Civil society questions legal standing of home ministry task force

Pastor Raymond Koh (left) and activist Amri Che Mat.

PETALING JAYA: A civil society has questioned the legal standing of a six-member task force formed to probe the disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat.

Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody (EDICT) chairman M Visvanathan asked under what law the task force was set up to review the findings of the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

“It is unclear which legislation the task force is relying on to function,” he said in a statement.

Visvanathan said Suhakam performed its inquiry under the Human Rights of Commission of Malaysia Act 1999.

He said a royal commission of inquiry derived its authority under the Commission of Enquiry Act 1950, and an inquest by a coroner under the Criminal Procedure Code.

Visvanathan said EDICT also questioned the composition of the task force, especially the appointment of former Bukit Aman Legal Division chief Mokhtar Mohd Noor, who was at the Suhakam hearing submitting on behalf of the police.

“Mokthar’s inclusion will not reflect public confidence in the investigations by the task force,” he said, adding that the same division was implicated in the flawed investigation into their abductions.

He said it was also reported the division did not cooperate when Suhakam was conducting its inquiry.

“As such, Mokhtar is clearly an interested party and in conflict of interest,” he said.

Visvanathan said the setting up of the task force showed Putrajaya appeared not satisfied with the outcome of the Suhakam’s findings and recommendations.

“In fact, the home ministry should have started to find out who are the personnel in the police force who were responsible for Koh and Amri missing, instead of conducting another inquiry,” he said.

He said EDICT hoped the government would not waste time and public funds to repeat the futile exercise.

Koh has been missing since Feb 13, 2017, while Amri, the founder of Perlis NGO Hope, went missing on Nov 24, 2016.

In April, the Suhakam inquiry concluded that they were victims of enforced disappearance.

On Wednesday, the government named former High Court judge Abd Rahim Uda to lead the task force to follow up on Suhakam’s findings that the Special Branch was involved in the disappearance of the duo.

In addition to Mokhtar, the members of the task force are Zamri Yahya, director of the police’s Integrity and Standards Compliance Department; Muhammad Bukhari Ab Hamid, director of operations at the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC); Mohd Sophian Zakaria, legal officer at the public prosecution division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers; and Mohd Russaini Idrus, secretary at the Police Force Commission (SPP) for the home affairs ministry.

Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told a press conference the task force would be given six months to come up with a report which would be submitted to the Cabinet.