First published in the New Straits Times on 17 July 2019 here.
IT has been 10 years since the “mysterious” death of Teoh Beng Hock, the aide of a Selangor state executive councillor being investigated for his use of allocation funds in 2009.
Monday, July 15 was the anniversary of his death. To date, no party or individual has been charged.
A quick refresher: Teoh was held overnight at Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Selangor headquarters to have his statement taken, but died the next day, having “fallen” to his death.
The MACC report claimed that Teoh committed suicide, but the Royal Commission of Inquiry concluded that he was driven to suicide.
However, in September 2014, the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that Teoh’s death was caused by multiple injuries from a fall from the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam, as a result of an unlawful act or acts of persons unknown, inclusive of MACC officers who were involved in his arrest and detention.
The state of Teoh’s consciousness prior to his fall is a crucial pillar of the suicide theory.
Three different forensic pathologists who were present at the second post-mortem — Dr Shahidan Mohd Noor, Dr Peter Vanezis and Dr Porntip Rojanasunan — concluded that Teoh sustained a pre-fall injury at the neck region, which the inquest’s coroner also agreed with, and the Court of Appeal referred to when concluding that there was foul play.
Dr Porntip held that he wasn’t conscious, as did one Court of Appeal judge.
If Teoh wasn’t conscious, how could he have committed suicide?
The Attorney-General recently decided to investigate Teoh’s case under section 342 of the Penal Code (wrongful confinement) instead of section 304 (culpable homicide).
Here are some aspects which should be included in the course of the investigation.
MATCH THE DNA FOUND ON TEOH’S BELT
The second DNA report prepared by Dr Seah Lay Hong stated that the DNA of “one other unknown male contributor” was detected at Teoh’s waist belt. This male contributor, who was in close proximity to Teoh before he died, has remained unidentified.
Re-collect DNA samples of all officers who were at the MACC Selangor premises on July 15 and 16 (2009) to match that of the “unknown male contributor”.
AUTHENTICATE THE ANONYMOUS LETTER BY MACC OFFICERS
According to the Malaysian Bar’s RCI submission, an anonymous letter dated Aug 5, 2009 written on an MACC letterhead made multiple allegations.
One of the allegations include that Hishamuddin Hashim (the MACC officer in charge of the operation) initially evaded the collection of his DNA sample, but later gave it in the privacy of his own office room; that it was his unique method of interrogation where he would “hold and lift a person by his belt from the front and shake him vigorously”; and that he had instructed his officers to wipe away fingerprints from the window where Teoh fell from.
The prime minister and MACC chief should make an open call for the author(s) of the anonymous letter to come forward.
The author(s) should be guaranteed protection under the Witness Protection Act 2009 (Act 696). Authenticating the letter means the investigators can use the letter’s contents.
INTERVIEW ALL OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THE CASE AGAIN
All officers involved in Teoh’s arrest and detention should be recalled for interviews.
In fact, all officers working in MACC Putrajaya and Selangor as at July 2009 should be interviewed. Those who reveal information should be guaranteed protection under the Witness Protection Act 2009.
LOCATE TEOH’S ORIGINAL STATEMENT
Teoh was interviewed twice during the course of that fateful night. The first was between 10pm and midnight on July 15, 2009, with no official statement taken. The second was between 1.30am and 3.50am on July 16, 2009, the statement of which was recorded, according to MACC.
But to date, the original statement with his original signature has never been produced. It is missing.
Only copies of the statement were made available to the RCI.
The MACC under the new chief should attempt to locate the original statement with the original signature.
COMPARE SAMPLES OF TEOH’S HANDWRITING TO ’MYSTERY NOTE’
More than a year after the inquest began, the police produced a “mystery note” which they said was found in Teoh’s backpack.
The handwriting experts were unable to match the handwriting with Teoh’s writing because no samples of Teoh’s writing was provided to the inquest or RCI.
Handwritten documents should be requested from Teoh’s family so that handwriting experts can compare them against the “mystery” note.
INVESTIGATE MACC OFFICERS FOR CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY AND OTHER OFFENCES
The relevant officers should be investigated for a range of offences as recommended by the Bar in its RCI submission.
The submission also stated that they were involved in criminal conspiracy in the cover-up of Teoh’s death, giving false evidence and fabricating evidence with respect to Teoh’s death, and that they destroyed and tampered with evidence with the intent of saving a person from punishment with respect to Teoh’s death.
It has been 10 long years of waiting. It is hoped the investigation will expand beyond merely wrongful confinement.
Time for a closure. The family and public can wait no longer.
The writer managed the case of Teoh Beng Hock’s death on behalf of the Selangor state government in 2009