Like many others, I am appalled at the death of Teoh Beng Hock at the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission’s (MACC) building. But like them, I remain unsurprised.
The Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) has for many years had suspects and persons accused of crime ending up dead whilst being in their custody. Predictably no action was taken in most of those deaths. No reforms were carried out to stem the corruption in the RMP. MACC has in that respect raised the bar and outdone the RMP with the death of a mere witness who was in their custody. So let us applaud MACC for meeting expectations on their performance. I certainly hope that they will not live to their high standards so that witnesses and suspects emerge alive after their interview with them.
What I find disappointing with regard to this crime is that Teoh’s family and many others are calling the government to set up a Royal Commission to investigate. I am not sure who advised them to make such a demand and why others are calling for it, but it really is a very sorry demand. Those making such a call are asking for so much less than what Teoh deserves and speaks tellingly of an intellectual bankruptcy and the utter desperation in our country.
Why do I say this?
Firstly, the Royal Commissions of Malaysia are in truth the “Royal Circus of Malaysia”. There is acrobatics, illusions, mind-boggling stunts, pomp, fanfare, widespread media coverage, outstanding characters and a host of willing participants. The only difference is that the tax payers, you and me, pay for this circus instead of those who attend it. After the show, everybody goes home, discusses it at the kopitiam for a week or so and forgets about it. Corruption, abuse of power and elitism continues unabated, unrestricted, unlimited, and then intensifies.
Second, since the Royal Commission is really a circus, we cannot expect anything meaningful to come out of it. The purpose of a Royal Commission is the illusion of doing something meaningful when its true purpose is entertainment – both to the power elite and the rakyat. I am certain that those in power like to call this a “win-win” situation. The rakyat gets their little show of accountability and the powerful have the opportunity to show they care when they really don’t give a damn and are ready to blow any of us up if we become a real nuisance. Like Altantuya. Like Bala. Like Raja Petra. Like all those other people we don’t know who were killed on instructions of the powerful.
From my count from Wikipedia, we have had 9 Royal Commissions. Before calling for another, we should stop to ask what the ratio is of Royal Commissions held to meaningful significant reform occurring as a result of the Royal Commissions. The results are pathetic. Let us consider the last two Royal Commissions.
Has anything meaningful come out of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the VK Lingam tape in 2007? Former premier, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, confirmed before his retirement that of the four files opened in purported investigation, three have been closed for no further action. Naturally, he did not disclose what or who were the subject in those files that were closed and the one remaining open. VK Lingam is still happily appearing in court without any hindrance or difficulty. Tun Ahmad Fairuz is comfortably drawing his pension and retirement though the Commission found him to be lying. Tan Sri Vincent Tan is still a successful influential tycoon in our country. All those who stand accused at the Royal Commission are still going about their business as if the entire affair was one long, tedious and farcical documentary.
And has anything come out of the the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police held in 2004? Nothing, except the recent statement by the present Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein, on 23 June 2009 to assure us that his Ministry will be completely ignoring the Royal Commission proposals and “come up with a new strategy to boost public confidence in the police force, instead of revisiting the 125 recommendations made by the Royal Commission’s report on the police.”
So if a Royal Commission is held for Teoh, that is what will happen. It will prove entertainment for the nation for a few days or weeks and then his death, what he stood for, what he tried and wanted to achieve for our country will be forgotten. This is a country that forgets easily. And nothing helps it forget more easily than circuses like this that reduce this tragedy into mere consumer entertainment – consumed and annihilated.
So I would urge forgetting about calling for the Royal Commission. Understand that it is a tool of repression. Do not be fooled by the label. The power elite are not going to do anything that would significantly harm their own self-interests. If this Royal Commission was really going to bring the perpetrators to the book, do you really think they will expose themselves to such a liability? No. There will be fall guys that will turn the entire proceedings into a charade. Look at the prosecution in the high profile cases – the mastermind is never caught. Only the actual hands of the operations, are charged and convicted. Altantuya is exemplary of this – the two Special Branch officers may have killed her, but what was their motive? They had instructions – who issued them? Who stands to gain from her death and their convictions?
Let us honour Teoh Beng Hock properly and take the cue from his family when they called for others to not politicise his death. Let us call for something meaningful and that would shame both the RMP and the MACC.
Let us call for Teoh Beng Hock’s death to be investigated independently by the Scotland Yard and then disclosed directly to the public by them. Let us leave it to the professionals and leave the politicians out of it. Leave it to an agency with no interest in our politicians or our system, whose only interest is in the culprits.
Because to call for the Royal Commission, would be akin to Teoh Beng Hock dying needlesly, wastefully and tragically, all over again.