Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 25th July 2009:
Inquest into Teoh Beng Hock’s death on Wednesday should be halted to allow Cabinet to review and widen terms of reference of Royal Commission of Inquiry into causes of Teoh’s death to command public confidence in public institutions and the Prime Minister
The 15-day inquest into Teoh Beng Hock’s unusual death at the MACC headquarters on 16th July 2009 which is to begin on Wednesday, 29th July till August 12 should be halted to allow for the Cabinet to review and widen the terms of reference of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the causes of Teoh’s death to command public confidence in public institutions and the Prime Minister.
The contention by the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail that an inquest by the magistrate under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) was the right recourse, as the CPC was a specific legislation that made provision for a death inquiry, and that “holding a similar inquiry by the royal commission would be duplicitous in such instance” is totally unpersuasive and unconvincing.
In the first place, the Attorney-General should brush up his command of the English language. “Duplicitous” is derived from “duplicity” described as “double-dealing, deceitfulness” (Oxford Compact English Dictionary) What Gani intends to say is “duplication”.
Gani referred to Section 2 of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 to buttress his contention claiming that it “clearly makes reference to the inquiry into the conduct and management of government officers and departments or for the public welfare”.
Section 2(1) of Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 reads:
There is nothing in Section 2 of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 to bar or prohibit the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the series of events in the conduct of MACC officers leading to Teoh’s death, how a healthy, vibrant and idealistic young political activist, who is to register his marriage the following day with a two-month child, making active plans for his marriage just before summoned to MACC, should end up as a corpse after going to the MACC headquarters.
There is nothing “duplicitous” in having a Royal Commission of Inquiry although there may be duplication if an inquest is also held. The solution is for the inquest to be held back until after completion of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into all the circumstances and causes of Teoh’s death.
It is illogical and downright irresponsible to artificially chop the circumstances and causes of Teoh’s death into two parts, one to be investigated by an inquest and another by a Royal Commission of Inquiry – with the Royal Commission of Inquiry dealing with the portion of lesser importance, whether Teoh, who has died, had his human rights violated when the paramount question is how and why he died!
The reasons why the Cabinet should establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry are crushingly decisive, and includes:
Furthermore, there are Commonwealth precedents of public inquiries into extraordininary deaths.
In 2004, the Ipperwash Inquiry was established by the Government of Ontario under the Public Inquiries Act. Its mandate was to inquire and report on events surrounding the death of Dudley George, who was shot in 1995 during a protest by First Nations representatives at Ipperwash Provincial Park and later died. The Inquiry was also mandated to make recommendations that would avoid violence in similar circumstances in the future.
Section 329 of the Criminal Procedure Code on “Duty of police officers to investigate death” states:
Can the Police or Attorney-General explain why Teoh’s death was classified as “sudden death” under Section 329(1)(e) when it should more appropriately be classified under Section 329(1)(d) – “that the body of a dead person has been found, and it is not known how he came by his death”.
This question is pertinent and relevant as it raises the question whether the Police had right from the beginning tried to be protective of MACC instead of getting at “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” over Teoh’s death?
Yesterday, on behalf of the Teoh family, I had faxed an urgent letter to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak conveying the family’s request for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister, as their request for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Teoh’s death had not bee properly conveyed to the Cabinet by the MCA and Gerakan Ministers as well as Najib’s political secretary when they visited the Teoh family during Teoh’s wake.
I had not received any reply from Najib to my earlier fax asking for a meeting with him at the first available time when he returned from overseas on Teoh’s death. May be he had not received my earlier fax.
I hope Najib would set a good example to all Ministers and public servants and give a prompt response to my fax yesterday on behalf of the Teoh family.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor