Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Teoh family finally had enough and walked out of the RCI

It isn’t everyday that anyone walks out of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI).

Not when it involves the death of a family member. Yet today, exactly 19 months after Teoh Beng Hock was found dead, his family boycotted the recently formed RCI investigating his mysterious death.

The Teoh family had already been upset by a coroner’s court ruling last month that found the 30-year-old’s death to be neither suicide nor homicide. And this after two autopsies and testimony from several experts in the course of a very long inquest.

Yet no conclusion was reached as to how a young man met his death after a routine overnight interrogation as a witness by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) on July 16, 2009.

The family endured the twists and turns of the inquest and not finding justice there, looked forward to the RCI headed by Federal Court judge Tan Sri James Foong to get to the bottom of things.

That began on Monday and their first disappointment came when they found out that renowned Thai forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand was not on the list of witnesses. Wouldn’t she help the RCI the same way she had the inquest?

No one will know unless she is invited. After all, the Selangor government is willing to defray the cost of her presence to testify in front of Foong and his fellow commissioners.

To add to her absence, the family found out that the RCI’s conducting officers are drawn from the Attorney-General’s Chambers. After all, the Attorney-General had applied to revise the inquest findings. This is an RCI loaded with those from the government – from the chairman to the conducting officers.

Would the conducting officers be impartial? Foong said he would hold on to that thought unless their behaviour suggested otherwise in the course of the inquiry which must end by April 25.

The Teohs have asked for impartial and neutral officials such as lawyers from the Malaysian Bar. The Malaysian Insider also understands that senior lawyers are helping the commissioners in their work. Couldn’t the courtesy be extended to have them as conducting officers? Would it be so difficult?

Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done, goes the old axiom.

That is all the Teohs and the rest of Malaysia want to see happen in the RCI.

To quote Foong who said on Monday when refusing to change conducting officers, “Do not forget: this is far bigger and wider in scope than just you and your family. The whole nation wants the truth; this inquiry is not just to appease you.”

True. This inquiry is not just to appease the family or to pay lip service to the pursuit of justice. It is more than that. It is about a country taking all the necessary steps to ensure no one ever goes in for questioning alive and leaves dead again.

The Teohs walked out today because they are not sure if justice will be served. For Teoh Beng Hock and for Malaysia.

[Source: MalaysianInsider]

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