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In memory of Teoh Beng Hock

“Much has already been said about the death of the late Mr. Teoh Beng Hock, political aide to Selangor State Government Exco member YB Ean Yong, and I understand the great anger and sadness being expressed by the public to this effect. I do not know whether what I will share here will be of any use to anyone, but I would like to express my experience of the matter as a colleague of Teoh’s in the State Government (as an aide of the Menteri Besar) in the same Selangor administration. I was not close to Teoh, but being colleagues in the same building we were of course acquainted and I would see him at State events and press conferences.”

In her blog on 20 July 2009, Tricia Yeoh, research officer to the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, said words could not express the deep shock that she and the other political aides expressed when they heard the bad news.

“The fact there this young man, aged 30, who was merely assisting in an investigation of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as a witness and not a suspect, fell to his death at the same building the MACC is located reeked of suspicion from the very start. Any one of us as aides could have been equally tantamount to the treatment received by Teoh of the MACC – although the facts of this have not been determined – and this has been a traumatic time for all of us,” she continued.

The former researcher with the Centre of Public Policy Studies (CPPS) hit out strongly at the “shameful” actions of a body that was supposed to be a bastion of justice, transparency and governance, adding, “The measly amount of RM2,400 (for 1,500 flags) surely cannot justify the way in which Teoh was treated, interrogated from 6pm till 3.45am of the following day. Surely corruption cases involving millions of ringgit are more worth the time and effort of the MACC, and not petty cases as this!”

Yeoh also highlighted the possibility of Teoh having been subjected to the manner of interrogation that Kajang councillor Tan Boon Hwa (the supplier of the flags) underwent such as being forced to stand at attention for four hours without food or drink during the interrogation process. Apart from being repeatedly threatened, racist remarks and jeers of “Cina bodoh” were hurled at him.

“This is a far cry from the 1Malaysia concept that the Prime Minister Najib Razak has attempted to introduce. Although this is speculation, many wonder if Teoh was subjected to similar treatment. Psychological and mental abuse that may have taken place is not the role of the MACC. It was said that Teoh was inexperienced in this regard, and being for the first time interrogated in an anti-corruption case, could have been shaken and traumatised. Although his lawyer and boss told him exactly what to do and what to say, his frailty may have caused his interrogators to draw greater strength from their imaginary power and muscle,” wrote Yeoh.

As to whether the MACC did indeed act according to the laws that govern them, she opined that any witness or suspect in a case should be allowed to have an accompanying lawyer, whatever the jurisdiction of the MACC. In any case, “the length of time allowed for interrogation should not extend to the wee hours of the morning. The numbers of officers should be clearly specified, along with recordings of any statements made during the course of the interrogation done – both in audio and video format.”

Yeoh reiterated the widely-held view that the MACC was responsible for Teoh as he was being interviewed at their premises, saying that MACC’s story about not being responsible for where Teoh went and what he did was “strange because Teoh had his car parked at the basement of the building. Would it not make sense for him to have left as soon as possible? Even if he did want to rest at the office, his handphone would have been returned to him since “interrogations were already over”), and some contact would have been established with his friends and family members, surely.”

Yeoh summed up her blog post by saying, “Teoh was a quiet character who must have been thoroughly enthused about working in a new state administration. I cannot speak on his behalf, but the reason I have chosen to work in this Pakatan State government is because I want to contribute to a cause I believe in. To better socio-economic policies in the view of fairness for the sake of the rakyat. I am sure Teoh was no different. Spurred on by the results of the March 8th General Elections, hope for a budding democracy had begun. Although the actual management and administration of the State has not been easy, nor without error, the struggle to create a better society is real.

“As a young person, I resonate with his desire to contribute so willingly to this cause. His death cannot be in vain. Although it may spark fears amongst the young – and their parents – as to the grave political dangers of this working environment, I believe with a greater urgency and fervour that this is the right thing to do.

“It can no longer be mere speculation that we as Malaysians are living in a system of darkness, corrupt and unfair practices. The treatment of a youthful, innocent man could be the same treatment given to any commoner on the street should he be hauled up by the MACC. What justice is available to an ordinary rakyat? No, the need to raise up a new generation of people to transform Malaysia to a nation of hope, justice, peace and good governance is even more necessary.

“Along with many others, I call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the death of the late Teoh Beng Hock. The inquiry must be independent, transparent and conducted by individuals of the highest integrity. This has been a rare first political death of its kind, and should changes not be made immediately to the rotten system of Malaysia, the question looms dark in our minds: Who will fall prey as the next victim?”

Note: This article was taken from Tricia Yeoh’s blog at Yeoh is Research Officer to Selangor Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. -The Rocket