Teoh’s death: Mysteries abound

Taken from Malaysiakini. Too many unanswered questions.

Teoh Beng Hock’s tragic death seems to have jolted this country from the euphoric daze induced by the media blitz that glorified Najib Razak’s premiership.

Staring starkly at the people now is the image of a rotten state of depraved institutions, of which the obnoxious Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) represents but the tip of an iceberg.

This rotten state was mercilessly exposed during the entire infamy known as the Perak power grab where none of the government institutions was spared from political manipulations to engage in unconstitutional and unlawful activities to satiate Umno’s obsession to seize and preserve power at all costs.

In this context, none should be so naive as not to recognise that Teoh is the victim of political persecution, the latest in a series of hardly concealed acts of subversion and sabotage against Pakatan Rakyat (PR) since the March 8, 2008 election exposed Umno’s precarious political future.

In the present incident, MACC is in the midst of an operation to destabilise the Pakatan-controlled Selangor state government through endeavours to prosecute PR assemblymen, for which it has been busy fabricating the necessary evidence through threats and coercion of potential witnesses.

And Teoh is clearly a victim of physical intimidation and mental torture under such a process. That this was the case was indicated by Kajang municipal councilor and businessman Tan Boon Wah, who was interrogated at the same time (though separately) as Teoh was interrogated (both of them were called in as witnesses, not suspects).

Tan described in graphic details how he was physically abused and mentally tortured to falsely admit (which he refused) that he did not supply the 1,500 flags at the price of RM 2,400 to the constituency (Seri Kembangan) of assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah (whose political secretary was Teoh), implying that Ean Yong had corruptly pocketed the money.

Teoh was understood to have been worked on to yield the result against Ean Yong. Tan also disclosed racial insults thrown at him during the interrogation, thus reinforcing an earlier allegation of racially biased persecution as all the seven assemblymen presently under investigation by MACC for suspicion of misappropriation of state allocations are ethnic Chinese.

This view was further collaborated by Dariff Din (a Malay assistant to assemblyman Lau Weng San), who was also interrogated at the same time as Teoh and Tan. Dariff said the interrogators were obsessed with his racial identity as he looked like a Chinese; and spent the bulk of the interrogation time just to make sure that he was as claimed – a Malay.

Dariff said: “Everything went smoothly after they learned that I was a Malay Muslim.” He added that from what he observed, MACC was merely “fishing for evidence against Pakatan assemblymen” without any specific clue of corruption.z

You scratch my back, I scratch yours

Against such background, the various authorities’ calls to the public not to hurl accusations but to trust the police to conduct a “professional and thorough” investigation is taken by many as an insult to their intelligence, as if the public is unaware that these two law enforcers – MACC and police – have long been perceived as routinely playing a game of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours.”

The latest being the MACC’s recent exoneration of the Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan of alleged fabrication of evidence in the Anwar “black eye” probe, despite the presentation of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary by Anwar Ibrahim. So, can any one be blamed for being skeptical, thinking that it is now pay-back time for the police to return MACC the favour?

Now that the police has said initial pathologists’ report indicated Teoh died of injury due to fall from a high place, the mystery is zeroed in on the circumstances surrounding Teoh’s fall from the building. It is here that serious doubts have surfaced over MACC’s version of what happened to Teoh.

Issue 1: Was Teoh ever released by MACC?

MACC chief commissioner Said Hamdan has disclaimed responsibility for Teoh’s death on the ground that Teoh was released before he met his death. His director of investigations Shukri Abdul had earlier claimed that Teoh was released at 3.30am on July 16, and was last seen at 6 am sleeping on a couch in the MACC office after been given permission to rest there.

The next MACC heard of Teoh was when a cleaner in the building shouted that he discovered a body lying on the 5th storey balcony of the building (Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam) where Teoh was interrogated on the 14th floor.

This story implies that Teoh walked out of the office on his own without being seen, sometime after 6am. But Teoh couldn’t have done that as he did not have the electronic card to open the door to either leave or enter the office.

If Teoh was released, surely his hand phone must have been returned to him. How come his hand phone was not with him when his body was found? Besides, there was no credibility that Teoh had chosen to linger in the same office where he must have been subjected to many hours of traumatic roughing-up in the hands of the interrogators.

Any reasonable person would have rushed home in the first instance to escape the dreadful place, considering that his car was conveniently parked in the same building and that he was scheduled to register his marriage with his loved one on the same day. If indeed Teoh was in custody all the time, why should MACC have concealed this fact if it did no wrong to cause Teoh’s death?

Issue 2: What happened between 1.30pm and 5pm?

Though Teoh’s body was discovered at 1.30, it was not until after 5pm that MACC disclosed the news to assemblymen Ean Yong and Ronnie Liu who had been waiting for over an hour in the MACC office insisting to meet Teoh. Why should MACC have hidden the news for so long unless there were compelling reasons which in all probability might not be guilt-free?

Issue 3: Why was the outer timber door of the MACC office unprecedentedly closed for some half an hour at the time when some one discovered Teoh’s body?

The Chinese section of Malaysiakini reported on July 17 that its reporter Rahmah Ghazali observed an inexplicable happening at the MACC office at the 14th floor, where the outer timber door was mysteriously shut between 1.15pm and 1.35pm, and re-opened shortly before 1.50pm on July 16.

Rahmah explained that she first arrived at the MACC’s 14th floor office at 1.15 to attend a press conference to be given by assemblyman Lau Weng San. Seeing that no one was around, she went down to the 4th floor to wait at the reception hall.

When other reporters arrived at 1.30, she followed them to the 14th floor again, but was surprised to find the outer timber door of the MACC office closed; it was then about 1.35.

Thinking that the staff could have closed the door to go for lunch, she and other reporters went down for food. She then called Lau who expressed disbelief that the timber door was closed, as MACC was supposed to operate around the clock.

Knowing that Lau was already on the way, she decided to skip lunch and went back to 14th floor, and found the timber door re-opened this time; the time was about 1.50. Lau arrived at 2pm. After talking to reporters for about 20 minutes outside the MACC office, he went in to make a report. Of course, none of them knew that Teoh was already dead then.

1.30 was the time when some one discovered Teoh’s body. Why did MACC take the unprecedented step to shut down the office briefly, closing the door between 1.15 and 1.35, and re-opening the door at shortly before 1.50?

What did the staff do behind that timber door at that crucial moment that they would not want outsiders to see? The mystery seems to deepen.

In summary, it is apparent that MACC is holding far too many secrets that it has not shared with the public over this tragedy, which is aptly defined by Lim Kit Siang as “how a healthy, vibrant and idealistic young political worker could enter the MACC headquarters as a witness in its investigation only to end up as a corpse in a plunge from the 14th floor of the building.”

Entrusting the full responsibility on any of the existing law-enforcing agencies to unlock these secrets would not do, as none enjoys public confidence.

There is no option but to appoint a royal commission of inquiry comprised of competent individuals whom the public trust to handle the present mess, if Najib does not want the mistrust of his leadership to deepen.

And not a minute is to be wasted for this commission to spring into action, if vital clues needed to establish the truth is not to be lost forever.

Kim Quek is a political analyst and PKR member