KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has abruptly halted its public inquiry into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh after receiving a letter from the national police chief.
Commissioner Mah Weng Kwai revealed that Suhakam received a letter from the Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun at 3pm on Monday (Jan 15), asking it to stop the inquiry as a case on the matter was pending in court.
According to the letter, part-time driver Lam Chang Nam, who was charged in March 2017 with extorting money from Mr Koh's son, was instead charged on Monday for kidnapping or abduction under section 365 of the Penal Code.
It added that Lam was arrested on Jan 12 and appeared in court on Monday.
"Given the circumstances and the developments yesterday, we have decided that we will immediately cease the inquiry until further notice," said Datuk Mah on Tuesday.
He cited section 12(3) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act that states that it should "immediately cease" an inquiry if the allegation becomes the subject matter of any court proceedings.
However, Mr Mah said that Suhakam would proceed with its inquiry into the disappearance of social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife Ruth Sitepu.
In March 2017, Lam was charged with extorting RM30,000 (S$10,000) from Jonathan Koh Szu Hao, 33, for the release of his father Raymond Koh.
Lam, 31, allegedly committed the offence at Paradigm Mall in Kelana Jaya on March 6 and was accused under section 385 of the Penal Code for putting a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion.
Mr Koh, 62, was abducted from his car by a group of men in Petaling Jaya on Feb 13 last year while on his way to a friend's house.
Closed-circuit television footage, believed to be of the incident, showed at least 15 men and three black SUVs involved in his abduction.
Mr Koh's wife Susanna Liew expressed disappointment at Suhakam's announcement.
"I will have to seek advice from my lawyers on how to go forward," she said.
Her lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar said that police witnesses scheduled to testify on Tuesday did not show up.
"We don't have the benefit of their take on this turn of events," said Mr Gurdial.
When contacted, Lam's lawyer Aaron Mark Pius confirmed that his client was charged under section 365 and had pleaded not guilty.