PETALING JAYA, April 7 — There were dozens of people already gathered at the Muslim cemetery in Kota Damansara when the coffin was lifted out of the truck that served as the hearse.
Few were in the dark-blue uniform of their fellow Customs officer, the late Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed, making it hard to distinguish them from the rest of the crowd dressed in plainclothes.
Darkness was falling fast and the many hands there leaped to work in heavy-hearted silence, to bury the man they had called comrade, neighbour, boss, friend, uncle, father, husband and son.
The 56-year-old’s direct family watched on grimly as the hands lifted his white-clad remains and interred him into the reddish earth.
There was Ahmad Sarbani’s wife, petite Maziah Manap, 50, in a purple baju kurung, kneeling on the ground, surrounded by their five children and other relatives.
Ahmad Sarbani’s parents — father Mohamed Itam and mother Aishah, both in their 70s — were also there looking on as the earth swallowed their eldest son, at 6.15pm today, nearly 32 hours after he was found dead outside the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office in Kuala Lumpur.
They remained dry-eyed throughout the burial, their expression guarded even as they lifted their hands heavenwards in prayer throughout the brief funeral.
Their patience has already been sorely tested earlier as they waited to collect Ahmad Sarbani’s remains from the Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on the other side of Kuala Lumpur, from 10am today.
Their lips too were sealed tight, perhaps for fear of what they might unleash once the gates have been opened.
After all, they were burying a man still in his prime, a father of five — some still schooling — who had been repeatedly described as Mr Nice, Mr Friendly, and Mr Humble.
They had watched Ahmad Sarbani leave his home early yesterday morning — hale and hearty — to the four-storey MACC office in Jalan Cochrane where he was found sprawled lifeless on the rooftop of the adjoining badminton court.
He was the second person to have been found dead while in the MACC’s custody in the two years since its set-up.
They have followed a royal investigation panel go over and over the same points of the first person who died in the MACC’s care two years ago.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the death of Teoh Beng Hock — a 30-year-old political aide to a Selangor executive councilor found dead outside the Selangor MACC office on July 16, 2009 — is supposed to wrap up its case in three weeks, but appears nowhere close to meeting its deadline.
If the late Ahmad Sarbani’s family were to unseal their lips, what would they say?