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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teoh Beng Hock: Perspectives On Inquests

I apologise for the protracted silence. Commitments these past few months have left me no time to write meaningfully. For those who had written messages of concern and encouragement, thank you for having taken the time to do so.

As has been made obvious by the tremendous publicity the inquest into the death of Teoh Beng has received, I represent the Selangor State Government in the proceedings. Gobind Singh represents Teoh’s family.

There are a few aspects that I think need to be put into perspective. I will not delve into the merits of the inquest as the matter is still under consideration. There are however certain objective areas that need some clarification.

First and foremost, it must be understood that the inquest is directed towards establishing a cause of death. The cause of death is more broadly categorized into suicide, accident (misadventure) or homicide (murder or culpable homicide). There are of course other verdicts that could be reached. These include a conclusion that further investigation is required or an open verdict. An open verdict is a finding that although there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the death in question, there is insufficient evidence to determine much more than that. Coroners lean to an open verdict where there is no proof of intent to commit suicide (suicide cannot be presumed).

The aim of the inquest is to determine the truth. In inquests, this is more usually a process of deductive reasoning and elimination of possibilities. As such, the evidence must be considered from that perspective. For example, if accidental death could be eliminated then suicide or homicide are the available options. If suicide could be eliminated, then homicide would be the only option (or an open verdict if the evidence did not allow for that finding).

The outcome of this inquest would obviously have political repercussions considering the way in which politics overlaps governance and the perception that the MACC is responsive to the government. Considering the possible outcomes of the inquest, it stands to reason that looking at the inquest as a political matter, death by suicide or accident or an open verdict (in that order of priority) would suit the MACC and, indirectly, the Government, the best. This is however not intended to suggest that neither institution is concerned with the truth; perceptions and perception management are crucial to building and maintaining public confidence.

The second area that needs clarification is the role that the forensic pathologist will play in the event someone is charged with homicide. The two pathologists that gave evidence in the inquest jointly signed the post-mortem report. In the event criminal proceedings are instituted, the post-mortem report becomes a crucial part of the prosecution case. The credibility of the pathologists, or at least one of them, is therefore equally crucial. A good defence counsel would be able to exploit the evidence of the pathologists at the inquest, as prior statements on oath, to his client’s advantage. As such, care has to be taken in the way findings are questioned.



Anonymous said...

Hi Malek,

I have been following the inquest from the AG website. But for past three days, there is no update in the web.

zorro said...

thanks for the timely clarification Malik and welcome back.

Anonymous said...

Very good writing to define what is Inquiry. Many peoples have little knowledge about what is meaning of this inquiry. However, one thing very obvious is the investigation into the death by government officers directed towards commit suicide. The both pathologist are betrayal of own professionalism.

Clifford Tan said...

Good to have you back, Malik. Your lucidity is greatly required.

dheep said...

welcome back, best wishes on all ur work~

Crankster said...

Good to see you back again. I enjoy reading your blog opinions.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

Just out of curiosity I wonder if there's a new category now being created called "assisted (or enforced) misadventure" appearing in between misadventure and homicide?

Samuel Goh Kim Eng
Sun. 30th Aug. 2009.

Tiger said...

Good to see you back here, MIS.
Appreciated your comments on the Inquiry, as well as in the Malay Mail regarding the sale of beer issue.
My opinion is that it seems painfully obvious this Inquiry will be made as a cover up for a lot of things, not unlike the actions by MCA over the PKFZ issue.
My disrespect for the current federal administration has turned into disgust.
What happened on March 8 last year is the best thing that could possibly happen for all Malaysians. Now we see more accountability, and we'll see more justice being done when PR comes into power at the next GE.
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Just back from your puprtedly enforced hiatus and you already in your stock of trade antics: slander.

Dei lawyer, you are telepathically messaging the outcome with the inane observation below, implicitly implying in the same breath that its gonna be fixed.:

"Considering the possible outcomes of the inquest, it stands to reason that looking at the inquest as a political matter, death by suicide or accident or an open verdict (in that order of priority) would suit the MACC and, indirectly, the Government, the best."

Smart of you to massage public opinion but not smart enough to do it subtly. Stick to the issue sans your asinine comments inserted as fact. That way you will convey impartiality better and not cast unwarranted aspersions in the direction of the coroner and in one stroke prevent even further public cynicism of government institutions.

Warrior 231

Pratamad said...

Welcome back.

I hardly follow the inquest, for there is no surprise and therefore justice to be expected from it. Like many fellow Msians, we can only wait patiently, for the time to come when justice can be restored. In the mean time, thanks for keeping a watch on how the morons will run the show.

Anonymous said...

may bod blasts those hands in blood -the death planner.

Unknown said...

Welcome back to posting,it is worth the wait.

Tiger said...

Dear MIS,
Can we get your comments on the below?

Judge Azahar Mohamed rejected V Sivakumar’s suit to seek damages from R Ganesan for assault and false imprisonment during the chaotic and violent state assembly sitting on May 7. He said the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case due to Federal Constitution Article 72 stipulating that “the validity of any proceeding in any state assembly cannot be questioned in any court”.

And yet in the same breath he declared that “the decision of the legislative assembly to remove the plaintiff as speaker and to appoint the defendant was conclusive and had been fairly determined by the state assembly on May 7, 2009 .”

Is that not a contradiction of the highest order?

Judge Azahar has therefore wrongly used Article 72 to come to his judgment. To make it very clear that this is the case, I will quote in full the relevant clauses in Article 72 (Clauses 1 & 2) and explain the reasons why.

Clause 1: “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court.”

Clause 2: “No body shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or vote given by him when taking part in proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of any State or of any committee thereof.”

Note the operative words “proceedings” in Clause 1 and “anything said or any vote given” in Clause 2. It is abundantly clear what Article 72 refers to are the speeches and resolutions made in the assembly, not any criminal or unlawful act.

And since Judge Azahar appears to be so respectful of the constitutional principle of separation of power as demonstrated by his professed adherence to Article 72, is it not puzzling that he should have chosen to ignore completely the heinous violation of the doctrine of separation of power when hordes of police personnel invaded the assembly to physically replace one speaker with another? Is it not another shining example of double standard in the Malaysia Boleh tradition?

After the series of judicial decisions that appear to wantonly trample the constitution and the law following the shameful power grab in Perak, the latest low represented by Azahar’s decision makes us wonder how much lower our judiciary can sink into, as many more judicial decisions in the same series are still pending.

julian said...

first of all welcome back mate
i have been reading about what you are trying to achive in the kangaroo courts there in various sources. now i got it from the horse's mouth ( figure of speech) sorry if it offends you.

Zulfahan said...

As a lawyer in the proceeding, should not you not commenting on the case ???

I think you should decide, be a lawyer or be a politician..

Gan said...

MIS - I suspected you must be fully occupied, hence, the web silence.

Personally, regardless of the inquiry findings - the general public has already come to their own conclusion.

I can only pray that justice shall prevail for Teoh Beng Hock.

P.S. read the latest on the Thai pathologist's opinion.

clear conscience said...

Dear Malik

Pls visit this article about hyoid evidence on strangulation.

Anonymous said...


keep your comments to yourself if you cannot comment decently!