Utusan Malaysia says normal for corruption witnesses to commit suicide

By Clara Chooi
July 24, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Utusan Malaysia today downplayed the cause of Teoh Beng Hock’s death, saying that it is common for witnesses in corruption cases to commit suicide to avoid shaming their families or organisation.

“Awang does not understand it has been made such a major issue whether a person commits suicide during or after interrogation,” Awang Selamat wrote today in Mingguan Malaysia, the Malay daily’s Sunday edition. “In many other countries, the act of sacrificing oneself is not something alien to a corruption case.”

Awang Selamat is a pseudonym under which editors of Utusan Malaysia write.

Teoh was found dead on July 16, 2009, on the fifth-floor corridor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam after he was questioned overnight by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers at their then-Selangor headquarters on the 14th floor.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) report on Teoh’s death ruled that the former DAP aide had committed suicide as a result of “aggressive, relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous interrogation” by MACC officers.

Despite the suicide conclusion, Teoh’s family members and opposition leaders are holding the MACC responsible for the youth’s death, saying that forced suicide amounts to homicide.

To illustrate how suicide is common in corruption cases, Awang cited the example of how several civil servants in China were reported to have killed themselves last year out of depression. Many, he said, were linked to corruption scandals.

In another example, Awang related how the key witness in the corruption trial of the wife of former Taiwan president Chen Sui Bian had attempted suicide barely hours after she testified in December 2008.

In Japan, he wrote, several senior public servants and LDP party members took their lives during the investigation of a high-profile corruption scandal in 1989.

In the Philippines, former army chief General (rtd) Angelo Reyes committed suicide during the investigation on the misappropriation of army funds, said Awang.

“There are many more cases of those committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide when their deeds are exposed or are being investigated by graft busters or the police,” he said.

“What more when it involves a cartel, when the situation is even more complex. Although most of these other cases do not involve death in the premises of the authorities, the issue is the same — the accused or witness is embarrassed, stressed and depressed enough to find their own escape route.”

In a possible reference to Teoh, Awang said that there were also many cases of those who were prepared to take their lives to avoid betraying their bosses or their organisations.

Teoh was called in for questioning by the MACC as the commission had reportedly wanted to pressure him into becoming a witness in their case against his boss, Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah, for alleged abuse of public funds.

“Many experts, including Dr Alex Lickerman from the University of Chicago, who is also the columnist for Psychology Today, view that many of these cases result from the psychological vulnerability of the individual,” he said.

Awang also referred to a case in Malaysia when a Form 6 Chinese school student, who was accused of taunting a female student, jumped off a building after receiving advice from a counsellor.

“This student too had a bright future ahead and his family lost its most valued asset — a child. But in understanding his suicide, should the counsellor be faulted?” said Awang.

  1. #1 by Loh on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 3:08 pm

    ///KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Utusan Malaysia today downplayed the cause of Teoh Beng Hock’s death, saying that it is common for witnesses in corruption cases to commit suicide to avoid shaming their families or organisation.///

    Utusan Malaysia must be the most stupid organization to get mixed up between witness and culprit. The witness by definition is the party who might know about the wrong doings which is the subject of investigation. The witness has no cause to shame their families or organization for that knowledge. The culprit might commonly commit suicide to avoid shaming their organization and families. Similarly having shown stupidity in writing what has been written the writer of Utusan Malaysia who contributed that stupid line above should commit suicide to avoid shaming the organization, if not the family.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 4:36 pm

    Utusan has extrapolated position of culprit to that of a witness. The editorial says, In a possible reference to Teoh, “Awang said that there were also many cases of those who were prepared to take their lives to avoid betraying their bosses or their organisations.” Thus to fit this argument TBH has been lifted to Martyr for and Patron of loyalty to boss. He was very “strong” – to choose death over not just torture but in order not to betray his boss. Reminds me of French Resistance fighters in World War II who carried cyanide pills which they swallowed upon capture by German troops then to risk giving information under torture to their German captors. Is Utusan Awang saying that MACC’s officers behaved like German torturers and that MACC is like torture chamber that committing suicide was preferred alternative at that moment than to carry on living to take the torment ?
    who gave up information to the Nazis under torture

  3. #3 by Winston on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 4:39 pm

    Has anyone seen those from the BN who had been “grilled” for
    corruption involving millions, if not billions, committing suicide?!
    If so, that would be good for the country!!!

  4. #4 by k1980 on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 7:22 pm

    Leave Awang Selamat alone with me for 10 minutes and I will guarantee that he commits suicide within that time (with my helping him do it, of course)

  5. #5 by ctm999 on Sunday, 24 July 2011 - 9:42 pm

    Utusan’s argument just doesn’t hold water. If it is the norm to commit suicide is one is being investigated then why those being investigated in the PKFZ fiasco commit suicide to protect their boss? For that matter, why doesn’t Najib commit suicide because of the allegations of corruptions against him in the Scorpene case?

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 25 July 2011 - 12:06 am

    If UM’s theory is true then surely we would not have any BN ministers left! This A..e hole can’t even bluff with half truth but total lies just to spike! and that brain can see only self preservation as the sole aim notwithstanding the claim for Bangsa and Negara. He is part of the whole system bent on putting his hand on the gravy train until he could do no more! Since he cannot explain anything with any conviction, the only way is to lie about every thing! That is the sum total of a man claiming he serves his community with nothing except brutal lies! may be we should that kind of brain around as he cvould only lie and nothing more!

  7. #7 by all4democracy on Monday, 25 July 2011 - 1:58 am

    No wonder Malaysia is not progressing, no thanks to Utusan Malaysia for their standard of reporting. What make they come to the idea of normal for corruption witness to commit suicide? Please lar, instead of trying to be genius with such comment, Utusan has missed the point altogether as there is not a single evidence to prove that TBH is involved in any corruption practise as indicated by RCI report, what has been proven is that MACC officer has abused their power in their duty and thus resulted in the death of TBH.

  8. #8 by dagen on Monday, 25 July 2011 - 9:44 am

    Normal for corruption witness to commit suicide. Yeah Yeah. But not when the witness was forced to commit suicide – was driven to kill himself.

You must be logged in to post a comment.