15th February 2011
Malaysians for Beng Hock Press Statement
Malaysians for Beng Hock feel that in order for the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to retain its basic credibility, office bearers from the Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers must thoroughly withdraw themselves from the RCI, for the AG’s Chambers are no longer capable to act neutrally and professionally on the case.
We are also immensely disappointed by the move by the RCI to not include Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand in its list of witnesses when the two other pathologists, Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim and Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar, who have totally dismissed the injuries on Beng Hock’s neck, are to be called as witnesses.
The AG’s Chambers have until now failed to respond to our request on February 1 to clarify whether they had applied for a suicide verdict at the High Court. The Prime Minister has not explained to the public the reasons for letting the RCI and the appeal at the High Court to proceed at the same time. The complete lack of transparency as exemplified by such sneaky and shady acts is an insult to the spirit of democracy and accountability.
Teoh family counsel Gobind Singh has repeatedly criticised the AG’s Chambers for attempting to rule Beng Hock’s death as suicide, and we have yet to hear any rejection of such claims from the AG. Is the AG admitting that Gobind’s allegations are true?
We urge the AG’s Chambers to withdraw its appeal at the High Court and let the RCI, which is of a wider terms of reference, to investigate Beng Hock’s cause of death. We wish to reiterate that the contradictory moves to seek a suicide ruling and hold an RCI into the death simultaneously has casted serious doubts on the credibility of the government. Besides causing confusion among members of the public, such moves show that the government intends to employ all sorts of delay tactics to inflict more hardship on Beng Hock’s family, the family’s lawyers and the civil society. If the contradictory moves do end up with contradictory results, the efforts to seek the truth will be in vain.
The RCI has refused to replace the DPPs from the AG’s Chambers as conducting officers, claiming that they are only providing assistance and that there is no reason to doubt their impartiality. We are appalled by such reasoning. The judiciary is the branch of government that is supposed to uphold neutrality and impartiality more vehemently than the other two branches. Based on the basic understanding of justice, anyone who has potential conflict of interest must not participate in a key inquiry.
The claim by the AG’s Chambers representatives that they will cease to represent the AG during the three months of RCI hearing does nothing to convince us of their impartiality. If the RCI does not agree with the report of the previous coroner’s inquest which was sanctioned by the AG’s Chambers, will senior federal counsel Amarjeet Singh, DPP Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud and DPP Kwan Li Sa rightly criticise or correct the decisions made by the AG in the inquest? Furthermore, they will resume the responsibility of A-G lawyers upon completion of the royal commission.
We urge RCI chairman James Foong not to ignore the grouses of Beng Hock’s family, the Bar Council and the civil society, and withdraw the three AG’s Chambers office bearers as conducting officers immediately. The three AG’s Chambers representatives who are totally devoid of any sense of independence and impartiality should be replaced by representatives from the Bar Council. We urge James Foong to meet with Bar Council President Ragunath Kesavan on this matter.
Malaysians for Beng Hock strongly question the move by the RCI to call local pathologists Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim and Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar to testify as witnesses while dismissing Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand as a witness. We have stated clearly in our “Must Investigate Check List” that the RCI must probe the injuries on Beng Hock’s neck. The investigation must be carry out fairly and professionally without any hint of manipulation. The fact remains that the two local pathologists did not mention the obvious injuries on Beng Hock’s neck in the first autopsy report. It is unacceptable for the RCI to call on incompetent pathologists to testify while overlooking Dr Pornthip, who could notice Beng Hock’s neck injuries at first glance, as a witness. This will only lead the public to question the competency and credibility of the RCI.
Although RCI Chairman Foong claimed that the witness list was not final and that more witnesses could be included if other parties felt that it was necessary, it basically shows that the RCI panel did not make thorough and rigorous considerations when preparing the list of witnesses. The fear of a lack of professionalism and neutrality over the selection of witnesses was one of the reasons why Beng Hock’s family insisted on attending the RCI’s preparatory meetings. Regrettably, the commissioners did not want to discuss the witness list with Teoh Lee Lan and her lawyer in the second preparatory meeting. The arrogant and autocratic behaviour shown by the panellists in repeatedly rejecting reasonable requests by the victim’s family is also totally uncalled for.
Chong Kok Siong
Coordinator, Malaysians for Beng Hock
012-2138610 / 012-2658448