Who is Roger Tan, the lawyer in Pastor Koh and Amri’s task force?

Senior lawyer Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee is one of the two latest additions to the special task force probing the high-profile enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat. — Picture via RTNP.my
Senior lawyer Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee is one of the two latest additions to the special task force probing the high-profile enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat. — Picture via RTNP.my

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — Senior lawyer Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee is one of the two latest additions to the special task force probing the high-profile enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat, but who is he?

Tan is currently serving as a Bar Council member, but his peers and his long list of achievements can easily attest that his appointment is not mere tokenism for better diversity in the government’s seven-man task force.

Here’s a quick look by Malay Mail at Tan’s background, based on his law firm’s website and publicly available information:

Tan, who was born in Yong Peng, Johor and has a law firm in his home state, graduated with a law degree from Queen Mary College, University of London and also holds a master of law from the National University of Singapore.

Trained as a barrister of the UK’s Gray’s Inn, Tan was admitted as a lawyer in peninsular Malaysia in October 1989 and is also qualified to practise as a lawyer in Singapore.

Throughout his 30-year career, Tan had actively contributed to the legal community, including as Bar Council member for the years 2004 to 2009, during which he was also the webmaster for the Malaysian Bar’s website which he went on to redesign.

Lawyers who backed his offer to be a Bar Council member for the current term of 2019-2020 had listed Tan’s long list of positions in the Bar Council, including as deputy chair of its IT and Cyber Laws Committee (2004-2005), chairman of its Conveyancing Practice Committee (2006-2008) and also chairman of its National Young Lawyers Committee (2008-2009).

Tan was also the organising chairman of the 14th Malaysian Law Conference in 2007, and had returned as Bar Council member for the 2017-2018 term besides also coming back to chair its Conveyancing Practice committee since 2016.

He is also on the Advocates & Solicitors Disciplinary Board for the term 2017-2019, a role which he had previously served in 2013 to 2015.

Here to serve

Tan is no stranger to public service or work done to assist the government, as he is said to have acted as an external legal consultant since 1992 for the Johor government and federal statutory bodies in matters such as privatisation and joint ventures.

Besides having acted as the first company secretary of several investment units of the Johor government, Tan is also listed to have been involved in the drafting of several Johor laws on water supply and federal laws relating to housing developers and the management of solid waste.

Tan was also a board member of the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation of Malaysia for a maximum permitted six-year term from 2009 to 2015, and was a National Water Services Commission of Malaysia (SPAN) commissioner from 2009 to 2017.

His love for the nation can be seen when he was interviewed several years ago by local daily The Star, where he acknowledged how being a SPAN commissioner was a “sacrifice” for lawyers who are actively practising.

“When I was appointed in 2009, the monthly allowance was a meagre RM1,200. It was later increased to RM2,000 with a RM500 meeting allowance. Much of my time was spent away from my firm but nothing beats the joy of serving your country,” he was quoted saying.

In a message on his Twitter account following his July 10 appointment to the special task force, Tan humbly said: “Thank you for all your messages but please do not congratulate me. I accept this appointment with full knowledge that it comes with a very huge responsibility together with the public’s expectation for truth and justice. ❤ #malaysia”

Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said Tan is suited for the new task. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said Tan is suited for the new task. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

A vote of confidence

Malay Mail spoke to Tan’s fellow lawyers, and here is what they have to say regarding his appointment:

Malaysian Bar president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said: “It’s a recognition of a member of the Bar by the present government and we welcome the move. Roger Tan is a senior and experienced council member and is fit for the job.”

Former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan told Malay Mail that she was “very heartened” to see that Tan has been included in the task force.

“I have known Roger since we were both Bar council members many years ago. He completely revamped the Bar website and made it come alive. He undertook difficult tasks and dealt with them responsibly, professionally and with integrity.

“He played a major role in galvanising support for the Bar’s Walk for Justice. He was one of the most hardworking members of Council, and I have no doubt he will be an asset in a task force that demands nothing less than the highest level of courage, transparency and independence,” she said.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan praised Tan for his integrity and professionalism.— Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan praised Tan for his integrity and professionalism.— Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Ragunath Kesavan, also a former Malaysian Bar president, hailed Tan’s inclusion as a “good appointment”.

“I have full trust and confidence in Roger Tan. I have known him as a Council member and fellow lawyer for at least 15 years and he is well respected and principled and I am sure he will ensure that the truth prevails,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Datuk Lim Chee Wee, who was also previously the Malaysian Bar’s president, expressed similar confidence in Tan as he embarks on his new role.

“Roger Tan is an honest, independent, courageous, intelligent and trustworthy man who will do the right thing. I am confident that he will leave no stone unturned to get to the truth of this tragedy,” Lim told Malay Mail.

On July 10, the Home Ministry named Tan along with MACC’s inspection and consultancy division assistant commissioner Azian Umar as the two new additions to the special task force.

Their appointments came after it was hinted that a non-Malay and another individual would be joining the task force, to replace the police’s former legal division head Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Noor who had voluntarily pulled out after public concern over possible perceived conflict of interest.

The Malaysian Bar yesterday commended Moktar for his decision as it noted the importance of preserving the task force’s image of impartiality and to have its findings seen as credible, while also welcoming both Azian’s and Tan’s appointments.

Norhayati Mohd Arifin and Susanna Koh attend the announcement of Suhakam’s public inquiry findings into the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat in Kuala Lumpur April 3, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Norhayati Mohd Arifin and Susanna Koh attend the announcement of Suhakam’s public inquiry findings into the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat in Kuala Lumpur April 3, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Koh’s wife Susanna, however, yesterday raised concerns regarding the task force’s chairman and former High Court judge Datuk Abd Rahim Uda and two of its original members Datuk Muhammad Bukhari Ab. Hamid (Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission’s operations division director) and Datuk Zamri Yahya (director of the police’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department (JIPS).

The two other members of the task force, who were not disputed, are 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).

The Malaysian Bar yesterday also said it was “extremely urgent” for the terms of reference to be made public, a call that was similarly made by Koh’s wife.

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.

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