KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — More than 120 civil society group representatives banded together today to pressure the Najib administration to set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to probe Teoh Beng Hock’s death.
The groups, led by the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, also backed the Malaysians for Beng Hock Movement’s (MBHM) list of suggested public personalities to be appointed to the RCI.
The seven are former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam who had headed the first Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), former Inspector-General of Police Tun Haniff Omar, retired Court of Appeals judge Datuk N.H. Chan, lawyers Raja Aziz Addruse and Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, former Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ronald McCoy and Tenaganita director Dr Irene Fernandez.
In a joint statement to the media today, the civil society groups called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to consult Teoh’s family, the Bar Council, the Selangor government and the human rights community before finalising the scope and make-up of the RCI.
“Otherwise, the RCI will be seen as a public relations exercise of the federal government, with its independence and credibility called into question even before embarking on its task,” they said in the joint statement.
Lawyer Andrew Khoo said merely setting up an RCI was not enough and called on Najib to pledge he will also carry out the panel’s recommendations to improve enforcement bodies.
“At the end of the day… will there be the political will to implement the recommendations? That is the question,” he said.
Khoo, who heads the Bar Council’s human rights committee, noted that Putrajaya had yet to carry out five key components from the Dzaiddin Commission’s report on the police force after six years.
MBHM, led by Teoh’s youngest sister Lee Lan, was formed on August 9 last year and has been criss-crossing the country to garner support.
The volunteer group’s co-ordinator, Chong Kok Siong, told The Malaysian Insider the movement had collected 60,000 signatures in support of an RCI into Beng Hock’s death to date.
Last week, Najib had announced an RCI to be set up to look into whether the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had breached the human rights of witnesses and suspects during interrogation, but did not say if it would also look into Teoh’s death.
The PM said the RCI’s terms of reference and its members would be named after the Cabinet meets tomorrow.
Najib, who had met the dead political aide’s family two years ago, was reported to have promised them an RCI to look into the cause of death if the inquest verdict was unsatisfactory.
Teoh, political secretary to a Selangor state executive councillor, fell to his death on July 16, 2009 after being interrogated overnight by MACC officials at their then state headquarters on the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam.
He leaves a son, Er Jia, now about 10-months old.
The coroner at Teoh’s inquest had pronounced an open verdict despite accepting the 30-year-old had suffered harm while in the MACC’s custody.
Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) president Zaid Kamaruddin, who was among 18 civil society representatives at today’s news conference, called on Najib to make good his promise to the family and set up an RCI with wider scope.
He said it needed to established what really happened to Teoh besides giving the latter’s family closure.
“Malaysian society wants to know what happened,” Zaid said, adding that the government’s integrity was at stake.