|Asia Sentinel Correspondent|
|Thursday, 20 August 2009|
|Anonymous letter sets off a wave of accusations about an opposition aide’s alleged suicide
Hishamuddin Hashim, a top Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission official, allegedly conspired with Mohammad Khir Toyo, a leading United Malays National Organization politician, to start corruption probes into opposition politicians, according to an explosive unsigned letter sent to officials looking into the death of a young opposition political aide who died under mysterious circumstances on July 16.
There is no way to ascertain if the letter is authentic. However, with authorities conducting a probe into its origin, it seems certain to stir up a considerable outcry among pro and anti-government forces, with UMNO officials charging it was faked by the opposition to stir up fury at the ruling national coalition.
The five-page letter, typed in Malay language on anti-corruption commission stationery, was handed to Gobind Singh Deo, a lawyer holding a watching brief for the family of the dead man, Teoh Beng Hock, outside the courtroom where an inquest is being held into Teoh’s death. It was also sent to top members of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Gobind handed the letter over to the Coroner’s Court, which directed police to conduct an investigation into its contents.
Although Corner Azmil Muntapha Abas told lawyers not to reveal any information about the letter’s contents, it has since found its way into a wide variety of Internet publications in Kuala Lumpur. Among other features, it alleges widespread, long-time continuing corruption on the part of Hishamuddin, the MACC’s deputy director in the Selangor office, partly in covering up illegal activities by Khir Toyo.
Teoh was said to have driven himself into the inquiry, police said, adding that he had volunteered to appear for questioning. He was found dead on the fifth-floor rooftop of a building adjacent to the MACC offices after being questioned on the 14th floor from 5 pm on the 15th until 3:45 am the next morning. It would be bizarre indeed, or an act of stunning stupidity, for anti-corruption officials to throw the subject of an investigation off their own building.
The letter doesn’t say how Teoh died or if Hishamuddin was involved in the death. But it does raise several controversial points, including an allegation that Hishamuddin didn’t clock out from work when he left the MACC office the night of Teoh’s death and that he didn’t provide DNA samples, as other MACC officers did. Hishamuddin, the letter-writer said, gave a sample privately at some later time.
Questions have arisen over the DNA of an unnamed individual which was found on Teoh’s belt after his death. Hishamuddin, the letter writer said, had a habit of towing suspects around by their belts. When Teoh was found, his belt had been snapped in back, officials said.
Khir Toyo publicly denied the allegations, telling the Malaysia Insider website in a telephone conversation from Mecca in Saudi Arabia that he didn’t know the MACC official and offering to sue whoever wrote the letter if he or she can be found.
The death of Teoh, a 28-year-old aide to Selangor State Executive Council Member Ean Yong Hian Wah, has been called a suicide by government-appointed pathologists testifying at the inquest. However, it has caused outrage across Malaysia, particularly in the Chinese community, which largely believes Teoh died in an interrogation gone wrong. The case has thus had a corrosive effect on relations between the dominant ethnic Malay population and the Chinese, who make up about 25 percent of the country’s population.
Teoh, who was supposed to get married on the following Saturday to his fiancé, who was two months pregnant, was called in for questioning on July 15, reportedly about RM2,400 worth of flags his boss had bought for a Merdeka (freedom) Day celebration using public funds.
The investigation is one of a spate of probes the MACC has initiated into opposition politicians, according to observers in Kuala Lumpur. Although the agency’s defenders argue that UMNO officials are also being investigated, the bulk of the inquiries appear to be directed towards the opposition, while some really big ones involving Barisan officials have gone nowhere. The biggest one to currently catch the public’s eye was a decision not to look into the award of a contract to develop Port Klang dock facilities west of Kuala Lumpur although a confidential Price WaterhouseCoopers audit which was later made public alleged massive fraud that appeared to be connected to top officials of the Malaysian Chinese Party, a component of the ruling ethnic coalition.
Khir Toyo, the former Selangor chief minister, lost his post in March 2008 elections after a marathon series of scandals including allegations that the former dentist had amassed enough riches to build himself a resort-like home valued at RM24 million (US$6.7million) in an exclusive neighborhood of Shah Alam, a Kuala Lumpur suburb. He has increasingly emerged as an UMNO powerhouse as opposition leader in the state despite the loss to the Pakatan Rakyat and as an associate of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
The inquest is to continue on Monday pending the investigation into the letter.
Teoh Inquest: Letter names officer and BN leader
By WANI MUTHIAH (Star)
KLANG: The mysterious letter which derailed the Teoh Beng Hock inquest on Wednesday purportedly implicates a top-ranking Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer and a state Barisan Nasional leader in the mishap.
The letter, which was published in several news portals, was allegedly written by lower-ranking MACC officers, accusing the two men of having conspired to topple the Selangor government by conducting a witch-hunt of its leaders, which indirectly resulted in Teoh’s tragic death.
It also accused the MACC officer of having protected the politician when he was in power before the Pakatan Rakyat coalition took over Selangor.
According to the letter, the officer had received many kickbacks as payment for his service to the politician.
Counsel representing Teoh’s family, Gobind Singh Deo, tendered in the letter to the coroner after informing him that an individual had handed it to him on Tuesday.
One incriminating accusation in the letter is about the method the officer used as his interrogation technique – by holding the front portion of a person’s belt and lifting him several times before shaking him.
(Government forensic pathologist Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim had opined at the inquest earlier that it was possible that Teoh had been held up by the belt as it had a tear at the buckle region.)
It also said the officer left the office on the first session DNA samples were taken from MACC officers to facilitate investigations into Teoh’s death.
The letter alleged that during the second session, the officer gave his DNA in the privacy of his office instead of the conference room where all the officers, including the state director, had assembled to be swabbed.
“Why was his DNA sample given in secrecy? Was it his own sample that was given? We MACC officers are puzzled why none of the samples extracted matched that of the mysterious male samples (found on Teoh’s blazer and belt),” the letter purportedly asked.
It also recommended that the officer be swabbed again in the presence of people who can be trusted.
The letter alleged that the officer had ordered his subordinates to wipe the window, from where Teoh is believed to have plunged to his death.
The officer was also purportedly the last person to have seen Teoh alive, as he had not punched his card when leaving the office at 6.10am on July 16th.
Meanwhile, when contacted, the politician, who was overseas, said the allegations were baseless. “I have nothing to gain by toppling the Selangor government,” he added.
“I don’t think it’s the work of MACC officers. What are they going to get by making such wild allegations?” he asked.
The inquest into Teoh’s death was adjourned to Monday.