Malaysia’s human rights commission, Suhakam, has ruled that Pastor Raymond Koh and a Muslim social activist, Amri Che Mat, were the victims of state sponsored “enforced disappearances”. After a year-long inquiry, Suhakam reported on Wednesday (3 April) that the two were taken by Special Branch – the police’s intelligence unit. Church leaders in Malaysia are now calling on the government to “Immediately take steps to clarify and separate the jurisdictions of the religious authorities and the Royal Malaysia Police.”
In a statement in response to Suhakam’s report, the Council of Churches of Malaysia, which includes three Anglican dioceses of the Church of the Province of South East Asia, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church in Malaysia, also called for the immediate launch of “an independent and impartial investigation into the Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat cases, free of conflict of interest.”
They also called for the families to the two men to be provided with remedies, “especially their right to know the truth about the fate and whereabouts of these two men.”
Raymond Koh, who had been accused of proselytising to Muslims, disappeared on 13 February 2017 in Selangor. Mr Amri, who practices Shia Islam, which is banned in Sunni-majority Malaysia, disappeared on 24 November 2016 in Perlis. The report said that the two men’s religious activities was the reason for their disappearance.
Eye witness accounts in both cases, say that the men were kidnapped as they travelled in cars which were boxed in by three other vehicles. A gold coloured Toyota Vios, owned by Special Branch officer Saiful Bahari, who has himself since gone missing, was at the scene of both attacks.
Pastor Koh and Mr Amri are just two of a number of people who have “disappeared” in Malaysia in recent years. The synod of the Anglican diocese of West Malaysia joined many other Christian groups in calling for Pastor Koh’s release.
“The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) is thankful to Suhakam for conducting this inquiry with integrity, impartiality, transparency and courage”, CCM’s General Secretary, Dr Hermen Shastri, said. “Suhakam had to take this up in the absence of an impartial and serious investigation, which the Malaysian police should have conducted as part of their statutory duty to uphold law and order in this country.
“This Suhakam investigation and inquiry process has been a vindication of the need for human rights to be placed at the forefront of all law and order matters in Malaysia. Going forward, we urge the Malaysian government to pay heed to the recommendations made by Suhakam today.”
In addition to calling for an immediate and impartial investigation and the provision of remedies to the families, the CCM also highlighted and called for Suhakam’s recommendation of immediate steps “to clarify and separate the jurisdictions of the religious authorities and the Royal Malaysia Police” and the “respect the freedom of religion as a fundamental human right”.
They also highlighted and called for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
“The Pakatan Government in its General Election Manisfesto 2018 had promised that the country will uphold the rule of law, and that all citizens will be treated equal before the law”, Dr Shastri said. “We call upon the Prime Minister to deliver on this promise and bring closure to this matter so that the families affected will find the justice they have been seeking for many years.”