KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — The government’s special task force probing the enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat has received two new members, following the withdrawal of a former police officer over concerns of alleged conflict of interest.
In making the announcement, the Home Ministry today said it had taken into account the public’s views that the special task force should have a more balanced and independent composition.
“In relation to that, the Home Ministry has appointed a new member to fill in the vacancy left by a member who had previously withdrawn and one additional member,” it said in a statement today.
The Home Ministry named the duo as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s inspection and consultancy division assistant commissioner Azian Umar and independent lawyer Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee.
With these two new appointments, the previously six-man task force will now have seven members.
The Home Ministry also clarified that only one of the current line-up of the task force members is from the police, namely Datuk Zamri Yahya who is the director of the police’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department (JIPS), explaining that he plays an essential role.
“His membership is important to help smoothen the special task force’s proceedings as JIPS has the power under the law to call any police members to attend to testify,” the ministry said.
“With the appointment of these two new members, it is hoped that this special task force will be able to carry out its entrusted duties efficiently and with integrity without raising any prejudice or suspicion from any quarters,” the ministry added.
On June 26, the Home Ministry announced the appointment of six members to the task force, namely its chairman and former High Court judge Datuk Abd Rahim Uda, Zamri, Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Noor (former head of the police’s legal division), Datuk Muhammad Bukhari Ab. Hamid ( Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission’s operations division director), Mohd Sophian Zakaria (legal officer in the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ prosecution division) and the task force’s secretary Mohd Russaini Idrus (the Home Ministry’s Police Commission’s division secretary).
In making the announcement, the ministry said the Cabinet had on May 8, 2019 agreed to the formation of the task force, adding that it would probe the report by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on the latter’s inquiry into Amri’s case, but would defer a probe on Koh’s case to avoid purported sub judice pending a related trial in court.
On the same day as the unveiling of the panel’s line-up on June 26, both Amri and Koh’s families issued statements raised concerns over the task force’s composition, singling out Mokhtar as having led the police division that was allegedly implicated in the alleged flawed probe of Amri’s case and as having represented the police at the Suhakam inquiry.
Koh’s family had also then highlighted the lack of diversity in the team which then did not include any woman or those from other races or religions to reflect Malaysia’s composition, and the government’s alleged failure to take into account their June 10 suggestion for a more “balanced, independent, transparent and representative” task force with the inclusion of members such as from the MACC, the Bar Council and an NGO representative.
Criticisms over the task force’s composition also came in from several non-governmental organisations, including Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances, Eliminating Death and Abuse in Custody, Proham and Patriot.
On July 2, the Home Ministry announced that Mokhtar had voluntarily pulled out of the task force due to his sense of responsibility in preserving its integrity, thanking him for his willingness to take into account public concerns over his position to avoid affecting the credibility of the task force’s investigation and report in the future.
The Home Ministry had however also clarified then that Mokhtar was appointed due to his professionalism and expertise with broad knowledge of the legal issues relating to the police. The ministry also denied that he was directly involved in the cases of Koh and Amri, asserting that he is not a witness, nor the investigating officer for both cases.
Last Sunday, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin revealed that a replacement has been identified for Mokhtar, also noting that it was possible that a non-Malay could also join the team as an additional member.
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.