THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
JULY 20 — Whatever support Datuk Seri Najib Razak managed to gain for himself with his recent attempts at reforms has now gone out the window along with Teoh Beng Hock.
Teoh, the political secretary to Selangor DAP exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead on a neighbouring rooftop below the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s building in Shah Alam on July 16. According to reports, he had endured 10 hours of questioning by the MACC throughout the previous night.
Later that afternoon, his body was discovered on the roof of the adjacent building. The police have quickly announced that there is no evidence of foul play.
Teoh was apparently not even a suspect in the MACC’s fervent operation recently launched against Selangor state assemblymen belonging to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. What makes his death more painfully tragic is that Teoh’s fiancée is pregnant, and the couple was scheduled to register his marriage the following day.
Given the lack of public confidence in the police, the anti-corruption apparatus and the federal government itself, calls for a thorough investigation by an independent commission into the case can be expected for a long time to come.
When the anger and sadness that this incident is generating subsides, the fingers of blame cannot but point beyond the MACC officers involved, and at Najib himself. He will be called upon to clarify why his party and coalition should not bear the responsibility for failing to reform the police and the anti-corruption authorities from the bottom up, as recommended by an endless number of experts.
The suspicion will grow that the federal government under Najib — judging from the mix of tactical reforms and sly politicking — does not appreciate how badly compromised the federal apparatus actually is. Despite continuous defeats at the polls, his administration has continued to treat the success of the opposition as if it were the result of clever tactics on the part of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his allies, and not as a public outcry for clean and reliable government.
Criticism that his recent reforms are cosmetic and more tactical than sincere will continue to grow. Given the difficult times that the Pakatan Rakyat has had in recent weeks, Teoh’s death provides renewed focus for its disheartened supporters.
Unlike the few recent cases of deaths under police custody, this one at the Selangor MACC headquarters involves a young man known for his political engagement. His demise therefore carries great political implications, and will be a milestone in the nation’s painful history that future students of Malaysia will have to commit to memory for their exams.
It is a tipping point. “Remember Teo Beng Hock” will be a battle cry for a long time to come.
The ball has now landed squarely in Najib’s court. If he is serious about reforming Malaysia beyond foreign investment regulations and quota changes, he now has his chance of putting partisanship aside, seizing the moment, and acting as a national leader who realises how vital the integrity and professionalism of its investigative authorities are.
Teoh’s death is too big to be swept under the carpet, and will continue to arouse anger unless properly investigated. And even then, strong demands for some decisive action on the government’s part to make sure that no such thing will happen again are to be expected.
Needless to say, the many young activists who have arisen since the Reformasi movement started in 1998 will sympathise at a personal level with Teoh’s family. As long as the case is not openly cleared up, the misgiving will remain strong that it could have been any one of them who might have suffered — or may suffer — an end similar to Teoh’s.
Just a day before Teoh died, the ruling Barisan Nasional was asserting that the narrow margin of 65 votes with which it lost to PR in the Manek Urai by-election showed that the pendulum that had been swinging in PR’s favour for two years was now going the other way.
Indeed, Najib’s popularity had risen sharply according to a recent survey done by the Merdeka Center. Teoh’s death sends a reminder to voters that the police and the anti-corruption body are in pressing need of serious reforming. For PR supporters, their resolve to work for a change of federal government will be strengthened.
What one must conclude from this incident is that Najib’s chosen course of reform avoids his major challenge, which is to restore the credibility of the police, the judiciary and the anti-corruption apparatus.
As long as he sidesteps this duty, his other attempts at change will not be taken seriously. Indeed, even his allies within BN are feeling a greater need to put pressure publicly on Najib.
For starters, it would be wise of Najib to call off MACC’s blatant campaign against the Selangor government.
The writer is a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is “Arrested Reform: The Undoing of Abdullah Badawi” (Refsa).
Some 500 people gathered outside the Plaza Masalam building in Shah Alam last night for a candlelight vigil held to mourn the death of Teo Beng Hock.
Led by Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, the crowd paid tribute to the 30-year-old former journalist, who was described by friends and former colleagues as a good-hearted and friendly person.
Teo, who was working as the political secretary to Selangor state executive councillor Ean Yong Hean Wah, is said to have plunged to his death from the building.
He was last seen at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Selangor office – located on the 14th floor of the building – where he was brought in for questioning over investigations into alleged misappropriation of funds by his boss.
Addressing the crowd, Ean Yong demanded a detailed explanation from MACC and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak over his aide’s death.
“This is a tragedy that could have been avoided if MACC followed proper procedures,” said the exco, his voice cracking with grief.
“He was only a
witness. I never thought he would not back.”
According to MACC, Teo was called in at 6pm yesterday and was questioned until 3.45am but was allowed to leave after that. However, Teo had instead chose to ‘rest’ on a sofa in the MACC office and was last seen at 6am.
His body was discovered on the roof top of Plaza Masalam, more than seven hours later – at 1.30pm – by a janitor. He had apparently fallen from the MACC tower block which is adjacent to the plaza.
‘Goes in alive, comes out a corpse’
Klang MP Charles Santiago told the crowd that a “good man went to the MACC (to assist them in their investigations) and came out a corpse.”
“How can we expect MACC or the police to protect the common man?” he asked.
The crowd also vented their anger towards Najib and chanted slogans such as ‘MACC murderers’ and ‘BN is cruel’.
Kampung Tunku assemblyperson Lau Weng San claimed that the ongoing MACC probe against Selangor Pakatan Rakyat state reps was nothing short of persecution.
“Najib has declared war on Selangor. He wants to take this state like how he took Perak,” added PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Shaharin.
Throughout the vigil, the participants who knew Teo recalled their final encounters with the deceased.
“He parks his car beside mine everyday. Now, I will not be able to see him anymore,” lamented Abdul Razak Ismail, the aide of Selangor exco member Dr Xavier Jeyakumar.
“I had meals with him so many times. I cannot believe that he is gone. MACC must pay for this,” a distraugted DAP party worker from Perak told Malaysiakini.
Fiancee barred from seeing his remains
Earlier in the evening, drama broke out on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam when the police refused to allow Teo’s fiancee to see his body.
“Please… please just let me see him once,” she pleaded, sobbing uncontrollably.
The pair had known each other for five years and were supposed to register their marriage today.
Counsel for Teo’s family Gobind Singh Deo expressed regret that the police only allowed Teo’s elder brother to see the body.
He also criticised the police for only informing the family that they could appoint their own pathologist to inspect the body at the eleventh hour.
Gobind said the family was given only about half an hour to bring a pathologist. He confirmed that three pathologist were already at the scene.
“We have asked for the preliminary findings but they have given naught,” he exclaimed.
Another Selangor exco member Ronnie Liu demanded that the attorney-general take stern action against those responsible for Teo’s death.
“If MACC did not take him, he would still be alive. MACC must be charged for murder or manslaughter,” he said.
Eyebrows were also raised as to why the police forensics team took almost nine hours to remove the body.
At about 9.15pm, the police took Teo’s body out of the building through the loading bay, avoiding the horde of journalists, photographers and vigilers gathered at the main entrances.
The police truck carrying the body sped off from the crowded car park en route to the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang, where a post-mortem will be carried out today.
It is understood that at least two forensics team inspected Teo’s body.
According to DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, Teo’s mother in Alor Gajah, Malacca, had been crying non-stop since she was informed of the news at 5pm.
“Friends and relatives (are) in shock,” he said in a Tweeter message.
Teo’s mother was consoled by former DAP secretary-general Kerk Kim Hock.
By Wong Choon Mei [Update 3]
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said Kedah DAP’s decision to withdraw from the Pakatan Rakat state government was not final and needed to be endorsed by the party’s national central executive committee first.
“Only after receiving the official letter confirming the Kedah state committee decision, would I call a CEC to make a final decision on the matter,” Guan Eng said in a statement on Thursday.
“I would normally oppose such moves personally especially when based on a single issue and if there is still room to redress and correct the situation.
“However, the desperate nature of the situation and the breakdown of trust between Kedah DAP and the Kedah PAS Menteri Besar warrants a CEC meeting to endorse or oppose this withdrawal.”
Guan Eng, who is also Penang chief minister, said Kedah DAP chairman Thomas Su had briefed him on the situation before announcing the pullout. No date has been fixed yet for the DAP CEC meeting, he added.
The Pakatan, already due to meet on Thursday over the formation of shadow cabinet committees, will hold a top leadership council meeting this weekend to talk about the Kedah pullout.
Denting the Pakatan’s image
On Wednesday, Kedah DAP shocked the nation with its decision to follow through on a threat to withdraw from the PAS-led state government.
This came about after Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak refused to intervene in the demolition of an abattoir despite pleas from Thomas. There have also been other issues the two men have not been able to see eye to eye on.
Guan Eng defended Kedah DAP, which has been slammed for being emotional and uncaring of the overall Pakatan agenda.
“Pulling out of Pakatan Rakyat is a serious matter with large adverse national ramifications. For Kedah DAP to do so from the Kedah state government signals the complete lack of communication and respect from the Kedah PAS-led government,” he said.
“Kedah DAP had never sought any titles or Datukships but had been unhappy with the lack of respect accorded by PAS to DAP in Kedah unlike the respect accorded to PAS in Penang.”
Said Kedah PKR Youth deputy chief Gooi Hsiao Leung: “It is well within any party’s right to protest, or oppose or even condemn the Alor Setar’s Municipal Council’s decision to tear down the abattoir, however the DAP Kedah must not be carried away emotionally by making calls to quit Pakatan over this issue.
“It had taken a lot, and in some ways, a miracle for the PAS, PKR and DAP to come together and forge a united front to face Barisan Nasional. The alliance is bound to face tribulations and disagreements, however it is our duty to minimize such problems and to ensure that the coalition remains united.”
Complacency and corruption
No one would rush to say either is right, but can anyone say neither is wrong. It does takes two to tango.
Therefore the finger must also be pointed at PAS. As the party controlling the largest number of seats in the Kedah state assembly, rightfully, it must also be the one that displays the greater generosity of spirit and statesmanship.
In any case, there has been huge negative publicity created with far-reaching implications for the Pakatan partnership of PKR, DAP and PAS.
“Azizan has told me that he has given space and options on where the slaughter house can be built. I believe that we can discuss and solve this problem,” said Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, the Pakatan’s de-facto head.
“I was in Barisan for a long time and there were many disagreement but it did not make headlines.”
As pressure piles on Pakatan to tighten its management, the coalition must also take care not to lose sight of its original aim – which is to create a better Malaysia.
This Malaysia must be a Malaysia that Malaysians want, not what the Umno-BN press wants or even what the Pakatan itself wants.
If the Pakatan continues to understand what the people want, then it doesn’t matter if they quarrel everyday.
After all, despite the non-stop politicking and sabotage from the Umno-BN, both Penang and Selangor have hauled in record investments in the past year.
As long as the work gets done – and again this is for the people to decide, not the Umno-BN press – what is wrong with being noisy?
It may be annoying but it is also one sure way to keep corruption and complacency at bay. With whistle-blowers and trigger-happy mouths all around, who would dare.
(The Star) – DAP’s 43rd anniversary dinner started with 3,500 people eating in tents along Lorong Bayu Tinggi 4C here as truckloads of police and FRU, including two with water canons, cordoned off the area.
Police, at first, refused to allow dinner guests, including women and children, to enter the area but when DAP leaders Lim Kit Siang, Gobind Singh Deo and Ronnie Liu, among others, turned up at about 8pm, they marched in with them and took their seats.
However, police confiscated the PA system and told organisers that they were barred from making speeches, holding the lucky draw or having the lion dance.
Klang MP Charles Santiago said that police had originally given a permit on June 17 to hold the function in conjunction with Father’s Day in front of his service centre but revoked it at 3.30pm on June 19. He showed reporters the revoked permit.
The dinner went on peacefully and ended at about 10pm and most of the DAP leaders left.
Guests streamed out as police and FRU looked on.