KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — The Home Ministry confirmed today that Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Noor has withdrawn from the government task force that will look into the enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat.
The ministry said the former police legal unit chief pulled out on his own so as to not affect the credibility of the task force due to potential conflict of interest as alleged by several civil society groups.
“Several establishments have questioned the government's appointment of Mokhtar as some felt he was directly involved in the disappearance of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat,” the ministry said in a statement.
However, it defended Mokhtar’s appointment and panned the alleged conflict of interest as baseless.
“The allegations are baseless as he is not an investigation officer nor a witness in the case. His appointment was made solely on the basis of his expertise and knowledge as Bukit Aman’s former legal unit chief who could help the task force,” the ministry said in justifying the choice of Mokhtar.
The ministry thanked Mokhtar for his services and lauded his sensitivity towards the public outcry and his willingness to step aside.
“We will decide on his replacement soon in the meantime we thank him for his commitment towards finding justice for the victims’ families,” it added.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin came under fire from non-governmental organisations, including Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances, Eliminating Death and Abuse in Custody, Proham and Patriot over the composition of the task force.
They questioned the impartiality of some of the members, most notably Mokhtar, who was in the same division implicated in the flawed investigation into Amri’s abduction and later in the team representing the police during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) inquiry of both Ambri and Koh, which concluded that both activists were victims of enforced disappearances.
Two days ago Muhyiddin, said that Mokhtar had attended only one session of the Suhakam inquiry and was not directly involved in the investigations.
The rest of the task force members are Zamri Yahya, who is Bukit Aman's Integrity and Standard Compliance Department director, Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission operations director Muhammad Bukhari Abdul Hamid, legal officer at the Public Prosecution Division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers Mohd Sophian Zakaria, and Mohd Russaini Idrus, secretary at the Police Force Commission for the Home Ministry.
Koh, 64, was abducted by a group of masked men while driving in Kelana Jaya, Selangor on February 13, 2017, while Amri, 44, a co-founder of Perlis Hope Welfare Association, disappeared on November 24, 2016.