SPARE A THOUGHT FOR JUSTICE AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH TEOH’S ‘SUICIDE’ – FACT OR FANTASY

WE HAVE WHAT APPEARS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST INEPT, CORRUPT AND FOOLISH GOVERNMENTS MALAYSIA HAS EVER HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SEEING IN POWER. BUT IS IT REALLY ALL THAT BAD? OR IS IT THAT THIS GOVERNMENT SIMPLY HAS NO CLUE AS TO WHAT TO DO OR SAY IN MOMENTS OF CRISIS? EVERY TIME ONE OCCURS, AS INDEED ONE DID IN KUALK LUMPUR LAST WEEK, THE NATION MARCHES HELPLESSLY AS ITS LEADERS MAKE A FOOL OF THEMSELVES. HAVING BEEN A JOURNALIST FOR THREE DECADES, ONE HAS SEEN WORSE, FAR WORSE GOVERNMENTS, THOUGH NOT PERHAPS AS CORRUPT. BUT NEVER HAVE I SEEN ONE THAT HAS BOTH ITS FEET SO FIRMLY IN ITS MOUTH.

Almost everyone who speaks for the UMNO has zero communications skills and, curiously, none of them, from the Prime Minister downwards, have chosen a single convincing person to speak on their behalf. Their speech writers are lousier. More often than not, they make things worse by what they say.
 

 


In 1959, a murder shook India. It also evoked intense public debate. Not on whether the murderer should be given a tougher sentence but if he ought to be freed with honour. At the centre of the controversy was a naval officer (a bit like Emile Jerome but far more senior; he was a Naval Commander who had worked as a Defence Attache) and his name remains in the annals of Indian criminal law, making it that much more difficult for any judge to decide between a murder and a crime of passion (or crime passionnel as the French lovingly call it).Murder is indeed a heinous crime. But a crime of passion is not the same. It’s never premeditated but occurs, almost by accident, in a moment of high emotional stress. It’s a crime committed suddenly, in the heat of the moment, often with strong moral justification, but a crime nevertheless that needs to be punished because our society does not know, as yet, a better way to differentiate between one murder and another. All it does therefore is make the sentence slightly less severe than capital punishment or life imprisonment, the two ways in which a murderer is punished. 

Commander Nanavati’s case was first tried by a jury. It acquitted him 8 to 1. The angry State not only went into appeal but abolished all jury trials forever. The High Court, where the case went for retrial, adjudged Nanavati guilty and in 1961, the Supreme Court upheld the decision on the ground that Nanavati had packed off his wife and children to Metro to watch a movie while he picked up a gun and six cartridges and went to meet his wife’s lover, a Sindhi businessman called Prem Ahuja. After a brief altercation, Nanavati pumped three bullets into him when he answered his question (“Will you marry my wife and look after my children?”) with an insolent “Do I have to marry every woman I sleep with? The fact that after the crime, Nanavati surrendered to the police did not help him. Instead, it bolstered the prosecution argument, led by Ram Jethmalani, that the murder was premeditated. Public opinion thought otherwise. Nanavati became a cult figure: An upright man defending his honour against a sleazy sleepabout. So much so that after three years he was pardoned by the Governor.

The Susairaj case has many resemblances to this. Most important is the fact that it’s also a crime of passion. By that definition, the judgement appears fair because Emile Jerome had not planned the murder. He had only come to surprise his girlfriend. It happened after a scuffle, or that’s what the evidence states, and a hapless Maria watched her boyfriend stab her lover with a kitchen knife. What happened thereafter no one knows and, as a journalist, I am never 100 per cent convinced by a police version. Post that, urban legend takes over.

So the real issues of outrage are matters of conjecture, not fact. Whether Maria and Jerome had sex in front of the dead body and whether they cut up the corpse into 300 pieces to destroy the evidence appear to me more in the realm of fantasy. There is no evidence for either. The truth is known to three people, one of whom is dead. I believe that such horrific stories are often creations of the police and certain sections of the media out to make every crime look larger than life and thus, every arrest look like an act of sheer genius. The truth is usually far more pedestrian. But no, that never makes for a great story. So everyone tries to pamper us with hyperbole. The police. Newspapers, TV channels. And, finally, movie makers. They all have one agenda: To make a crime look sexier than it is.

Whatever happened is sad. Saddest for the Grover family. We must grieve for them. But we must also protect every individual’s right to a fair trial. Maria has faced court, and more than served out her sentence. Now that she is out, let us give her back the dignity she deserves as a woman who has been held for 3 years and 14 days in one of our worst prisons, with hardened criminals for company. She has to be allowed to regain her life. If we feel the punishment is inadequate, the right place to appeal is a higher Court, exactly as in the Nanavati case. But to hound a young woman, to disallow her from speaking in a press conference, to call her a killer when there’s no evidence to defend that slur, to mock the judgement and make it impossible for her to return to a normal life is unjust. We are a law abiding nation, not a lynch mob.

Jerome is behind bars for 10 years. Maria who helped him destroy evidence has served her term. It’s time we backed off. If you think she deserves more punishment, go file a PIL. But stop harassing a woman who has already paid a steep enough price for her crime.

By Kim QuekThe Royal Commission of Enquiry on Teoh Beng Hock’s death (RCI) says that Teoh had committed suicide. 

And what had driven this promising young political aide to take his own life?

RCI provides the answer in the concluding paragraph on its probe (para 232 of RCI Report), which refers to the supposed final stage of the all-night grilling of Teoh in the MACC office on July 15, 2009:

“TBH experienced a change in his state of mind.  And in a matter of hours, this change transformed him from being in the low-risk group for suicide into the high-risk group.  The doubts, extreme emotional conflict and the immense feeling of guilt were all intolerable.  ….. Finding no viable strategies to surmount the hurdle of accusations leveled, he found himself unable to escape from the suffocating quagmire in which he was trapped.  Losing all hope, TBH would have felt trapped and succumbed to despair. ……TBH would have found that the only way for escape from the torment he was undergoing was by jumping out of the window, even though it meant taking his own life.”

Judging from the severity of anguish described by RCI, one would have thought Teoh must have been cornered for improprieties over millions of public funds, and now was the moment of reckoning when he had to face the terrible shame of having to dishonour himself, his loved ones, his party and his government.

Not at all the case.

PETTY AND DUBIOUS ALLEGATION

Teoh was in fact only brought in by MACC as a witness to assist in the investigation of an unfounded allegation against his political boss of having abused a mere RM2,400 of public funds – allegedly claiming the money to buy flags that were not delivered.

If you are a novice to the case, you would certainly have expressed shock and disbelief that such a trivial matter could have driven a seasoned political activist to commit suicide.  But RCI thinks otherwise, for which they have come up with a host of reasons, the main ones of which are summed up in para 230 of the report, which I quote in full:

“These intense stages of interrogation must have created serious doubts in TBH’s mind as regards his action in relation to his duties as YB Ean’s political secretay.  Signing his name but affixing YB Ean’s seal, the absence of at least three quotations before the awarding of a project or programme, the alleged kickbacks to the DAP, the direct awards of projects, and fixing prices to goods required for projects also weighed heavily on his mind.”

RCI has earlier explained in its report that MACC officers had bullied Teoh with all sorts of false accusations of wrong-doings.  These included Teoh signing on documents with boss Ean’s rubber stamp (though Teoh was actually blameless as his own name was clearly written on the document, indicating he was signing on behalf of his boss), awarding contracts without calling at least 3 quotations (though this rule was superceded by a new Selangor government directive allowing direct awards for projects under RM20,000, but Teoh apparently was not familiar with these rules).

Other events that had compounded the distress of Teoh, in the opinion of RCI, were the removal of his hand phone to which Teoh was addicted, and the disclosure of the password to his email account, which would have enabled an invasion into his privacy.

TEOH & BOSS’ INTEGRITY INTACT

However, in RCI’s laborious weaving of the picture of gradual doom that was supposedly experienced by Teoh that had eventually reduced him “to almost a mental and physical wreck” (para 229 of the RCI Report), RCI had forgotten the cardinal fact of the case – that the integrity of Teoh and his boss was intact and Teoh was well aware of that.  In fact, when Teoh was taken in, he was already familiar with MACC’s witch-hunting against Selangor’s Pakatan leaders that had been going on for some time – it was part of BN’s strategy to destabilize the Selangor state government.

Under the circumstances, even if MACC had succeeded in creating self-doubt in Teoh through the false accusations as outlined in para 230, these are all technical in nature.  There was no element of dishonesty, as neither Teoh nor YB Ean had illegally pocketed any money. How is it then that RCI can make the conclusion that such dubious allegation of minor technical misconduct had plunged Teoh into a state of “extreme emotional conflict”, “immense feeling of guilt”, “losing all hope” and “succumbed to despair”?

In reaching these bizarre conclusions, hasn’t RCI made a giant leap in fantasy land?

By all accounts, Teoh was a bright young man of integrity and cheerful disposition, looking forward to his imminent marriage to his lover who was then conceived with his child.  Will such a person jump from the 14th floor of the building just because he was unjustly and unfairly interrogated by government officers?

Professor Paul Edward Mullen, Emeritus Professor of Forensic Psychiatry of Monash University, who was brought in by the Bar to prepare a report, seems to have provided the answer when he stated (quoting from para 209 of RCI Report):

“TBH was firmly in the lowest risk group for suicide when he was taken into MACC custody.    And if TBH …. did kill himself, things were likely to have occurred both to undermine his psychological stability and to frighten him literally to death. …”

Could Teoh have been frightened to death by the interrogation antics, albeit cruel, waged by MACC officers over such minor and dubious accusations?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

PSYCHIATRIC REPORTS QUOTED OUT OF CONTEXT

On the subject of psychiatrists’ reports, it is regrettable that RCI has resorted to quoting these out of context to make them appear as if these psychiatrists support its postulation of suicide. This is decidedly not the case.

The press release of the Malaysian Bar has quoted from these reports showing that none has supported the suicide theory.

On Professor Mullen’s report, the Malaysian Bar says: “He further opined that the contest of the events that had taken place was not one ‘which in [his] experience, leads to suicide in custody’, as he had not been made aware of anything ‘to explain panic and distress sufficient to drive [Teoh Beng Hock] to conclude his honor had been irreparably tarnished.”

And the joint report of Dr. Badiah Yahya and Dr. Nor Hayati Ali, who were present in the court proceedings and had interviewed people close to Teoh, apart from confirming Teoh’s status as low risk for suicide, states:

“We did not have any evidence on how the investigation was conducted as there were ‘no written questions posted to [Teoh Beng Hock]’ or audio recording as to ascertain the amount of pressure that he experienced.  It is not known whether he had experienced in his mind the effects of being possibly prosecuted on the allegations, whether it would have been devastating for him and/or his organization”.

Despite these two psychiatrists’ clear stand that there were no evidence that suggested Teoh’s suicidal move, RCI persisted in using part of these psychiatrists’ observation to buttress its suicide postulation.  The psychiatrists observed that Teoh was subjected to emotional stress over these two events prior to his questioning by MACC:

·        Teoh had to bring forward his wedding after discovering that his fiancée was pregnant.

·        The gathering of documents by MACC from District and Land Office insinuating misappropriation of allocation by his boss YB Ean.

That RCI has to resort to using these two rather tame events to support its conclusion of suicide only exposes that RCI is actually scraping the bottom of the barrel to convince a skeptical public.

Bringing forward a marriage due to unplanned pregnancy is already a common and accepted occurrence in local society and hence, it is not supposed to raise any eyebrow, not to mention causing any emotional crisis.

MACC officers visiting government offices to fish for evidence to incriminate Pakatan leaders has long been recognized as BN’s modus operandi to sabotage the Selangor state government, and should therefore be no big deal to a seasoned politician like Teoh.

SPINNIG SUICIDE WILL DAMAGE BN MORE

However, despite RCI’s unconvincing attempt to spin a suicide, it has nevertheless done a good job in exposing the deplorable state of lawlessness and abuse prevailing in MACC, which, like almost all other institutions, have been depraved through the long reign of a corrupted political leadership.

If only RCI has applied the same measure of honesty on the cause of Teoh’s death, as it has done in criticizing MACC’s mismanagement, it would have done its political masters a great favour, as nothing will reassure the electorate more than the moral courage to own up an ugly truth.

As it turned out, Teoh Beng Hock in his death, will continue to take his pound of flesh from the political masters who were ultimately responsible for his tragic death.

Kim Quek

The human body responds to stress with a powerful fight-or-flight reaction. Hormone surge through the body, causing the heart to pump faster and sending extra supplies of energy into the bloodstream. For much of human history, this emergency response system was useful: It enabled people to survive immediate physical threats, like an attack from a wild animal. But today, the stress in most people’s lives comes from the more psychological and seemingly endless pressures of modern life. Daily challenges like a long commute or a difficult boss can turn on the stress hormones — and because these conditions don’t go away, the hormones don’t shut off.  Instead of helping you survive, this kind of stress response can actually make you sick.
Chronic stress can harm the body in several ways. The stress hormone cortisol, for instance, has been linked to an increase in fat around organs, known as visceral fat. The accumulation of visceral fat is dangerous, since these fat cells actively secrete hormones that can disrupt the functioning of the liver, pancreas and brain, causing problems such as insulin resistanceinflammation and metabolic syndrome. Chronic exposure to other stress hormones can also weaken the immune system and even change the structure of chromosomes.
How Stress Affects the Brain
Recent research suggests that chronic stress takes a toll on the brain, too. Studies on mice show that stress-related hormones alter physical structures in the brain in ways that could affect memory, learning and mood. Some of these changes involve dendrites — tiny branch-like structures on nerve cells that send and receive signals. Several studies have shown that stress hormones can shrink dendrites and, as a result, information doesn’t get relayed across nerve cells. When the cell damage occurs in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, it can impact memory and learning.
If stress makes you feel anxious, damage to dendrites might be part of the cause. A 2011 study found that rats whose dendrites had eroded due to stress had higher levels of anxiety. More research is needed to determine the exact effect of stress hormones on people’s brains, but one study of adults with post-traumatic stress disorder suggests that the stress hormone cortisol may actually shrink the size of the hippocampus. Researchers are still trying to determine if this is because of the hormone’s toxic effect on neurons or if there is a genetic component — or if both are involved.
Another part of the brain that seems to be affected by stress is the amygdala — the part of the brain that regulates fear and other emotions. A 2003 study found that in mice under stress, the amygdala grew larger while the dendrites in the hippocampus shrank. Researchers believe that together, these two effects may cause an increase in anxiety. They think that as the amygdala grows in size, you may experience more anxiety and fear. (The amygdala is known to become bigger and more active in people who are depressed). But because the hippocampus cells involved in memory are shrinking and not transmitting information effectively, you can’t connect the feelings of fear to memories of real events. You’re left with a lot of generalized anxiety.
Tips On Coping With Stress
If this news about stress and the brain is giving you a headache — or stressing you out in other ways — relax. The good news is that you can learn healthy ways to cope with stress that will protect your brain — and the rest of your body — from stress’s negative effects.
Not everyone is equally vulnerable to stress. Genetics play a role in how a person’s body reacts. Your past experiences can affect your response, too. If you lived through a lot of stressful situations growing up, you may be more sensitive to stress as an adult. Try to notice your own reactions to stress. Do you stay calm when pressures mount, or can you feel your pulse increase just thinking about a stressful situation? Once you become aware of what sets off your body’s fight or flight response, you can use these tips to try to change your response to stress.
1. Resolve the stressful situation if you can. You may not have much control over many of the sources of stress in your life, but if there is a something you can do to resolve a stressful situation, do it! Talk to friends about what you can do to change a bad situation, and consider getting help from a conflict resolution expert if necessary.
2. Spend time with loved ones and cultivate healthy friendships. Research shows that a good social support network has definite mental health benefits. It can keep you from feeling lonely, isolated or inadequate and if you feel good about yourself, you can deal with stress better. Friends and loved ones can be a good source of advice and suggest new ways of handling problems. But they can also be an excellent distraction from what’s bothering you. If your network of friends is small, think about volunteering, joining an outdoor activities group or trying an online meet-up group to make new friends.
3. Do an activity you like. Part of being stressed out is feeling that you never have enough time, so adding more activities to your schedule might seem like the last thing you need. But if you make even a little bit of time for an activity you really enjoy, the payoff can be huge: You feel calmer and happier and can deal with work and other demands better. Whether it’s playing music, doing a craft, or working on your car, do something that absorbs and relaxes you.
4. Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help slow your breathing and heart rate and focus your mind inward, away from whatever is causing you stress.
5. Exercise regularly. Whether it’s walking outside with a friend or taking an exercise class at the gym, getting active can help you relax and help turn off your body’s stress response.
6. Get plenty of sleep. When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly.
7. Eat a healthy diet. Stress is tough enough on your body, so help it out by feeding it fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat protein.
8. Appreciate what’s good in your life. It sounds corny, but focusing your thoughts on positive parts of your life instead of the stress-ridden areas can be good for your physical health. Research shows that positive emotions helped people recover their normal heart rate more quickly after it was raised during exertion.
9. Laugh! Researchers are still investigating the precise effects of laughter on stress hormones, but some findings suggest that it has a stress-relief effect on heart rate, respiratory rate and muscle tension. Your own research has probably convinced you that laughing makes you feel better.
10. Seek professional counseling if necessary.  Extreme chronic stress is no laughing matter. Enlist the help of a professional if you think you are at risk for serious health effects.
The Royal Commision of Inquiry has finally released its report to the public, a 124-page report, with the verdict of ‘suicide’. Astounded Malaysians with their mouths ajar could not believe their ears with the concluded findings.
As they had hped that the RCI would open up the case again, to explore the real truth behind the death of Teoh, it was a gross disappointment that the RCI report continued to echo the MACC’s original asessment.
The RCI reported the use of violent tactics and violation of human rights during interrogation proceedings. MACC officers lied during the inquest and the Investigation was launched without proper case filing. The episode concluded that a demented Teoh, after hours of torture and questioning, snapped and out of disgust, jumped from a window. It was not a homicide, or murder, just suicide.
But with MACC staying defiant and totally washing its hands of the matter, the people’s quest to see justice will not be satisfied.
Judge, jury and executioner
Teoh’s court case, widely highlighted in the media, revealed a massive cover-up of circumstances leading to Teoh’s demise. Even a poorly written suicide note was put up as evidence months after it was found and towards the end of the trial. Dr Pornthip, a Thai forensic expert’s findings were ignored. Lame efforts were suggested that Teoh hung himself, before plunging to his death.
Instead of concluding the episode, the RCI only served to conjure up more pertinent questions. What makes them so sure that Beng Hock committed suicide? Malaysians feel that their intelligence have been insulted.
MACC is seen to be playing Judge, Jury and Executioner. It used to be the safest place when your life is in danger is in a law enforcement building like MACC or a Police Station. This theory has since ceased to be true.
For a mere RM2,400-00, the MACC did not hesitate to employ violent tactics of interrogation that led to a loss of life. Malaysians have started to ask themselves, whether life is so cheap that a mere RM2,400 is enough to cause someone to take a life? How will MACC conduct themselves, if they were to investigate high profile cases that involve millions or billions of ringgit?
With such rampant corruption going on in this country, we wonder why MACC is not at the forefront and busy investigating the cases, and why many of our corrupted ones are still walking free, when there is enough evidence to bury them many times over?
MACC trio will be let off the hook
Chua Jui Meng has lambasted the authorities saying that the Chinese are angry. But not only are the Chinese angry. The Indians too, with the cover up of so many unexplained deaths, and so are the Malays. Sarbaini’s death, like Teoh will not go down at all well with the Malays. That is why the authorities dare not suggest ‘suicide’.
The ‘suicide’ verdict rings many unpleasant bells. It shows that the victim is deranged, a coward and a mentally sick person, for which we know that Teoh is none of the above. So the RCI verdict is downright insulting to the victim and the family concerned.
Meanwhile, Nazri Aziz has assured that “appropriate action will be taken against those officers involved” for going against MACC procedure, but did not mention what punishment would be meted out.
But definitely they would be let off the hook for murder, which the Teoh family and almost every Malaysian wants them to be prosecuted for. Or at least manslaughter but not to be totally cleared from responsibility as the suicide verdict has done so.
And this is actually the whole purpose of the RCI’s suicide verdict, for which the RCI panel will have to answer to God for. After all, does it make sense that the RCI is so critical of the MACC officers, saying they are liars, and yet when it comes to killing Teoh, the same officers are suddenly angels. Shame on the RCI panel forever.
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang also pointed out that; “forced suicide” is homicide. “You cannot have a situation it is not homicide but rather forced to commit suicide,”
The UMNO factor
The circumstances leading to Teoh’s demise was that Teoh was pulled in for interrogation for an embezzlement conspiracy allegedly cooked up by Selangor UMNO and MACC to topple the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor state government. A long list of Selangor Pakatan leaders were investigated for corruption and cheating charges. One of them was Ean Yong, the Seri Kembangan assemblyman and Teoh’s immediate boss, who was eventually cleared of all allegations.
Someone commented that the RCI is just a sham. The RCI was formed to appease growing public anger and to reinforce the same verdict that will absolve the government from all blame. And so sadly, this is what the whole country perceives it has done. We cannot say it enough times, shame on the RCI forever.
Even so, it is the noble sacrifices of men like Teoh and Sarbani that will move Malaysians to demand for change – for a clean up. The torch lit by Teoh and Sarbani shines brightly on, and futile efforts by the government to cover up the truth will only lead to a serious backlash.
Given a chance to come clean, the government’s stubbornness to conceal the truth and to wrap up the case will only hasten their demise. Teoh, like us has every right to an existence in this world. He is a son to his parents, a father to his child, a husband to his wife, a friend to everyone. He will not be forgotten, and his ghost, like the ghosts of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Sarbani and Kugan will linger on until justice has been served.
The nation still mourns with the Teoh family, even though the mourning should have been long over. Teoh is a Malaysian hero, and one day he will take his rightful place in the annals of our history.
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