Histrionics skew Teoh inquiry


2011/02/15

By Azmi Anshar
mishar@nst.com.my

PRODDED by self-serving political scheming, and before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Teoh Beng Hock’s death can proceed unmolested, its inception has been disparaged, thanks to the loaded aspersions cast on the inquiry’s independence and ability to carry out the task as instructed by the king.

The motivation to begin the inquiry with earnest intent has been tilted out of balance, the purpose being the aggressive-compulsive angst to commandeer proceedings.

On Monday, the first day of the inquiry, Gobind Singh Deo (DAP member of parliament for Puchong) launched his involvement as the Teoh family counsel by protesting the presence of three Attorney-General’s Chambers’ conducting officers, patently running down the court officers as “biased”.

The Teoh family, Gobind further contended, had “lost faith” in the A-G after the chambers filed for a revision on the coroner’s open verdict in the inquest to determine Teoh’s death.

Gobind justified his objections on two counts:

– the A-G was pushing for a suicide verdict, when what the family wants to imply is that Teoh was murdered; and,

– if there had been alternative police investigations after the inquest, especially on the coroner’s evidence of pre-fall injuries on Teoh’s neck.

It is classic disinformation tactic to force whichever enforcement authorities involved in the RCI to be on the defensive, a “drawing-the-first-blood” strategy that puts Gobind and lead counsel Karpal Singh (DAP chairman and MP for Bukit Gelugor) in a strategic position to call the shots.

Moreover, the DAP lawyers also engineered an “emotional” weapon, putting up Teoh’s sister, Lee Lan, to mandate the removal of the three conducting officers on grounds that they were “biased”, reinforced with an expressive plea that her family wanted “fair and independent” individuals as conducting officers.

How loaded were the plea adjectives and nouns uttered? “Biased”, “lost faith”, “fair and independent” seemed to be leading assumptions designed to persuade the RCI members with emotive implorations.

So, it was heartening that RCI chairman Tan Sri James Foong Cheng Yuen did not buy into any of the attack, the Federal Court judge rationalising his rejections of Lee Lan’s and Gobind’s submissions in cool, crystal logic without losing focus on what must be done.

Addressing Lee Lan directly, Foong averred: “From the very beginning, I have expressed great sorrow on your brother’s death. But do not forget, this is a far wider scope than just your family. The whole nation needs to know the truth, not just your family. Everyone here wants to get to the bottom of this. I am not restraining you or your lawyers from appealing the decision but as of this moment, I have not seen the conducting officers as being partial.”

Gobind will realise by now that this judge and this RCI won’t be swayed by his histrionics. The steely focus on facts and empirical evidence, not theatrics, is refreshing.

But there were more legal manoeuvres: Karpal filed for a judicial review to defer the RCI and avoid a clash with the A-G’s bid to acquire a revision of the inquest’s outcome at the High Court, which the commission acknowledged but decided to let it be ruled in open court.

Fair enough. But the next manoeuvre buttressed by Gobind is galling: “We weren’t consulted on the date. The courts are very strict with postponements these days. If the RCI proceeds on Monday, it will put us in a spot because we have cases lined up until March and some in April.”

“…because we have cases lined up until March and some in April…” simply means that the father-son combo has key trials or hearings that require their personal involvement and cannot be dislodged by something as imperative as the RCI, not even after the row they nettled for a year in demanding that the government set up the inquiry.

But can you blame Karpal-Gobind? In whatever explosive situation, they are political animals first, lawyers second.

As for the inquiry, all right-thinking Malaysians are terribly anxious to know — in definitive and absolute terms — how Teoh died, whether it was a misadventure, culpable homicide, suicide or murder.

Teoh’s death was tragic and may still be a crime. So, let’s do away with the histrionics and theatrics.

Let’s just get on with the job.

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