The open verdict returned by Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas into the death of Teoh Beng Hock is a damning indictment of Malaysian justice.
Teoh was a DAP political aide whose body was found on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam, on July 16, 2009. He had been questioned overnight by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) at its then Selangor headquarters on the 14th floor of the same building.
What should have been a ‘routine’ questioning by officers investigating a claim his boss Selangor state councillor, Ean Yong Hian Wah was misusing state funds, ended up as a political fiasco.
Right from the day Teoh was hauled in for questioning, right through to the inquest and its finale, the whole journey has been shambolic and a farce.
Sadly, this shameful verdict has denied his family closure. It must seem for them, like experiencing another tragic ‘death’ in the family.
This verdict does not serve the community either. It is symptomatic of a breakdown in society when the forces of law and order are unable to do a proper job.
From the very beginning, the ‘routine’ interrogation of Teoh by the MACC, raised more questions than answers.
Why was someone who was not treated as a suspect kept overnight and interrogated with such oppression? Why did MACC officers initially deny they had taken Teoh’s handphone?
Moreover, the MACC ‘s procedures and statements were riddled with inconsistencies.
Even the Cabinet denied the family a Royal Commission of inquiry into Teoh’s death to further probe the incident.
From the outset, there was a measure of hesitancy and a certain reluctance on the part of the investigating authorities to find out what happened to Teoh. It was apparent, that his death had to be swept under the carpet.
The inquest itself was a farce of monumental proportions when Abdul Razak Musa, acting for the MACC, failed to look at the evidence objectively but instead, attempted to undermine the pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand.
When she did not waver, he then tried to undermine any evidence put forward. He also tried to discredit any views that did not coincide with his belief that Teoh had committed suicide.
His line of questioning also made Malaysia a laughing stock; He is a disgrace to his profession.
A Cabinet minister even suggested that Teoh may have committed suicide and sparked a public outcry.
A mystery note was later produced by the MACC which their lawyer insisted was a suicide note. This did not tally with the fact that Teoh was to have registered his marriage with his then two-month pregnant fiancée, Soh Cher Wei, that same week.
ASP Ahmad Nazri Zainal, had admitted to the court he had not done an in-depth probe over conflicting testimonies by MACC officers due to “outside interference”. He however, failed to name the persons.
Both Drs Pornthip and Vanezis had complained of harassment whilst in Malaysian and had to lodge police reports.
Thus, the inquest raised more questions that it attempted to answer and its conclusion is totally unsatisfactory.
One wonders how many other ‘official murders’ of people such as those under questioning or in custody, have similarly escaped a full and proper investigation, because we, the public didn’t push hard enough.
This open verdict is a travesty of justice. It is apparent that people who uphold justice are the ones who are guilty of perverting the course of justice. Perhaps the government has undue influence over the judiciary.
Teoh Beng Hock’s death and the subsequent enquiry will go down in the annals of Malaysian history as a black mark against the Malaysian judiciary.
What started off as a routine enquiry into an investigation which the MACC had instigated, ended up with a dead man, a black mark against Malaysia, and the lingering knowledge that the MACC has blood on its hands.