Suhakam: Koh inquiry halted by law, not coercion

Suhakam panel member Datuk Mah Weng Kwai (right) speaking to family members of Pastor Raymond Koh after the press conference in Kuala Lumpur January 17, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Suhakam panel member Datuk Mah Weng Kwai (right) speaking to family members of Pastor Raymond Koh after the press conference in Kuala Lumpur January 17, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) clarified today that it suspended the inquiry into Pastor Raymond Koh’s disappearance as it was legally required to do so.

Criticising reports that suggested the commission was toothless after it received a letter from the police informing it of its legal obligations, Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai said he was “annoyed and irritated” by the portrayal.

“The impression given was that we obeyed the letter by the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun’s representative; this was never the case,” he said at a press conference held at the Suhakam office today.

“When we convened in the morning and after listening to representations from various lawyers, we made a decision that respecting the law was the utmost importance.”

He said that the commission was legally required by Section 12(3) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 to “immediately cease” an inquiry once the subject becomes a court case, which he said was highlighted in the letter received on Monday.

“We are a hundred per cent independent, no one is going to tell us what to do, we act in accordance to the law,” he said.

“The police have made a decision and, in fairness to the authorities, they should be given free run to prove their case in court.”

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail stressed that his commission was only standing down temporarily.

“We are as concerned as ever about this issue and in no way would Suhakam pull back from investigations, but we must respect the law,”

“We will continue with the two other cases and that doesn’t stop,” said Razali in reference to the disappearance of Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy, and his wife Ruth.

He added that Suhakam has written to the police to discuss the commission’s possible participation in the trial.

“When it comes to trial we want to play a very constructive role whenever we are allowed to.”

Present also were Suhakam commissioners Prof Datuk Aishah Bidin, Dr. Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh and Datuk Lok Yim Pheng and Jerald Joseph.

Part-time driver Lam Chang Nam, who claimed trial to extorting Koh’s son last year, was charged on Monday at Petaling Jaya magistrate’s court with Koh’s abduction.

Koh was abducted in February 2017, in broad daylight on a public road in Petaling Jaya, with his kidnapping captured by surveillance cameras.