Task force to probe findings on duo missing in Malaysia

Perlis Hope NGO co-founder Amri Che Mat and Christian pastor Raymond Koh have been missing since 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Perlis Hope NGO co-founder Amri Che Mat and Christian pastor Raymond Koh have been missing since 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Former High Court judge Abd Rahim Uda will lead a six-man task force to probe the findings by Malaysia's Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), which concluded that the police's intelligence department was directly involved in the alleged enforced disappearances of a Christian pastor and a Muslim man suspected of spreading Shi'ite beliefs in the country.

Members of the task force were introduced yesterday by Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the Malaysian media reported.

"We at the ministry view the report in a serious manner as it throws serious allegations against the police to the extent that it has created a negative perception of the force who are entrusted to keep the peace," Tan Sri Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by Malay Mail online news.

"The task force will investigate whether the police Special Branch was indeed involved but of course, beyond that, we would also like to find the real truth on the whole thing," he told a news conference.

One of the missing men is Pastor Raymond Koh, the founder of the Harapan Komuniti non-governmental organisation (NGO), who has been accused of trying to convert Muslims. He was believed to have been abducted by a group of men in Petaling Jaya on Feb 13, 2017, while on his way to a friend's house.

The other missing man is Mr Amri Che Mat, co-founder of the Perlis Hope NGO. The Muslim social activist went missing on Nov 24, 2016, after leaving his home in Kangar, Perlis, at about 11.30pm.

 

The issue involving their disappearances is sensitive in Malaysia amid claims they were abducted by the authorities. The incidents also raised concerns about rising religious intolerance in Malaysia.

The Islamic authorities in the country, which has a Sunni Muslim majority, ban the conversion of Malaysian Muslims to Christianity or Shi'ism.

The previous Barisan Nasional government had stonewalled queries by family members on the whereabouts of Mr Koh and Mr Amri, or whether the government had a hand in their disappearances.

The Pakatan Harapan government's special task force was formed by the Cabinet last month. This followed a verdict by Suhakam in April, after a year-long public inquiry, that the Special Branch was likely behind their disappearances.

An enforced disappearance refers to the arrest, detention or abduction of a person by agents of the state, after which the person's fate or whereabouts are concealed.

The commission also concluded that both men were abducted due to their religious activities.

Five other members of the task force are police's former director of legal department Mokhtar Mohd Noor; police's Integrity and Standards Compliance Department director Zamri Yahya; Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission director Muhammad Bukhari Ab Hamid; legal officer at the public prosecution division of the Attorney-General's Chambers Mohd Sophian Zakaria; and secretary at the Police Force Commission for the Home Affairs Ministry Mohd Russaini Idrus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2019, with the headline 'Task force to probe findings on duo missing in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe