KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, who represents Teoh Beng Hock’s family, has asked the Royal Commission of Inquiry to address several issues before starting its probe on Feb 14.
Among others, he asked if he would be allowed to act for the family and have the right to examine witnesses.
He also wished to know the role of the attorney-general and his office, the status of the AG’s application for a revision of the coroner’s verdict, as well as how the commission would deal with incriminating evidences that implicate Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officials with Teoh’s death.
Gobind also urged the AG to direct the police to conduct a separate investigation to probe the findings of the coroner during the inquest, with regard to Teoh’s pre-fall injuries.
“I am concerned that our efforts for the past two years during the inquest will go to waste, the testimony of Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand itself is a cause for further investigation,” he said.
After an 18-month long proceeding, the coroner had given an open verdict on Teoh’s death, ruling out both homicide and suicide.
Following this, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced the formation of the royal commission, whose scope was later expanded to include determing Teoh’s cause of death.
Initially, the commission was only supposed to look into MACC’s investigative methods and whether Teoh’s rights were violated during interrogation.
Teoh, a former DAP political aide, was found dead on the fifth floor landing of Plaza Masalam after being grilled overnight by the MACC in Shah Alam at its office on the 14th floor in 2009.
The family rejected the possibility of Teoh having committed suicide and the ensuing public outrage led Najib to order for an inquest.
During the inquest, Thai forensic expert Pornthip claimed that Teoh could have been a victim of foul play, paving the way for his remains to be exhumed for a second post-mortem.
What happens to the evidence?
Meanwhile, Gobind asked if the commission’s main task was to re-look into Teoh’s death, what would happen to the evidence, tendered during the inquest, favourable to the family’s quest for the truth.
“Just erase is it? Is it fair to the family of the deceased?” he asked.
Gobind was also upset that Teoh’s family was not officially notified about the setting up of the commission.
“At least inform them or ask them if they want to appoint a counsel to act for them during the proceedings,” he said.
Gobind would be sending an official letter to the commission’s secretary on Wednesday, requesting for a meeting and to notify the commissioners on the right of representation provided under Section 18 of the Commissions Inquiry Act 1950.
During the meeting, the lawyer said that he would push for access to the witness list to ensure that witnesses favourable to the family were also called.
He also noted that the law was silent on whether witnesses from abroad could be called to testify before the commission.
“We want to know if the commission has the power to call foreign experts, like Pornthip. Our intention is not to put the commission in a difficult spot but to thrash out all issues before Feb 14,” he said.
Commenting on commission chair James Foong’s setting of a deadline (April 25) to furnish a report, Gobind said while this was welcomed, he however expected the commission to exceed the target.
On what happens after the report was submitted to the King, the lawyer said: “Constitutionally, the AG has the sole discretion in studying the recommendations and act accordingly.”
Other members of the commission are former Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman, former Court of Appeal judge T Selventhiranathan, Penang Hospital senior consultant forensic pathologist Dr Bhupinder Singh and Cyberjaya University College of Medical Science dean of medical faculty Dr Mohamed Hatta Shaharom.