Sunday, 11th April 2010
The Selangor government has been left in the dark with the sudden withdrawal by renowned Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand from the Teoh Beng Hock inquest.
With the news of Pornthip's withdrawal breaking today, state officers were huddled in meetings with lawyers on their next course of action, especially with the inquest set to reconvene on April 20.
Pornthip was expected to testify on that day, with many eager to know the details of her report on Teoh's second post-mortem.
When contacted, lawyer for the state government Malik Imtiaz Sarwar refused to comment on their likely movement.
"I am taking instructions on this. Nothing much to say," he told FMT in a brief SMS message.
Newsportal Malaysiakini reported today that Pornthip, the director-general of the Bangkok-based Central institute of Forensice Science (CIFS), has withdrawn from the inquest citing "political" pressure from the Malaysian government that could affect her work in Southern Thailand.
In her earlier appearance in the Teoh inquest, Pornthip had said that the DAP political aide's death was "80 percent homicide". The Malaysian pathologists however had insisted that Teoh could have plunged to his death or suicide.
By taking the witness stand again, Pornthip was expected to reveal the mysterious circumstances surrounding Teoh's death last July 16.
Thirty-year-old Teoh was the political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah and had been summoned to the MACC office on the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam to be questioned over allegations of irregularities in the state funds on July 15, 2009. He was however found dead the following day on top of the fifth floor adjacent to the building.
Gobind: Will make alternative arrangements
Pornthip's sudden decision had come as a shock to many, including lawyer Gobind Singh Deo who appears for the Teoh family in the inquest.
In a statement today, Gobind described the withdrawal as a significant development. He said he was in the midst of clarifying the matter with the pathologist.
He said he was still hopeful that Pornthip will still be able to testify in the inquest on April 20.
"If she is unable to (attend the inquest), we will try to make alternative arrangements for her evidence to be taken.
"If that too fails, we will have to proceed with what we have and we are confident we will still be able to succeed in establishing our case, which is that Teoh did not commit suicide but instead his was a clear case of homicide," he said.
This is not the first time Pornthip has claimed that she has been harassed because of her participation in the inquest. Previously she had said that she had been followed by unknown persons during her trips to Malaysia to testify.
Her testimony at the inquest had also been rubbished by the government, especially by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Aziz who today accused the Thai expert of lying.
Gobind lashed out at Nazri for not wanting to help in discovering the truth surrounding Teoh's death.
“He should investigate the allegations made by Porntip first before drawing to conclusions on the matter. He is in no position to determine what weight ought to be given to Porntips testimony,” said Gobind.
“Instead of assisting the Teoh family and trying to solve the problem, Nazri has spoken volumes for the government to the contrary. Is there a real desire on part of the government to see justice done for Teoh Beng Hock or do they hope to discredit those who have helped establish a case against suicide on his behalf as seems to be the case here?” he added.
Related to the Hulu Selangor by-election?
The state government research officer Tricia Yeoh told FMT that the federal government should play a part in getting Pornthip back to the inquest.
"We just hope the federal government will assist us to have Pornthip here as she is officially appointed by the state government," she said briefly.
In another reaction, lawyer Lim Lip Eng, also acting for the Teoh family, said that the pressure placed on Pornthip via government channels could be due to the coming Hulu Selangor by-election which the Barisan Nasional wants to win from PKR.
"The inquest will be on the 20th and the by-election will be on April 25. There is pressure on the government side as Pornthip would disclose the findings that could give a great impact on them and the MACC," he told FMT.
Lim also expressed his concerns that the Thai pathologist was not allowed into Kelantan to investigate a case related to the massacre in southern Thailand as part of her forensic work.
"I want the government to explain to the people why she is not allowed into Kelantan? She is a renowned doctor, why can't she come to Malaysia? We need as much help from her," said Lim.
The federal government has not officially responded to Pornthip's claims that she had been pressured to pull out from testifying in the inquest apart from Nazri who was reported in Malaysiakini as saying that the Thai expert was lying.