Pressure mounts on task force to probe duo’s disappearance

Pastor Raymond Koh (left) and activist Amri Che Mat

PETALING JAYA: Pressure is building on the task force set up to investigate the disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat with a dozen more organisations objecting to its membership.

The organisations hit out at the composition of the task force announced by the home ministry for its “indisputable” conflict of interest, and the “lack of will” to bring justice to the families of the victims.

In a statement, 10 civil society organisations stressed that the task force must be independent and not mired in conflict of interest or biasness.

Otherwise, it would be seen as a “whitewashing force”, set up to hide rather than uncover the truth behind the disappearance of the duo, they said.

The organisations are ENGAGE, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, LLG Cultural Development Centre, Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, Pusat KOMAS, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Tamil Foundation Malaysia, United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia, and University of Malaya Association of New Youth.

They said they were disappointed with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that he cannot please everyone with the composition of the task force.

“It is not a case of pleasing everyone but of prioritising justice for the families of the victims and for those seeking the truth and genuine closure in this case,” their statement added.

“The composition of the task force only seems to please the perpetrators and this is unacceptable.

“Justice for the victims and their family members has been delayed for many years due to the previous government’s apathy.

“The composition of the current task force would only further deny justice for these victims of enforced disappearance. This will only serve to further the suspicions and even accusations of government complicity in their disappearance.”

The organisations described as “absurb” the stand that the task force would only begin investigating Koh’s case after the conclusion of the pending criminal prosecution.

“Suhakam was faced with an identical conundrum in the early phase of its inquiry but it was established that the case had no factual correlation to the disappearance,” they said.

They called on Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to remedy the situation and ensure public confidence in the task force.

“The revised membership should take into account the views of the affected families and civil society organisations that have been following this case closely,” they said.

In a separate statement, the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) said it was astonished that Muhyiddin had disregarded the basic principle of avoiding conflict of interest when he approved the list of task force members.

“We echo the sentiments expressed by Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) and the family members in respect of the indisputable conflict of interest faced by three out of six of the members of the task force,” Proham chairman Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari and secretary-general Ivy Josiah said in the statement.

They said Abd Rahim Uda, Mokhtar Mohd Noor and Zamri Yahya should not have been appointed.

“Another gross failing in the choice of members is the absence of any unbiased, professional and reputable investigator with firsthand practical knowledge of the workings of PDRM.

“The home minister appears to have completely missed the terms of reference of the task force.

“The task force must review police records and testimony which were not made available to the Suhakam inquiry purportedly due to the Official Secrets Act and established practices in relation to ongoing cases.

“The task force must also do the basic investigative work which police officers, in their testimony before Suhakam, admitted had not been done. Such work can only be done by exercising police powers such as obtaining relevant evidence and tracing and recording statements from witnesses.”

They said the task force must include one or more members of civil society to ensure transparency, adding that failure to revamp its composition would result in the loss of public trust.

Meanwhile, the National Patriots Association (Patriot) criticised the apparent lack of will on the part of the authorities to bring the matter to a close.

“The composition of the task force members does not inspire the confidence of the people. There were no terms of reference mentioned. Is the role of the task force to start an inquiry all over again?” its president Mohamed Arshad Raji asked in a statement.

“Patriot expects the home affairs minister to act decisively and bring to book the culprits responsible for the forced disappearance of persons, irrespective of their position and rank.

“If the minister fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the Cabinet to act accordingly. No more procrastination.”