In “Malaysia Baharu”, the nation has increasing expectations of the authorities to uphold, adhere to and deliver higher standards of integrity, transparency and accountability across all facets of civil and public life. Thus, conflicts of interest in the public sector — if not managed properly — could severely undermine the integrity of and trust in public agencies and its officials, decisions of authorities, as well as the government as a whole.
It is for this reason that the Malaysian Bar welcomes and commends the decision of the Royal Malaysia Police’s former legal unit chief Dato’ Moktar Mohd Noor to withdraw from the Special Task Force (“STF”), which was established by Minister of Home Affairs, YB Tan Sri Dato’ Hj Muhyiddin Hj Mohd Yassin, to probe into the enforced disappearances of Perlis activist, Amri Che Mat, and Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo (“the enforced disappearance cases”). The personal responsibility undertaken by Dato’ Moktar Mohd Noor to resolve the issue raised by numerous parties in regard to his appointment to the STF exemplifies accountability in action, setting a sound example for all to follow.
This is particularly important given the alarming finding unanimously reached by members of the panel of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (“SUHAKAM”)’s Public Inquiry into the Disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh (“Inquiry Panel”), that both men were the victims of enforced disappearance at the hands of the Special Branch of the headquarters of the Royal Malaysia Police in Bukit Aman. Enforced disappearance is a grave affront to the human conscience and has been described as “one of the most painful crimes against humanity ... a source of unimaginable pain for many families who often lived their lives without knowing what had happened to their loved ones".1 This serious indictment has manifestly eroded public confidence in our criminal justice system.
Justice must be meted out and the perpetrators made to account for their actions. Only concrete and clear action — such as the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (“IPCMC”) as well as an STF that is independent, impartial and fully empowered to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the enforced disappearance cases — will alleviate public fear and anxiety, instil confidence in the safety and security of this country and its people, and gradually restore the stature and standing of the police force.
In light of these, the composition of the STF is of paramount importance that must be given its due. The STF must consist of “independent investigators” and “in the event there is any conflict of interest, they ought not to be appointed".2 Regard must be had to “persons who have no current or past connections” with the criminal investigations conducted into the enforced disappearance cases or with any current or past member of the authorities involved therein.
Any finding made by a task force whose members could be affected by issues of their participation in the Inquiry Panel, conflict of interest and partiality, would be inadvertently tainted in the public eye — its deliberations questionable and lacking credibility. On this note therefore, we welcome the recent appointments of Azian Umar from the Malaysian Anti–Corruption Commission (“MACC”) and Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee, who is a member of the Bar Council and the Malaysian Bar to the STF.
The withdrawal of Dato’ Moktar Mohd Noor and these recent appointments are a step towards restoring public trust in the STF, which must demonstrate its commitment in getting to the bottom of the enforced disappearance cases and to leave no stone unturned in fulfilling its mandate. It will be through its actions that the legitimacy and credibility of the STF will find its place in the hearts and minds of the people, even as we call for justice to be done and to be seen to be done for Amri Che Mat, Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo and their loved ones.
It is also extremely urgent that the Terms of Reference of the STF, which do not appear to be in the public domain, be made available publicly.
Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor
11 July 2019
 Tenth Anniversary of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, General Assembly of the United Nations, 71st Session.
 Final Decision, SUHAKAM Inquiry Panel.