Suhakam’s inquiry into Pastor Koh’s disappearance halted (Updated)

KUALA LUMPUR: In a twist of events, a public inquiry into the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh came to a halt leaving those present stumped when it was revealed that a man had been charged over the case on Monday.

It was even more bewildering when they learnt that the suspect who was charged was Lam Chang Nam, 32 – an alleged conman nabbed for attempting to extort RM30,000 from Koh's son, Jonathan, weeks after the pastor went missing on Feb 13, 2017.

Lam, who worked as a part-time ride hailing service driver, had claimed trial in March last year to a charge of extorting Jonathan RM30,000 for the purpose of releasing his father.

Police had also made it clear that Lam was merely an opportunist who had taken advantage of Koh's family for his own gain and was not involved in his abduction.

However, it was learnt that Lam was hauled in by police on Saturday and charged in the Petaling Jaya magistrate's court on Monday for abducting Koh with seven other unknown individuals still at large.

Today, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner and former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mah Weng Kwai said the commission had received a letter from Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun at 3pm on Monday asking that the inquiry be stopped as there was a court case pending.

"The letter stated that a suspect had been charged under Section 365 of the Penal Code for abduction and kidnapping at the Petaling Jaya magistrate's court on Monday.

"We do not know if he is still being remanded or he has made bail as there have been no reports or updates about this.

"We are taken by surprise by this new development. We had no idea of this development until yesterday," said Mah.

Under Section 12 of the Suhakam Act, an inquiry shall not proceed if the subject matter is part of a court proceeding.

The Suhakam inquiry had sought to establish whether the disappearance of Koh and three others were cases of enforced or involuntary disappearance, as defined under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Mah said Suhakam would, however, proceed with its inquiry into the disappearance of social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Sitepu.

Selangor CID chief SAC Fadzil Ahmat, when asked today for comments about Lam being charged, said federal police will issue a statement on the matter.

As of 7pm today, there was no statement forthcoming from Bukit Aman.

However, sources told theSun that fresh developments in the case had implicated Lam and the Attorney-General's Chambers had agreed to charges being proferred against Lam after perusing the investigation papers.

On the morning of Feb 13 last year, Koh, 62, was abducted from his car by a group of masked men in a convoy of vehicles less than 100m from a police housing complex in SS4 Kelana Jaya.

Koh's wife, Susanna Liew, reportedly expressed disappointment at Suhakam's announcement today.

"I will have to seek advice from my lawyers on how to go forward," she said.

Koh's family lawyer Gurdial Singh said they are surprised Lam had been charged, when Fadzil had declared that the suspect had nothing to do with the abduction.

"Fadzil is the head of the task force looking into Koh's abduction, and was the 11th witness in the inquiry," Gurdial said.

He said police investigations showed in March last year that this person was not involved in the abduction.

"Now, as we approach the end of the inquiry, and we still have three crucial witnesses to testify, we have this person (Lam) being charged," he said.

Gurdial said as public officers, police should attend the inquiry as a basic courtesy and abide by any ruling that the commission might make.

"But, police choose to be absent today. So, we did not have the benefit of hearing their take on this turn of events.

"That is very unfortunate because then, it can be construed by the public, as a matter of perception, that this is a deliberate attempt to derail the concluding end of this inquiry," he said.