KUALA LUMPUR: The sister of Teoh Beng Hock made a tearful plea for justice when the Royal Commission of Inquiry began its first day of work today to look into the causes surrounding the death of the political aide.
Lee Lan broke down as she pleaded with the panel to appoint independent and fair conducting officers for the inquiry.
Through a translator, she told commission chairman and federal court judge James Foong that her family is worried that conducting officers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers would slant the proceedings (when giving evidence).
“The Attorney-General (Abdul Gani Patail) has failed to appear as just or fair, and is taking a different position.”
(Gani is seeking a review of the coroner’s ruling at the Shah Alam High Court, which is pending. On Jan 5, coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas delivered an open verdict, saying that Teoh’s death was neither suicide nor homicide.)
In his reply, Foong said that while he and the rest of the panel members sympathised with the family, the issue was far wider in scope than just them.
“Do not forget: this is far bigger and wider in scope than just you and your family. The whole nation wants the truth; this inquiry is not just to appease you. We can’t accede to your request (appointing independent conducting officers) as this matter is more than your family.”
“Until and when we have reason to doubt their (officers’) impartiality, we will accept their assistance,” he added.
Earlier, lawyers Karpal Singh, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Gobind Singh Deo also expressed concerns over the panel’s decision to allow conducting officers from the AG’s Chambers to sit at the proceedings.
They said the officers, who are charged with presenting evidence at the inquiry, would be seeking to revise the open verdict to one of suicide.
Malik Imtiaz called the Gani’s stand “inconsistent” due to the discrepancy between the AG’s position at the Shah Alam High Court and the aim of the RCI, which is to arrive at an independent conclusion.
“We applied to get the AG’s Chambers to recuse itself but it didn’t agree. So we’ve applied for a judicial review, allowing us to take it to the High Court,” said Gobind.
He said that although the AG’s Chambers had promised impartial proceedings, it was ignoring the conflict of interest argument.