Reporter says ex-IGP wanted Thais to announce discovery of graves first

Former New Straits Times Press investigative reporter Aliza Shah Muhammad Shah.

PUTRAJAYA: Former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar announced the discovery of mass graves and human trafficking camps in Wang Kelian four months late to allow Thailand to “blow up” the revelation first, a reporter told the Wang Kelian royal commission of inquiry.

Former New Straits Times Press (NSTP) investigative reporter Aliza Shah Muhammad Shah said Khalid confirmed off-record that the police had indeed discovered the Wang Burma camp and graves in January 2015, and not in May 2015, as officially announced. However, she was told to stop recording.

She told the inquiry Khalid had said the announcement was delayed to May 2015 due to an agreement with counterparts in Thailand.

“He told me he had wanted to ‘let them ‘blow’ it up first’,” she told the inquiry.

He also told her not to report this matter as Thailand may otherwise be angry with him.

Aliza told the inquiry she had met Khalid after being informed that he was attending a bowling event on Oct 10, 2015.

She said she wanted to confirm if the police had discovered the Wang Burma camp and graves four months earlier than announced.

“I had already sent him a WhatsApp message but he did not reply. When I met him, he told me he purposely did not reply as he feared getting a ‘screenshot’ of his message spread.”

She said she later met with then Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi before publishing her exclusive with her editor, Farrah Naz Abd Karim, who was the witness at the RCI before her.

Previously, Farrah told the inquiry that they had gone against convention and shown Zahid documents they had received anonymously as proof, before asking for his comments.

“The minister heard what we had to say and promised to look into the issue thoroughly (‘lihat isu ini sehingga ke akar umbi’),” Aliza said.

Aliza and Farrah jointly authored a Dec 20, 2017 NST exclusive report alleging that police had discovered the human trafficking camps in January 2015, and not in May 2015, as officially announced. They said this had pointed to a “coordinated cover-up”.

Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria leads the inquiry panel. The other panel members are former IGP Norian Mai, Noorbahri Baharuddin, Razali Ismail, Junaidah Abd Rahman, Nazirah Hussain and Tan Seng Giaw. Yusran Shah Yusof is the secretary of the RCI.

Hearing at the RCI resumes on May 14.