Suhakam: Hearsay allowed in public inquiries, unlike criminal, civil cases

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 04 Apr 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: A public inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is allowed to accept hearsay evidence unlike a criminal or civil case in court, says Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai (pic).

He said that under Section 14 of the Suhakam Act, the inquiry panel was not limited or constrained by the Evidence Act 1950.

"Hearsay becomes admissible... we were very mindful of this because a lot of things said was hearsay evidence.

"The next important thing is how we the evaluate evidence.

"How much weight is attached to such evidence. That's where the evaluation exercise took place," he said during a press conference Thursday (April 4).

Mah was asked if it was a stretch for Suhakam to come to a conclusion that pointed fingers at the police in the disappearance of both Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh.

Suhakam's public inquiry panel found “direct and circumstantial evidence which proved, on balance of probabilities”, that Koh and Amri were abducted by the Special Branch of Bukit Aman, the commission said on Wednesday (April 3).

The basis for the conclusion in both cases was found in the evidence of the testimony of Amri's wife Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, who said that police officer Sergeant Shamzaini Mohd Daud told her that the Special Branch carried out both the abductions.

Shamzaini later lodged a police report, denying that he said those things.

When asked if Shamzaini could have made up a story for Norhayati in the first place, Mah asked why he would do so.

"Why would anybody out of the blue come along and make a story up like this, knowing this will affect him? He's a serving officer.

"Why would he want to do that? And don't forget he was a total stranger to Norhayati," he said, adding that they considered all the evidence presented in a holistic way.

The inquiry was held under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act.

The panel of inquiry comprised commissioners Mah as chairman, Prof Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh.

In his response to the findings, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Suhakam based its decision on hearsay evidence.

He added that they would allow a special task force to be set up to probe the allegation, as urged by Suhakam, provided that it could substantiate its claims.

"Please, anyone who is going to have views on this, kindly read it and analyse it," Mah said when asked about Dr Mahathir's comments.

"We are trying to say everything stated is based on evidence we have received," he added.

Prof Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin said the onus was once again on the state to acquire and submit evidence to show they were not involved in the disappearances.

Koh went missing in 2017 after he was abducted by a group of men in a “professional” style at Petaling Jaya.

In 2016, Amri, who was being investigated for allegedly spreading Shia teachings, went missing after he left his home in Kangar at about 11.30pm.

Mah said that they would officially submit copies of the decision to the Prime Ministers Department, the Attorney General's Chambers, the Home Affairs Ministry and the police.

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