Penang bishop seeks answers over ‘enforced disappearances’

Roman Catholic Diocese of Penang’s Bishop Sebastian Francis.

GEORGE TOWN: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Penang’s Bishop Sebastian Francis today hoped for a “rational” answer over alleged clandestine abductions of religious personalities, following a damning report by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) recently.

He said the concern was not just for the Christian personalities who have gone missing, but also others who have gone missing, as alleged by Suhakam.

“There has to be an inquiry and accountability on the part of the authorities to give a rational explanation that is acceptable to the people at large for what happened to not just Pastor Raymond Koh, but all others who are missing.

“We welcome Suhakam’s report and we hope that it will be followed up by the relevant authorities,” he said when met at the Catholic Diocesan Centre here today.

Last week, Suhakam declared Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat and others to be victims of “enforced disappearance” after its one-year inquiry which heard testimony from some 40 witnesses.

Pressure has since been mounting for action against top police officers, including outgoing Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who headed the Special Branch at the time the abductions took place.

Koh was abducted on Feb 13, 2017, in Petaling Jaya, while Amri went missing on Nov 24, 2016, after leaving his home in Perlis.

Amri, a Perlis-based forex trader and activist who runs a charity organisation, is believed to be a Shia follower and had in the past been questioned over his beliefs by state Islamic authorities.

Komuniti Shia Malaysia, a group representing followers of Shia Islam, the school of thought frowned upon by Malaysian Islamic authorities, had earlier called for a royal commission of inquiry to be instituted as a follow-up to the Suhakam findings.

Also reported missing together with Amri and Koh were Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth Sitepu, who were Christian converts.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a probe into Fuzi will begin once he retires on May 4.