Bar: Gov’t should apologise for Teoh’s death (updated)

Jul 23, 11 | MalaysiaKini

Rejecting the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) findings that DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock had committed suicide, the Bar Council says the government and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should apologise to Teoh’s family and compensate them for the loss.

“The Malaysian Bar also calls on the government of Malaysia and MACC to consider offering an unqualified written apology to Teoh Beng Hock’s family, and to the citizens of Malaysia, for his death,” said Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee.

He also urged the government to make reasonable compensation to Teoh’s family for his death.

Lim said that the authorities should investigate the relevant MACC officers for possible offences under sections 304 and 304A of the Penal Code, namely for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and for causing Teoh’s death through negligence, respectively.

“It is very clear to the Malaysian Bar that full responsibility for Teoh Beng Hock’s death lies squarely and solely on the MACC, and that immediate action must be taken to hold the culpable officers accountable for their behaviour,” he added.

In a statement today, Lim said the RCI’s finding is unsupported by the facts and the evidence of the case.

He also pointed out that contrary to the statement made by Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Aziz during the release of the RCI report, forensic psychiatrist Paul Edward Mullen had not testified that Teoh had a “weak character” that had led him to suicide.

No conclusion of ‘weak character’

“Mullen also did not conclude that Teoh had committed suicide; rather, his testimony stated that ‘in [his] opinion, what we learned of Teoh’s personality and behaviour do not suggest any increased risk of suicide’.

“He further opined that the context of the events that had taken place was not one ‘which, in [his] experience, leads to suicide in custody’, as he had not been made aware of anything ‘to explain panic and distress sufficient to drive (Teoh) to conclude his honour had been irreparably tarnished’,” said Lim.

He also pointed out that Mullen’s testimony does not provide the basis for the RCI’s finding of suicide, such as that described in the section titled ‘Conclusion on forensic psychiatric aspects’ in the RCI’s report.

In that section, the RCI stated that “Teoh experienced a change in his state of mind. And in a matter of hours, this change transformed him from being in the low-risk group for suicide into the high-risk group”.

Lim said that Nazri had made the same statement at the report’s launch, that Teoh had “truly committed suicide based on his character that had changed from a low-risk group to a high-risk group for suicide after undergoing a continuous and aggressive questioning session”.

The Malaysian Bar, whose lawyers had assisted throughout the inquiry, also noted that the joint expert psychiatric report of Dr Badiah Yahya and Dr Nor Hayati Ali had stated that there was a lack of information to determine Teoh’s state of mind.

The report read: “We did not have any evidence on how the investigation was conducted as there were ‘no written questions posted to (Teoh)’ or audio recording as to ascertain the amount of pressure he experienced.

“It is not known whether he had experienced in his mind the effects of being possibly prosecuted on the allegations, whether it would have been devastating for him and/or his organisation. This should require more information on what was said and done in the period taken [sic] into custody until he was found dead.”

Both the experts from Health Ministry were engaged by MACC and present during most of the court proceedings and had interviewed Teoh’s family members, housemate and work colleagues.

  • That the time of death had been between 7.15am and 11.15am on July 16, 2009;
  • That Teoh had not been released at 3.30am and been left alone sitting on a sofa after his statement had been recorded, as the then Selangor MACC deputy director Hishamuddin Hashim had issued a written circular the previous month that “witnesses and visitors in the Selangor MACC office should be accompanied at all times”;
  • That Teoh had been subjected to a fourth interrogation session after 3.30am by Hishamuddin and his officers, which was aggressive and relentless. In addition, the RCI rejected the evidence of MACC officer Raymond Nion that he had seen Teoh Beng Hock lying down unattended on a sofa at approximately 6am;
  • That the fourth interrogation session was probably between 3.30am and 7am;
  • That the window from which Teoh Beng Hock is said to have fallen out was located conspicuously; and,
  • There was no evidence whatsoever produced at the RCI hearing of Teoh’s whereabouts or movements after 6.15am, and the staff of the Selangor MACC office would have begun arriving by
  • Therefore, to surmise that Teoh had committed suicide between 7.15am and 11.15am, said Lim, requires a leap in logic and an assumption of facts not in evidence.

    Despite the disagreement, there are a number of key points on which the Bar Council concurred with the RCI report:

    Therefore, to surmise that Teoh had committed suicide between 7.15am and 11.15am, said Lim, requires a leap in logic and an assumption of facts not in evidence.

    Despite the disagreement, there are a number of key points on which the Bar Council concurred with the RCI report:

  • That the RCI was unable to accept that the alleged suicide note had been written by Teoh, and that the undue delay by the authorities in tendering the alleged suicide note at the first available opportunity could not be taken as mere carelessness or neglect, and therefore the authenticity of the note could not be trusted;
  • That Teoh was, at all material times until his untimely death, in the care, custody and control of the MACC officers;
  • That Teoh was not released from the care, custody and control of the MACC officers after his statement had been recorded at approximately 3.30am, and this failure “amounted to cruel conduct and punishment inflicted on purpose”;
  • That Teoh was subjected to “aggressive, relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous interrogation” and that the recording of his statement was unlawful;
  • That the majority of the MACC officers exhibited a “total lack of consideration for human sensitivities”, and that the recruitment process of MACC officers should include a “psychological evaluation to assess their suitability for investigative work”;
  • That most of the MACC officers who were involved in the operations on July 15 and 16, 2009, and who gave evidence as witnesses, were neither truthful nor credible, as they “had the inevitable habit of lying”;
  • That massive operations launched by MACC Selangor – headed by Hishamuddin – against the Pakatan Rakyat members of the Selangor state assembly were grounded on mere belief of information purportedly received over the telephone, and without proper ground work or verification;
  • That Hishamuddin was “arrogant, given to falsehoods, untruthful and uncompromising”, and that he was “just too stubborn [such trait was also displayed when he gave evidence before us] to retreat from his mistake in mounting such a massive operation”;
  • That not only was Hishamuddin involved but he also “unleashed his officers to do his bidding in order to get results within that night and morning come hell or high-water”, and that Hishamuddin should be held responsible for the actions taken by him and his officers that led to Teoh’s death; and
  • That the Selangor MACC had shown an extreme lack of cooperation with the police in the latter’s attempts to investigate complaints of assault and other offences previously made against its officers.
    1. #1 by k1980 on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 7:14 pm

      MACC advisory board member Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said—

      “I am just not convinced that Teoh would commit suicide simply because of aggressive interrogations by MACC officers. There is no credible reason or motive why he would take his own life. He was a young man about to get married. He has every reason to stay alive. He did not do anything wrong. When a person is innocent, his will to live is stronger and also to prove his innocence,” he said.

    2. #2 by a g on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 8:08 pm

      Isn’t it wrong, morally and/or professionally, for the RCI to make such unsubstantiated claims, that (1) TBH did experience the said change in his mental state, and (2) that as a result of that change in the mental state, TBH did jump out of the window on his own ?

      Aren’t they misleading? To the public and also to the King?

    3. #3 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 8:50 pm

      How could they leverage on Mullen’s name to conclude the opposite of what Mullen said? I am in complete agreement with the Malaysian Bar Council’s view that the ” RCI’s finding is unsupported by the facts and the evidence of the case”. People look to the RCI institution as independent alternative to government’s investigators and prosecutors. The last thing the RCI needs when proceeding on a royal patent is to have its main conclusions on nature of TBH’s death (suicide or homicide) so rampantly unbelieved and criticised by large sections of the public and an independent body like the Malaysian Bar Council representing more than 13000 lawyers. There goes the credibility of the last institution.

    4. #4 by DAP man on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 9:41 pm

      Mr Lim Chee Wee, I would say is one of the best Bar Council presidents in recent times.
      He has a sharp mind and is quick to respond to social/ judicial/ human rights issues.
      Keep up your good work Mr Lim.

    5. #5 by DAP man on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 9:49 pm

      I am inclined to believe the RCI was ‘arm twisted’ to come out with this driven-to-suicide finding.

      When High Court/Appeal Court/Federal Court’s decision can be ‘arm twisted’ into giving pro UMNO decisions, who wouldn’t believe if the RCI was similarly arm-twisted as a damage control measure, more so when BN is already walking on quick sand.
      A murder decision by RCI would have been disastrous for Najib and UMNO.

    6. #6 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 11:09 pm

      What accept an appointment to sit in the royal commission of enquiry if one is not prepared to say “no” to “arm-twisting”, has no courage to say the truth as he sees it in fear of repercussions, and to do right and just for the small man who is wronged?

    7. #7 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 11:11 pm

      Ooops “…What glory is there to accept an appointment….”

    8. #8 by aiD_kamikuP on Saturday, 23 July 2011 - 11:58 pm

      Effects of ‘The Rot’ has so visibly and vastly spread that even the ever sanguine, sober and mellow Jeffrey now declares “There goes the credibility of the last institution.”

      I will say it again – it is the RCI itself that is forced to commit suicide (due to aggressive external pressure) in arriving at such a ludicrous conclusion.

      Does anyone have anymore faith in government and public institutions in acting for citizens interest?

    9. #9 by passerby on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 1:49 am

      The people does not believe that TBH died of suicide because his wife was pregnant and he was to get married the next day. The was the most happy and important moment of his live and he has done nothing wrong, I don’t think suicide is event in his mind at that time. Furthermore, he was thinking of leaving the political party for another job and why should he sacrifice his live to save a corrupt people?

      The government must punish the 3 officials who is responsible for his death and they must not be allow to wear hood to cover their faces during the trial. Otherwise no one will believe the trial is real.

    10. #10 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 6:51 am

      Lets go back to basics on purpose of Public Enquiries/Royal Commissions (RCI). An RCI is episodic, in the sense “occasional”. It is invoked only when a matter of public interest and importance arises – or a scandal has erupted as regards to which other State’s institutions (eg police, inquest, judiciary) are thought insufficient, on standalone or collective basis, to address public concerns.

      In this sense RCI is institution of “last resort”, the object of which is to address an issue or a dispute, larger than just who did what to whom, although that question too has to be addressed as in TBH RCI, but also what’s wrong with other institution (eg MACC) and what policy or legislative reforms should be effected to avert a future disaster or scandal. Properly used RCI is not just beneficial to public but also the government to buttress its image of accountability. A govt is misconceived if it proposes to use RCI to principally cover it’s a*se for mistakes made by its underlings

    11. #11 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 7:11 am

      That being so the heart of issue is the composition – and criteria of appointment- of the Commissioners to conduct the RCI. They must be “perceived” independent in public eyes. On this issue of appointment 2 aspects need considering – (1) a commissioner with judicial background and (2) a commissioner from ranks of other stakeholders independent of Govt and knowledgeable in relation to subject of enquiry at hand.

      Regarding (1) the need of judicial background is understandable. Judicial experience helps in conducting an RCI, assessing & analysing evidence, drawing conclusions and writing a report that looks much like a judgment. I juicial experience is imperative, an immediate issue is: should he be a sitting judge or ex judge? In our context where there’s misgivings from a segment of public of complete independence of judiciary, it should be an ex judge – eg Dzaiddin of Police RCI and even Haidar Mohamed Noor of Lingam RCI. (Notice that from experience appointment of ex judges to head RCI has generated less public disquiet and more acceptance than asitting judge!)

    12. #12 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 7:21 am

      (Continuing from preeding post under moderation): In police RCI, RCI chairman Ex Judge Dzaiddin was hailed by Bar Council and its recommendation IPCMC was enthusiastically pursued by civil society & opposition. In an RCI of sitting judge, even the family of TBH refused to participate at the beginning and at RCI’s conclusion, so much disquiet & dissension. The Govt that appoints commissioners: how is it fair to even a sitting judge when and if his RCI’s findings/conclusions become controversial in public eyes? Is he supposed to go back and carry on his other usual function of a judge carrying this baggage of public controversy generated by his RCI? How can a sitting judge carry on his normal function if the RCI that he prevously conducted generated public controversy that he has to now carry with him back to the courts? There is no such problem if an Ex-Judge had been appointed to head the RCI (as in Dzaiddin Police RCI and Haidar’s Lingam RCI).

    13. #13 by negarawan on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 7:30 am

      Lim said that Nazri had made the same statement at the report’s launch, that Teoh had “truly committed suicide based on his character that had changed from a low-risk group to a high-risk group for suicide after undergoing a continuous and aggressive questioning session”.
      This statement is obviously not an outcome from the RCI but was engineered by UMNO to be included in the RCI report as the final conclusion. This was the cause of the delay of the RCI report release. The three MACC officers and their UMNO masters will end up scott free under the protection of UMNO, just like in the case of Lingam, just like in the case of Altantuya. These blatant injustices will continue to exist in Malaysia as long as UMNO is in power. We must put a stop to it.

      What all right thinking Malaysian must do is to vote UMNO out in the coming GE and bring real justice back to Malaysia. The judiciary, police force, EC, MACC, education system must be completely overhauled and many UMNO-linked culprits brought to justice.

    14. #14 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 7:31 am

      Besides commissioners of judicial experience get someone recommended by public stakeholder like the Malaysian Bar (perceived independent) to also sit as a commissioner. Not just for legal expertise in the subject but independence of Govt. Now is a joke the Bar Council disputes the RCI’s main conclusion. Other commissioners appointed stakeholders could be (say) Ex IGP Tun Haniff Omar (because subject concerns police) and someone from Medical Profession recommended by Medical Council (if TBH’s psychological state were an issue in the RCI)!

      If there were a chance for another Sarbaini RCI, then this issue of appointment – and proper criteria of appointment- of RCI commissioners will be of pivotal importance if such an RCI were to serve public as well as government’s interest as outlined in my earlier posting.

    15. #15 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 8:37 am

      In public eyes an ex-judge than sitting judge is preferred as commissioner, and TBH’s RCI is flawed at outset for violating this logic. The former (when he was judge under govt payroll might be perceived bias but now being an ex judge, the glory of reputation that a publicly well received report of an RCI presided by him could earn him might be foremost in his mind to render him fair. Of course a sitting judge may or may not be bias. Its not whether he is actually bias or not. The important thing is that there should not be any public doubt whatsoever of the possibility of bias arising from govt’s pressure. It is to protect a sitting judge from accusations that he could be bias that constitutes one reason why a sitting should not be appointed as commissioner. The other reason is that he is not encumbered to carry the public controversy of an RCI verdict back to his normal routine and job as a judge, supposedly free from public controversy!

    16. #16 by monsterball on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 8:50 am

      Fat hope. Fat hope!
      Just vote BN our…all problems solved.
      Until then…live with in….with no fear to keep exposing them.
      Just read the Star and you can understand they will never change….never admit…and Najib accusing PR politicians telling lies…and said…the truths is the truths…while DPM warm BN unite and…support and never speak against UMNO B.
      That’s how Najib may succeed in spreading truths to Malaysians.
      But Najib have been proven…a born liar!!

    17. #17 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 9:16 am

      boleh is a country harbouring criminals. from the killing of mongolian lady to teoh, the killers are well protected. something is very very wrong. if you don’t do something, we will see the next protected killing to come by, and the victim could be you

    18. #18 by limkamput on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 10:49 am

      What glory is there to accept an appointment to sit in the royal commission of enquiry if one is not prepared to say “no” to “arm-twisting”, has no courage to say the truth as he sees it in fear of repercussions, and to do right and just for the small man who is wronged?// sage

      My dear sage, isn’t this the fundamental of our problem today? If you are a man of honour and distinction, for sure you will not be appointed to any position of importance today in this country. How then can we ever expect true and fair findings of RCI? How then can we ever expect findings of RCI that are based on evidence and logical thinking? Abuse of power, corruption and reinforcing one’s power can not be carried out by a single person. They need apparatuses, accessories and people who are willing to go along. Just look at the whole investigation into TBH and his boss alone. How many of us believe it was acted on good faith? TBH is now dead, how then can we expect any institution set up to investigate will reveal the truth. It is oxymoron; it is not going to happen because the very power that called for TBH’s investigation for abuse of fund will not allow it to happen. So we know it is just buying time; it is just trying to truncate the demand for justice. That is why we too shall never give up. There shall be no closure until justice is done.

    19. #19 by limkamput on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 11:11 am

      continue from above: Now, don’t just look at MACC and the RCI set up to investigate. Look at the whole spectrum of public service from the Judiciary, the immigration, the police, the EC to all other vital organs of the government. Have they not shared a common attribute – to run errand and to second guess what their political master want? When the French lawyer was deported recently, the Immigration dept said he violated the social visit pass. Now, how many of us really believe the reason given? There are thousands violating the social pass everyday. There are millions of illegal foreigners that we do not even know their whereabouts and yet we are acutely aware of the violation of this particular French lawyer’s social visit pass.

    20. #20 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 11:24 am

      The problem of today does not just lie in just human weakness of self gain and selfishness (as displayed for examples of those in power wanting to protect their image or (say) a judge skewing his judgment for promotion in sacrifice of justice or the individual or collective good of the group). This is because human selfishness/greed originating from imperative of survival and self preservation is, as a general case, pretty universal, constant and difficult to change. But what can be changed, which ought to be focus, are systems, procedures, institutions structured in a manner to build in check and balance, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and most important, able to synchronize, tap and channel a man’s natural selfish instincts to do good for the collective others in a win-win arrangement. For eg if we have an institution like RCI, a choice of an ex judge would be preferred over a sitting one.

    21. #21 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 11:26 am

      The ex Judge may not even be a person of customary integrity. He could be a selfish someone who would bodek those in power to secure promotion to Chief Justice when he was a judge. But being an ex judge now, if he were appointed to the RCI, his same selfish instinct for legacy recognition and public approval might make him be able to deliver a more honest report than (say) a sitting judge still in the game, waiting for promotion. It’s just an example how procedures and mechanism could be chosen to mitigate human’s badness and bring out his goodness. What is the problem today is the lack of brainpower especially amongst the ranks of those in government/public service. When there is all these race specific affirmative policies the brains take flight and the mediocre and even dumb take their place in positions of decisions and implementations. Then everything get scr*wed! One cannot expect them to have the requisite imagination depth or perspectives to conceive strategies or process on a win win basis for all. On the contrary, we expect them to get defensive, dig in, and get worse to protect their selfish vested interests.

    22. #22 by dcasey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 11:47 am

      If you unlock James Foong encrypted message in his RCI verdict, “forced suicide” is in fact meant to be homicide (this is because his term of reference to form the RCI is limited to only use the word “suicide” and no other). Nazri got the clear message (and so did the Bar Council), that’s why Nazri was quoted in the Star yesterday “Charge these MACC officers”.

    23. #23 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 12:14 pm

      It is easy for him to say “Charge these MACC officers”. Charge them under what offence what? First there must be a further investigation by police and thereafter AG must approve an appropriate charge. Second, Charging them under something related to Misdemenour or Overzealous conduct in exceeding MACC standard operation procedures on interrogation leading to so called ‘forced suicide’ is very disproportionately light in severity of charge as well as punishment upon conviction than say culpable homicide. It makes a world of difference.

    24. #24 by Taikohtai on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 1:00 pm

      The only weak minded entity in this whole episode is none other than Najib himself. This PM is so piss weak minded that his wife overlords him all the time. He is so weak minded that he needs PDRM to protect him, MACC to cover him and AG to hide all his corruption practices. With so much baggage under his shoulders, even Singapore is having a field day.
      Malaysia is now so weak that even the Jews (APCO) are now their masters without even firing even a single shot. Your Treasury has been raided over and over again and if you think KWSP will fund your retirement, Najib better not be in Putrajaya after next GE.

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