KUALA LUMPUR: The first day of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock did not disappoint in its share of drama when Teoh’s family applied for the three conducting officers to be replaced this morning.
The application, however, was denied by Federal Court Judge Tan Sri James Foong Cheng Yuen, who heads the commission.
The family’s counsel, Gobind Singh Deo, had submitted the application before the panel at the Jalan Duta court complex.
“Teoh’s family does not have confidence in the Attorney-General’s Chambers as well as the police. Therefore, we would like to submit an application to replace the three officers — Senior Federal Counsel Amarjeet Singh and deputy public prosecutors (DPP) Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud and Kwan Li Sa as all of them are in the same department with the chambers.
“As we all know, the A-G’s Chambers was involved with the inquest and a replacement could avoid any party from being biased,” Gobind said.
Teoh’s younger sister Lee Lan had also addressed the RCI to express the family’s dissatisfaction with the commission’s move to make the A-G the public executor.
“They (A-G’s Chambers) are taking a different position right now and they are reviewing the decision of the High Court. How do we expect them to be independent as conducting officers?” she asked.
Amarjeet, in response, said the appointment of the DPP was done by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.
“For the next three months, we are no longer A-G officers; we are merely assisting the commission. Plus, the inquest was not requested by our party, but it was the court which ruled for it to take place.”
Amarjeet said the establishment of the RCI was to view proof and find out the truth behind Teoh’s death.
“We are giving our assurance that we will be independent.”
In denying the application after hearing arguments from both sides, Foong addressed Teoh’s family and said the commission was taking everyone’s opinion into consideration.
“The RCI’s scope is very wide. The commission is taking everything and everyone’s opinion into consideration. Even the public can write in to us.
“This matter is more than your family. It involves the entire nation. We know you want answers. So do we,” he said.
He later adjourned the proceedings to 2.30pm on Wednesday. The commission will also visit the incident site on Thursday morning.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was represented by DPP Mohammed Haikal Ismail and Masri Mohd Daud.
The Selangor State government was represented by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar while the Bar Council was represented by Christopher Leong, Nahendran Navaratnam and S. Sivaneindiren.
Security was tight at the court and only 25 media passes were issued to allow Pressmen to witness the proceedings inside the courtroom.
Other members of the Press were asked to follow the proceedings in the media room where two televisions were installed. Another was also installed outside the court room.
Teoh was found dead on July 16, 2009, on the 5th floor corridor of Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, after giving his statement at the Selangor MACC office, located on the 14th floor.
On Jan 5 this year, the coroner in the inquest into Teoh’s death delivered an open verdict, which meant the court could not ascertain how the 30-year-old political aide had died.
Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas had said there was insufficient evidence to prove the political aide’s death was homicide, and also ruled out suicide.
The decision had prompted many quarters to call for an RCI to investigate the case, fraught with much controversy.
On Jan 7, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the cause of Teoh’s death.
Najib had said the setting up of the commission which had received the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong would also comprise two former judges, former Federal Court Judge Datuk Abdul Kadir Sulaiman and former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk T. Selventhiranathan — and two forensic experts — consultant forensic pathologist with the Penang Hospital’s Department of Forensic Medicine, Datuk Dr Bhupinder Singh, and consultant forensic psychiatrist and dean of the Medical Faculty of Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences, Prof Dr Mohamed Hatta Shaharom.
Director-General of the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Saripuddin Kasim was appointed secretary of the commission.
The commission was also instructed to complete its inquiry within three months from the date of its appointment and the report would be submitted to the King.