The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has concluded its inquiry into the disappearance of church leader Raymond Koh, who was kidnapped in broad daylight by masked men on 13 February 2017.
The final three witnesses appeared before the inquiry panel on Friday, 7 December, which is expected to present its findings and recommendations to parliament next year, according to Free Malaysia Today.
Koh’s wife, Susanna Liew, who was recalled as a witness on Friday, said it was a relief the inquiry was finally over and that the findings of the commission had been “enlightening”, as reported by The Star.
“We are looking forward and we have great expectation that Raymond and the rest will be released and that the culprits will be brought to justice,” she said, adding that the family would hold the government accountable: “We still hope they will take action without fear or favour and there will be a resolution soon. It has been almost two years.”
SUHAKAM is also investigating the disappearances of another pastor, Joshua Hilmy, his wife Ruth, and social activist Amri Che Mat, all of whom went missing in November 2016.
The inquiry into Pastor Koh’s disappearance, which has taken over a year and was briefly interrupted in January, heard the testimonies of 16 witnesses, including the former Inspector General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar.
Bakar was implicated by a police whistle-blower who claimed in May this year that the abduction of Koh, as well as Che Mat, involved Malaysia’s Special Branch, and was done with the full knowledge and approval of the police chief.
In March last year Bakar ordered the media to “please shut up” and stop reporting and talking about Koh’s kidnap. He also called for an end to the vigils that were being held for the abducted pastor.
The whistle-blower, Sergeant Shamzaini Mohamed Daud, first approached Che Mat’s wife with information in May. Koh’s lawyer, Gurdial Singh, told media: “[Daud] told Amri’s wife that this was indeed a black operation by the Special Branch in which some very senior police officers were involved.”
However, just a day before he was due to give testimony to the inquiry, Daud retracted his statements, denying ever having made the claim.
Following Daud’s withdrawal, the wives of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat wrote an open letter to Malaysia’s prime minister, asking for an immediate and independent investigation into the disappearance of their husbands and a “safe space for whistle-blowers to come forward with knowledge about our husbands’ abductions”.
Pastor Koh was abducted by at least 15 masked men driving black 4×4s. They ambushed his car in a military-precision operation that was caught on CCTV. He was bundled out of his car and carried away; his vehicle was also taken and has not been found. Video footage of the abduction was shared widely and shocked the nation.
Koh’s wife told the inquiry panel late last year that she and her husband had been repeatedly harassed by Malaysian officials since 2011 – when religious authorities raided a charity event they were holding at a church – and stopped for questioning several times by immigration and Special Branch officers when entering or leaving the country. She said she had even considered emigrating to Australia because of the stress.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Che Mat, the founder of non-profit organisation Perlis Hope, are still unknown. He went missing on 24 November 2016, his vehicle found abandoned. There has been media speculation that he was promoting the Shia ideology, a branch of Islam that the majority-Sunni Malaysian Muslims reject, but his wife has denied the alleged link to Shi’ism.
Joshua Hilmy, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, and his wife Ruth Sitepu, a Christian from Kalimantan in Borneo, went missing just six days earlier.
As World Watch Monitor has reported, non-Muslim groups remain concerned that the couple could have been abducted by Muslim vigilantes, given the rise of an intolerant strain of Islam in Malaysia that seeks to impose Sharia (Islamic law).