KUALA LUMPUR: Insurance salesman Peter Pormannan, the first witness at the public inquiry into missing pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu, said religious authorities were looking for Joshua after he converted from Islam to Christianity.
“Two years after I met Joshua, he told me that religious authorities were looking for him,” he said, adding that he believed it was related to Joshua’s conversion.
Pormannan said this at the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) public inquiry.
Suhakam officers during the inquiry then asked Pormannan if Joshua was investigated or threatened by the religious authorities.
To this, Pormannan said Joshua was not threatened.
“Joshua also told me that his IC (MyKad) stated that he was a Muslim and he wanted to take it out since he was a Christian,” Peter added.
Ruth, an Indonesian, is represented by lawyer Philip Koh. Her brother and sister were present during the inquiry.
Joshua and Ruth were last seen on Nov 30, 2016.
They were married in Oct 2004.
The inquiry is tentatively being held over 14 days, between today and April 29. It is chaired by commissioner Hishamuddin Yunus, assisted by commissioners Jerald Joseph and Madeline Berma.
Pormannan said he first met Joshua and Ruth in 2012 in Klang, after which they kept in touch. He said Joshua had no place to live and he had offered the couple his late mother-in-law’s house in Kampung Jawa after her death.
They lived in Kampung Jawa for about a year. During this time, they constantly kept in touch and Joshua told Pormannan that he had converted to Christianity.
Pormannan said Joshua and Ruth then shifted to Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya.
He said on the day they disappeared, Joshua had been agitated after receiving a phone call where he told the caller: “I am not disturbing you, why are you disturbing me.”
After the phone call, Joshua and Ruth left the house in a Perodua Kancil and have been missing since, he said.
Pormannan said his two children had stayed with Joshua and Ruth as it was nearer for them to attend college.
One of the children, Grace Thangamalar, lived in Kampung Tunku with the couple from 2015 to 2017.
Grace said Joshua and Ruth were disturbed after receiving the phone call, adding that one of the tenants told her that there was an argument over the phone.
She also said that Joshua and Ruth would allow people who needed help to live in their home and prior to the phone call, there was a Malay family who had stayed in the house for a few hours.
“The family came about 1am and left at 6am. Ruth told us that problems had cropped up after the family left,” she added.
The 27-year-old, who works as a logistics executive in Klang, told her father that the couple was missing after a month.
While her father was called several times to give his statement to the police, Grace said she was only called by the police last Tuesday to give her statement.
Suhakam had also conducted public inquiries into the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat.
The conclusion in the two cases was that both Raymond and Amri were victims of enforced disappearance and that Koh, in particular, was abducted by Bukit Aman’s Special Branch.
The public inquiry is to assist the authorities with their ongoing investigation into the disappearances of Joshua and Ruth and to identify the best possible recommendations and work on these with appropriate parties.
It is also to determine if they are victims of enforced disappearance and to consider whether the authorities, specifically the police, have taken adequate steps in investigating the case.