No proof to support coordinated cover-up by cops, oversight body tells RCI

EAIC chairman A Aziz A Rahim.

PUTRAJAYA: The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) decided not to investigate an alleged “coordinated cover-up” by the police in the discovery of human trafficking camps and graves in Perlis as there was no evidence to support this, a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) was told today.

EAIC chairman A Aziz A Rahim said this was decided at a meeting of the commission on Feb 6 last year, where he raised the issue.

“I raised this at a meeting. We discussed and decided there was no evidence to support allegations of a coordinated cover-up.

“At the borders, it is not just the police carrying out duties. The customs, immigration, military and the general operations force (GOF) are also there. If there was a cover-up, they would all be implicated,” he told the inquiry today.

Aziz said the decision was reached after taking into account several factors — police had taken action, there was no misconduct and the news report by the New Straits Times (NST) on the alleged cover-up did not pinpoint any police officers.

“If we were to take action, we needed to identify who was responsible. The report referred to the force as a whole.

“We needed to know who these officers were. It would not be fair if we charged the whole force,” he said.

Former New Straits Times Press (NSTP) investigative editor Farrah Naz Abd Karim had co-authored a Dec 20, 2017 article with NST reporter Aliza Shah Muhammad Shah alleging that police had discovered the human trafficking camps in January 2015 — not May 2015 as officially announced.

She said this pointed to a “coordinated cover-up”.

Farrah, together with then NST executive editor Muzli Md Zin, were invited by the EAIC to assist in its investigation into possible police misconduct at the Malaysia-Thailand border on Jan 23, 2018.

Farrah said at the end of the two-hour session, EAIC officials had told her that there were enough grounds to open an investigation.

In previous inquiry proceedings, Farrah had claimed that EAIC decided not to investigate the alleged police misconduct in the discovery of human trafficking camps and graves in Perlis after a closed-door meeting with the top management of the police force.

In clearing the air, Aziz said he did not recall ever saying there were enough grounds to open an investigation, but claimed he said “we will look into it”.

On the closed-door meeting with the police top brass, Aziz said the visit had already been planned earlier, before they met the NST representatives.

“We met with then IGP Mohamad Fuzi Harun for networking purposes. When we wrote to the police, they gave us a date after Jan 23, 2018 to meet not just Fuzi, but all senior police officers.

“It is not right if the impression given was that we went to see the police after meeting NST representatives,” he said, adding that the meeting was pre-arranged.

Aziz said that during the courtesy call on the police, many things were discussed as the police force was one of the agencies that EAIC monitors.

“As an agency monitoring the conduct of the police, we raised many issues. If our probe shows misconduct, then we make recommendations, such as sacking them.

“Therefore, since we had information from NST on Wang Kelian, when we met the IGP, we took the opportunity to ask him what happened at Wang Kelian.”

Aziz said police briefed them on what action was taken in Wang Kelian, such as the teams going to the sites and demolishing several structures.

“In the discussions we had with the police, we did not raise what was discussed with NST. We merely asked the police to tell us what happened in Wang Kelian.

“In our opinion, action had already been taken by the police. They had done something. Whether or not it was enough, that is a different question. There was no issue of a cover-up.”

Aziz also pointed out that the incident in Wang Kelian took place in 2015, but investigations were carried out from 2017.

“At that time, the graves had already been exposed. There was no more physical evidence. In terms of the time frame, it was already a cold case,” he said, adding that even if they had gone to the site, they would not have found anything there.

Aziz said if there had really been a cover-up, EAIC would have investigated it. He said during their investigations, they needed to get their facts right and not just listen to one side. This was why they verified facts with the police.

The mass graves, 139 in total, and 28 abandoned camps were discovered at Bukit Wang Burma in Wang Kelian, near the Malaysia-Thailand border.

Over 100 skeletal remains, believed to be that of Rohingya refugees, were found in the graves.

The government at the time was criticised for the lack of action against top officials. Although four individuals were charged in court, critics said these were merely small-time traffickers.