounted earlier by Susanna Liew in her own testimony to the Inquiry.)
Dato’ Mah later asked, “When you said to Raymond that he was a ‘marked man’, what was his reaction?”

“He agreed that he was a marked man,” Sri Ram replied.

Raymond’s 33-year old son Jonathan Koh was the next person called to testify at around 4:25pm. However, there was only enough time for him to read through his witness statement that was submitted to SUHAKAM on 31st July 2017 and to answer a few preliminary questions posed by SUHAKAM officer Shahizad Sulaiman and the Panel Commissioners.

Dato’ Mah adjourned the Inquiry at 5:00pm. The Inquiry will resume at 9am, 30th October, when Jonathan Koh will continue his testimony.

After today’s session, Dato’ Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar, one of the lawyers acting on behalf of Raymond Koh’s family, said: “We are pleased with the progress of the inquiry so far, especially with the participation of observers from the Malaysian Bar Council, EAIC and also the police”.

Source from Justice4RaymondKoh blog