Ruth Sitepu's family hopes for answers into couple's disappearance in Suhakam inquiry

KUALA LUMPUR: The family of Ruth Sitepu are hoping that a Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) inquiry into her disappearance will shed answers on her and her husband Joshua Hilmy's whereabouts.

Her siblings, Ram Ram Elisabeth and Iman Setiawan Sitepu said they were sure that there are individuals who have information regarding the location and the welfare of the couple, and the circumstances of their disappearance.

"We are desperate to know the truth about what happened to our sister and brother-in-law. We hope to be united with them soon," said Iman after the end of the first day of the inquiry on Tuesday (Feb 18).

He said that Ruth, who is the fourth of eight siblings, always kept in touch with the family until she and her husband went missing in November 2016.

Elisabeth said that Ruth was a responsible and caring person who always responded to their calls.

"She is a good person. We are waiting for her return and to be united with her," she said while sobbing.

She also thanked the Malaysian Government and agencies for making the public inquiry possible.

The missing couple was last seen on the night of Nov 30,2016, and were said to have not responded to any of their messages or calls since that date.

The first day of the inquiry heard that both Joshua and Ruth had left their house in Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya in haste after a heated argument over the phone.

Witness Grace Thangamalar, 27, who lived in the couple's house for about two years, was told by a Sabahan couple who also resided in the house that they heard the argument over the phone.

Joshua had supposedly told the other person on the line that he did not disturb that person and asked why he was being harassed.

Grace explained that both Joshua and Ruth opened up their home to anyone who needed a place to stay, regardless of their backgrounds.

Grace said that in December 2015, the couple told them that they had to leave the house in haste because of disturbances, although the couple did not explain in detail what this was.

Joshua and Ruth returned to the home about one month later, said Grace.

Grace also told the inquiry that she was only called by the police to give her statement last week - four years after the couple went missing.

Peter Pormannan, who is the father of Grace, told the inquiry that Joshua said that the "religious authorities" had been sought over his religious beliefs.

Joshua, who is from Taiping, converted to Christianity from Islam, although it could not be ascertained when this happened.

Peter also told the inquiry that Joshua did a lot of pastoral work and always shared his experiences with people, especially those who were troubled.

The panel of inquiry is chaired by Commissioner Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Yunus and assisted by Commissioners Jerald Joseph and Dr Madeline Berma.

Suhakam initiated investigations in connection with the disappearances under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act.

Ruth, who is Indonesian, married Hilmy in 2004.

Both of them were born a few days apart in 1969.

In April of last year, Suhakam concluded in their inquiries that Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat were victims of "enforced disappearance by state agents".

In announcing the findings of the public inquiry on April 3, Suhakam had said that there was "direct and circumstantial evidence which proves, on balance of probabilities, that he was abducted by state agents, by Special Branch, Bukit Aman."

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