Task force has lot of ‘spade work’ to do, says ex-Suhakam commissioner

Former Suhakam commissioner Mah Weng Kwai.

PETALING JAYA: Former Suhakam commissioner Mah Weng Kwai has welcomed the setting up of a special task force to investigate the findings of its recent inquiry into the disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat.

Mah, who chaired the inquiry, said there was still a lot more to do in finding out what happened to both the activists, adding that there was no way to tell when investigations might finish.

“This announcement is coming almost one and a half months after our report, which was made on April 3.

“So I think it is welcome news,” he told FMT after Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the Cabinet had given the green light to the formation of the task force.

Muhyiddin said his ministry took seriously Suhakam’s inquiry findings that Bukit Aman’s Special Branch was behind the disappearances of Amri and Koh.

He also said that six or seven people will make up the task force, with police members to be included as well, provided they do not have anything to do with these two cases.

Mah said a special task force was one of the main recommendations that Suhakam, or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, had made when announcing its findings after a one-year inquiry.

Mah, who is also a former Court of Appeal judge, called on the special task force to endeavour to carry out its investigations as thoroughly as possible.

“There’s a lot of ‘spade work’ that needs to be done,” he said, adding that several witnesses did not have their statements recorded during the inquiry and the police need to seek them out.

Mah also said it was unrealistic to give the task force a time frame to finish their investigations.

He said this would depend on how detailed and in-depth their investigations are going to be, for a start.

“I think the time factor is not really that important so long as it’s ongoing,” he said.

“I mean, I don’t think anyone can realistically say, ‘Oh, you must wrap up your investigations in one week or two weeks.’ I think that’s not being fair.

“They should take their own time and as long as this is ongoing, hopefully, they can get to the final results,” he said.

Suhakam, in its inquiry into the disappearance of Amri and several others, held that both activists were the victims of enforced disappearances.

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

Koh was accused of proselytisation of Muslims, a claim strongly denied by his family. His abduction was caught on a closed-circuit TV camera.

Amri was reportedly harassed over his leanings towards Shia Islam, the school of thought which Malaysian religious authorities label as “deviant”.

Pressure has since been mounting for action against top police officers, including former inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who headed the Special Branch when the abductions took place.

Mah had later assured the police that Suhakam was not out on a witch-hunt against the force and defended the commission’s findings after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad came out to say it was based on hearsay.