This article has been updated on 18 July 2018.
On 20 June, our Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng, who is also the Secretary-General of DAP, confirmed that the cabinet has agreed to reopen the investigation for Teoh Beng Hock case.
It has been 9 years since the political secretary of the then Selangor State Executive Councillor, Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) building.
The MACC was conducting an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of the constituency allocations. It was alleged that the funds were channeled through the Petaling District Office by Pakatan Harapan state assemblymen and exco members in Selangor.
However, in 2011, MACC officer Ahmad Shafik Rahman testified before the Royal Commission of Inquiry that there was no evidence to show that Ean Yong’s office had misappropriated the state fund.
On 12 July 2009, the MACC officers raided Ean Yong Hian Wah’s office as part of the investigation.
As the political secretary for the Seri Kembangan State Assemblyperson, Teoh Beng Hock was detained at the MACC office in Plaza Masalam. He was held for a prolonged interrogation which lasted UNTIL MIDNIGHT.
Teoh Beng Hock’s body was found 5th-floor rooftop of Plaza Masalam the following day.
His death caused an uproar in the country.
Politicians and civil society groups gathered in front of MACC office and demanded an explanation of Teoh’s political death from the government under the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak.
The Director of Investigation of MACC, Mohd Shukri Abdull (who is the current Chief Commissioner of MACC) claimed that MACC had released Teoh at 3:45 am after his statement was recorded.
He also said that Teoh did not leave the building immediately, but requested to rest in the pantry. They were only alerted about the discovery of Teoh’s body at 1:30 pm on the 13th of July.
The bizarre thing was there was NO CCTV installed in the MACC office.
On the other hand, Ean Yong told the press that he tried to contact Teoh from the time he was taken away from his office, but to no avail. He even went to the MACC office during midnight, but he was not allowed to see Teoh.
It was found out later Teoh was NOT released as claimed by the MACC. As Teoh’s Identity Card and cell phone were still being kept by MACC when he was found dead.
Although the deceased’s family demanded a royal commission of inquiry to be established in order to probe into Teoh’s mysterious death, only a death inquest was carried out before Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas on 29 July 2009.
The mysterious suicide note
About a year later, the Attorney-General Chambers tried to tendered a document said to be Teoh’s “suicide note”. The Investigating officer, ASP Ahmad Nazri, said the A4 paper which contained both Chinese and BM writing was found alongside with Teoh’s belongings in a sling bag.
The question was, why was such an important piece of evidence only tendered AFTER more than 30 witnesses had taken the stand?!
The AGC denied suppressing the evidence although the suicide note was said to be found two months after Teoh’s death. They argued that they could only tender the evidence upon confirming its authenticity.
The translation for the note is as follows:
They took away all the computers without our making a copy of the files. They keep pointing finger at you.
Sorry, [writing struck out]
Pretending to understand, but still dragged you into the trouble.
I said “mendapat lulusan YB”, they insisted to type ‘mengikut arahan YB’
I failed to help you, my apologies
Sorry, I am very tired, goodbye.”
The Court interpreter, Tin Chin Kin who at the time was of the age of 23 told the Court that she started working as a Court interpreter about a year ago. But she did not have the relevant university qualification in translation.
Gobind Singh Deo, the counsel for Teoh’s family disputed the translation of “goodbye” as the dictionaries showed “see you again”.
Tin explained that she obtained the translation from Google searches and agreed that the phrase could also be translated into “see you again”.
Teoh family found this absolutely ridiculous as they were of the opinion that Teoh’s mental state was normal.
There was no reason for him to end his life as his wife was pregnant and they had planned to get married in two days’ time.
Other highlights of the inquest
The Selangor government hired a renowned pathologist from Thailand, Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunand to conduct the second autopsy.
Dr. Pornthip is famously known for her work for identifying the tsunami victims in 2004. She was also known as the “Doctor Death”.
Dr. Pornthip testified that there was 80 percent probability that Teoh’s death was a homicide and a 20 percent chance of it being suicide upon scrutinising the post-mortem report.
Teoh’s body was exhumed and a second autopsy was conducted by Dr. Shahidan Md Noor of the Sungai Buloh Hospital with Dr. Pornthip observing the procedure. Dr. Pornthip maintained her view that there was a high possibility that Teoh’s death was not suicide.
She also gave the view that the injuries on Teoh’s neck were not caused by manual strangulation as testified by MACC’s expert witness’ Professor Dr. Peter Vanezis. It was likely to be caused by a blunt object prior to the fall from the building.
Dr. Pornthip’s qualification was questioned by the MACC’s lawyer during the trial.
It was reported that the authorities had tried to prohibit Dr. Pornthip from entering Malaysia and testifying in Court. A report was lodged against her from leaking the post-mortem report to unauthorised personnel.
This was obviously an attempt to further intimidate her and interfere with the due administration of justice, as she was to come one final time to give her testimony at the inquest following the second autopsy.
In the year of 2011, the coroner delivered an open verdict in the inquest into the death of Teoh Beng Hock.
Concluding the inquest, Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas told a court: “I find there are some unsettled issues. I ruled out death of the deceased by way of suicide.
“In the absence of direct facts and evidence of third-party involvement in connection with pre-fall injuries, any conclusion will be as good as guesswork,” he said.
Royal Commission of Inquiry
The RCI was chaired by former Federal Court judge, Tan Sri James Foong. The panel ruled that Teoh’s suicide was driven by his “weak character” and relentless and aggressive interrogation of the MACC officers.
Three officers were named in the RCI report:
- former Selangor MACC deputy director Hishamuddin Hashim;
- investigating officer Mohd Anuar Ismail; and
- officer Mohd Ashraf Yunus.
The then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz assured Teoh’s family that action would be taken against those responsible for Teoh’s death.
However, Hishamuddin Hashim was later appointed as the new MACC Sabah director. And Mohd Anuar was promoted from grade 44 to grade 48.
In 2011, the Shah Alam High Court rejected the judicial review application for the decision of open verdict by the coroner.
In a landmark decision, Court of Appeal unanimously ruled on 5 September 2014 that Teoh’s death was caused by an unlawful act by a person or persons unknown, including MACC officers who were involved in his arrest and investigation. The panel led by Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof together with Justice Mah Weng Kwai and Justice Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer ruled that Teoh’s death was a custodial death under the detention of MACC.
“Every effort must be made to track down the perpetrator or perpetrators in a thorough police investigation. No one should be spared in the investigations so that there will be no allegations of a cover up,”
Although the Court also directed the Inspector-General of Police and Attorney General’s Chambers to further investigate the case and prefer charge as they deem fit, no action was taken by the authorities. Another Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nancy Shukri said in Parliament that the AGC found criminal element involved in Teoh’s death.
What happens next?
On 20 June 2018, one and a half month after the Pakatan Harapan took over the helm of the country’s administration, the Cabinet had given the approval to reopen the investigation of Teoh’s death.
Updates: Ram Karpal, MP for Bukit Gelugor who also acts for Teoh’s family confirmed that the Attonery-General’s Chambers has requested the IGP, Tan Sri Fuzi Harun to carry out further investigation regarding Teoh’s mysterious death.
It has been 9 years since the tragic case happened. The government owes the deceased’s family an explanation and the nation demands the truth to be revealed.