Press Statement by Karpal Singh in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 16th July 2009:
Teoh Beng Hock: A witness, not a suspect
The tragic death of Teoh Beng Hock, the political aide to Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah, at the MACC headquarters in Shah Alam, brings into sharp focus the parameters within which the MACC can question witnesses into a complaint made to it, The MACC director of investigations, Datuk Mohd Shukri Abdul, has confirmed that Teoh was questioned from 5p.m. yesterday to 3.45a.m. this morning before being released. It is also confirmed that Teoh had, before he was found dead, been seen resting on a settee in the MACC office as he was tired.
Section 30(1) of the MACC Act, 2009 empowers an officer of the Commission to investigate into the commission of the offence under the Act. Section empowers the officer concerned to order any person to attend before him to be examined in relation to any matter which may, in his opinion, assist in an investigation and section 30(3)(a) requires the person concerned to attend to be examined from day to day until the examination is completed.
The question which arises is what does the phrase ‘day to day’ entail? There is no doubt in my mind that such examination cannot extend to the examination of a witness beyond office hours namely 8.30a.m. to 5p.m. Questioning of a witness from 5p.m. yesterday to 3.45 a.m. this morning extends above and beyond the period of time intended by the law. Clearly, the MACC has a lot of explaining to do. The extent of the culpability of the MACC leading up to Teoh’s untimely and tragic death requires to be ascertained in a court of law. Why was Teoh tired? It is obvious it must have been the prolonged questioning well past the middle of the night that contributed to this.
Section 329 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires the police to investigate into a sudden death. I call upon the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Datuk Musa Hassan, to cause an in-depth inquiry into Teoh’s death to ascertain the truth. Technically, Teoh was in the custody of the MACC from 5p.m. to 3.45a.m, as he was not free to do as he wished owing to the constraints placed upon him to submit to questioning. His movements were restricted.
Courts have even frowned upon suspects in police custody being interrogated beyond office hours. The MACC was only questioning a witness, and not a suspect. The nature of the questioning by the officer or officers concerned has to be ascertained to ensure that it was not the interrogation which contributed to Teoh’s death. The MACC does not have the prerogative or the might to go beyond the powers of the police questioning witnesses. Definite and clear lines have to be drawn so as to curb abuse of power by officers of the MACC. The public interest demands it.
* Karpal Singh, DAP National Chairman & MP for Bukit Gelugor