KUALA LUMPUR (June 28): Two senior lawyers have questioned the formation of a task force to investigate the disappearance of Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat, citing improprieties in its establishment and panel appointments.
Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu called its formation Pakatan Harapan’s “biggest blunder” as the appointment of former Royal Malaysian Police Legal unit chief Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Noor as one of the five panel members is clearly a conflict of interest, given his participation in the original Suhakam inquiry over the disappearances.
He was one of the conducting officers in the inquiry and had made submissions in the presence of a representative from the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), which is tasked with overseeing law enforcement agencies and officers.
In April, Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) had concluded that Bukit Aman’s Special Branch were likely to be responsible for the disappearance of Koh and Amri.
"I know Mokhtar personally and he is a good man but I think his position is conflicted," he told theedgemarkets.com.
"I personally feel the task force would be a waste of taxpayers’ money in determining the truth as to what had happened to the two missing persons."
Meanwhile, non-governmental organisation (NGO) Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody (Edict) chairman and lawyer M Visvanathan said it was unclear which legal provision Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin used to form the task force, when Suhakam had held the inquiry.
"We question whether the findings in the Suhakam inquiry can be questioned by the task force as Suhakam is formed from a statute under the Suhakam Act 1999.
"EDICT further questions the composition of the task force especially Mokhtar's appointment as it would affect the neutrality of the task force.
“The appointments should be those who do not have an interest or are seen as independent.
“The Government's decision to appoint Mokhtar does not reflect that the society can trust the integrity of the task force. This (legal) unit did not investigate thoroughly as to the disappearance and it had been accused in the past of not rendering full cooperation to the Suhakam inquiry," the lawyer said in a statement to theedgemarkets.com
Visvanathan added that the Government's actions of having the task force seems to reflect that they do not trust the commission’s findings.
"The Government should now act on the Suhakam findings by finding the alleged offenders in the police force and not hold another inquiry," he said.
He added that the formation of the task force does not reflect the Government's seriousness to handle such cases of disappearances which is very serious and action should have been taken on those involved.
"Having the task force is a waste of time and involves public funds," he added.
Earlier, Koh's and Amri's families had also questioned the appointment of the task force.
"If a police officer who participated in the Suhakam hearing can be appointed into the task force, then a lawyer from each of the families should also be appointed in order to ensure a balanced and fair approach to the investigation and the report to be submitted," said Koh's family.
The Government had recently announced the appointment of the task force that also comprises former High Court judge Datuk Abdul Rahim Uda, Datuk Zamri Yahya (Police integrity and Standard Compliance Department director) Datuk Muhammad Bukhari Ab Hamid (Director of Operations of EAIC), Sophian Zakaria (prosecution officer Attorney General Chambers) and Mohd Russaini Idrus Division secretary for the police commission)
Koh has been missing since February 2017 while Amri who is an activist from Perlis went missing since November 2017.