PUTRAJAYA: A former state police chief today said former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar told him to “hold on” regarding all aspects of an investigation into the discovery of mass graves and human trafficking camps in Wang Kelian three years ago.
Former Perlis police chief Zul Aznam Haron told the royal commission of inquiry into the mass graves discovery that he had called Khalid on Jan 20, 2015 to inform him of the detention of 38 illegal immigrants and the discovery of a suspected human trafficking camp and grave-like structures.
Zul, the 16th witness, said: “The exact words he (Khalid) used were ‘hold on’ because this matter needed preparation and an investigation that was more comprehensive.
“He said this case would have a big impact on the country and involved foreign nationals,” he told the inquiry panel.
Zul also crossed swords with Razali Ismail, one of the members of the RCI, who observed that the police lacked “professionalism”.
Zul countered Razali, who is the former Suhakam chairman, by saying Razali did not have locus standi in police matters.
“As a retired police officer, I understand how the police work. But maybe you do not. To me, leave it (police matters) to the police. We know what we are doing,” Zul told him.
He also said he and his then deputy state police chief, Muhd Zukir Muhd Isa, had never ordered the “total demolition” of the camp found on top of the Wang Burma hill on Jan 19, 2015.
“The order was to destroy some parts of the camp and not to destroy the grave structures,” he said.
This reinforced the testimony of Zukir, the 14th witness, who had said that during a monthly meeting that he chaired on Jan 20, 2015, he had only instructed a partial demolition of certain areas to make the area unliveable for other illegal immigrants.
He said he had chaired the meeting in place of Zul because his superior had either been off on that day or had other matters to attend to.
He said the meeting was attended by representatives of the Special Branch of Perlis, the National Security Council and General Operations Force (GOF), among others.
Zukir said he gave the instruction after listening to a briefing by ASP Joeking Marian Anthony, the commander of Company B at Battalion 3 of the General Operations Force (GOF), about his team having detained 38 illegal immigrants and discovering a jungle camp on top of a hill in the Wang Kelian area with grave-like structures nearby.
Zukir added that he had instructed the CID and the forensics team, with assistance from the GOF, to investigate the grave-like structures and to determine if they were really graves.
He said he had received approval from Zul on this.
This contradicted Joeking’s earlier testimony to the RCI. He said he had only briefed the deputy state police chief on the raid carried out by 10 of his men on the jungle camp, the detention of 38 illegal immigrants at the foot of Wang Burma hill and the discovery of a possible human trafficking site.
He told the RCI that he only found out about the graves after receiving instructions to destroy the site.
“This is not true,” Zukir told the panel.
Zukir added that Joeking was interrupted by the then head of Padang Besar district police headquarters, Rizani Che Ismail, who said Joeking had “left something out” during his briefing.
“ASP Joeking was taken off guard. He then told those at the meeting about also finding structures which appeared like graves,” Zukri said.
He added that he had never intended the instruction to be perceived as a cover-up or a move to destroy evidence.
“In my opinion, I never intended for them to destroy the evidence. If we had not destroyed certain parts of the camp, I had felt that most likely, it might be used by other illegal immigrants.
“What I had meant was the destruction of parts of the camp, such as the canvas tents, water tanks and electricity supply. Not a total demolition,” he told the panel.
The RCI was set up by the home ministry to look into the discovery of mass graves and human trafficking camps at Wang Kelian in 2015.
Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria leads the inquiry panel. Other panel members are former inspector-general of police Norian Mai, Noorbahri Baharuddin, Razali Ismail, Junaidah Abd Rahman, Nazirah Hussain and Tan Seng Giaw. Yusran Shah Yusof is the secretary of the RCI.