Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS

Asia Sentinel | Monday, 26 October 2009

It's best to be connected to the ruling national coalition

On July 16, according to the testimony of a Thai pathologist, Teoh Beng Hock, a 29-year-old aide to an opposition politician, was probably beaten during a marathon questioning session, sodomized, strangled unconscious, dragged to a window of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission in Kuala Lumpur and thrown to his death.

The country's law enforcement establishment maintains that Teoh committed suicide by leaping from the MACC building after the inquiry was concluded into irregularities in his boss's accounts. But it is far from the first "suicide" in custody and what happened to Teoh happens all too frequently when the luckless collide with the powerful in Malaysia. His real killers are unlikely ever to be identified. As many as 350 people have died in custody since 1990. The privileged are rarely brought to trial.

The most infamous recent case before Teoh's is that of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28 year-old Mongolian translator who was murdered in 2006 by two bodyguards of then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Altantuya had been jilted by Najib's best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, and was demanding money from him.

Although numerous witnesses and evidence connected Najib to the affair, he was never questioned or put on the witness stand, nor was his chief of staff, Musa Safri, who Baginda said in a cautioned statement he approached about getting Altantuya to cease her harassment. His two bodyguards were convicted of the murder although one, in his confession, said the two men were to be paid RM100,000 to kill her. The court never asked who would pay the money. The confession wasn't allowed in court. Baginda was acquitted without having to put on a defense and promptly left the country and Najib was eventually named Prime Minister.

Such questionable cases go back to at least the early 1980s when Sultan Mahmud Iskandar of Johor (left) was dubbed the "killer king" by the British tabloids after he shot a trespasser to death on his property. He also reportedly assaulted and killed a golf caddy who was said to have laughed when the sultan missed a golf stroke and he maimed the caddy's brother. He later was alleged to have assaulted and injured a hockey coach, kicking off a constitutional crisis that led to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's removal of legal immunity from prosecution for all of Malaysia's nine sultans, although Iskandar was never either arrested or jailed.

There are plenty more. In 1988 an attractive young woman named Mustakizah Jaafar, who owned a video rental business in Malacca, was found hacked to death by unknown assailants. Mustakizah reportedly was pregnant at the time of her death. She was believed to be having an affair with Megat Junid Megat Ayob (right), the onetime UMNO deputy home affairs minister, who died in January 2008 of cancer.

No one was ever charged with Mutakizah's murder. The widespread gossip about Megat Junid's connection with Mustakizah didn't do his political career any harm. He was ultimately named Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister in 1997 although he lost his parliamentary seat two years later and retired from politics.

[Read the whole sad and sordid story here.]
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