Teoh’s ‘suicide’ — fact or fantasy? — Kim Quek
JULY 24 — The Royal Commission of Inquiry on Teoh Beng Hock’s death (RCI) says that Teoh had committed suicide.
And what had driven this promising young political aide to take his own life?
RCI provides the answer in the concluding paragraph on its probe (para 232 of RCI Report), which refers to the supposed final stage of the all-night grilling of Teoh in the MACC office on July 15, 2009:
“TBH experienced a change in his state of mind. And in a matter of hours, this change transformed him from being in the low-risk group for suicide into the high-risk group. The doubts, extreme emotional conflict and the immense feeling of guilt were all intolerable . . . Finding no viable strategies to surmount the hurdle of accusations levelled, he found himself unable to escape from the suffocating quagmire in which he was trapped. Losing all hope, TBH would have felt trapped and succumbed to despair . . . TBH would have found that the only way for escape from the torment he was undergoing was by jumping out of the window, even though it meant taking his own life.”
Judging from the severity of anguish described by RCI, one would have thought Teoh must have been cornered for improprieties over millions of public funds, and now was the moment of reckoning when he had to face the terrible shame of having to dishonour himself, his loved ones, his party and his government.
Not at all the case.
Petty and dubious allegation
Teoh was in fact only brought in by MACC as a witness to assist in the investigation of an unfounded allegation against his political boss of having abused a mere RM2,400 of public funds — allegedly claiming the money to buy flags that were not delivered.
If you are a novice to the case, you would certainly have expressed shock and disbelief that such a trivial matter could have driven a seasoned political activist to commit suicide. But RCI thinks otherwise, for which they have come up with a host of reasons, the main ones of which are summed up in para 230 of the report, which I quote in full:
“These intense stages of interrogation must have created serious doubts in TBH’s mind as regards his action in relation to his duties as YB Ean’s political secretary. Signing his name but affixing YB Ean’s seal, the absence of at least three quotations before the awarding of a project or programme, the alleged kickbacks to the DAP, the direct awards of projects, and fixing prices to goods required for projects also weighed heavily on his mind.”
RCI has earlier explained in its report that MACC officers had bullied Teoh with all sorts of false accusations of wrongdoing. These included Teoh signing on documents with boss Ean’s rubber stamp (though Teoh was actually blameless as his own name was clearly written on the document, indicating he was signing on behalf of his boss), awarding contracts without calling at least 3 quotations (though this rule was superceded by a new Selangor government directive allowing direct awards for projects under RM20,000, but Teoh apparently was not familiar with these rules).
Other events that had compounded the distress of Teoh, in the opinion of RCI, were the removal of his hand phone to which Teoh was addicted, and the disclosure of the password to his email account, which would have enabled an invasion into his privacy.
Teoh and boss’s integrity intact
However, in RCI’s laborious weaving of the picture of gradual doom that was supposedly experienced by Teoh that had eventually reduced him “to almost a mental and physical wreck” (para 229 of the RCI Report), RCI had forgotten the cardinal fact of the case — that the integrity of Teoh and his boss was intact and Teoh was well aware of that. In fact, when Teoh was taken in, he was already familiar with MACC’s witch-hunting against Selangor’s Pakatan leaders that had been going on for some time — it was part of BN’s strategy to destabilise the Selangor state government.
Under the circumstances, even if MACC had succeeded in creating self-doubt in Teoh through the false accusations as outlined in para 230, these are all technical in nature. There was no element of dishonesty, as neither Teoh nor YB Ean had illegally pocketed any money. How is it then that RCI can make the conclusion that such dubious allegation of minor technical misconduct had plunged Teoh into a state of “extreme emotional conflict”, “immense feeling of guilt”, “losing all hope” and “succumbed to despair”?
In reaching these bizarre conclusions, hasn’t RCI made a giant leap in fantasy land?
By all accounts, Teoh was a bright young man of integrity and cheerful disposition, looking forward to his imminent marriage to his lover who was then conceived with his child. Will such a person jump from the 14th floor of the building just because he was unjustly and unfairly interrogated by government officers?
Professor Paul Edward Mullen, emeritus professor of forensic psychiatry of Monash University, who was brought in by the Malaysian Bar to prepare a report, seems to have provided the answer when he stated (quoting from para 209 of RCI Report):
“TBH was firmly in the lowest risk group for suicide when he was taken into MACC custody. And if TBH . . . did kill himself, things were likely to have occurred both to undermine his psychological stability and to frighten him literally to death . . .”
Could Teoh have been frightened to death by the interrogation antics, albeit cruel, waged by MACC officers over such minor and dubious accusations?
Isn’t the answer obvious?
Psychiatric reports quoted out of context
On the subject of psychiatrists’ reports, it is regrettable that RCI has resorted to quoting these out of context to make them appear as if these psychiatrists support its postulation of suicide. This is decidedly not the case.
The press release of the Malaysian Bar has quoted from these reports showing that none has supported the suicide theory.
On Professor Mullen’s report, the Malaysian Bar says: “He further opined that the contest of the events that had taken place was not one ‘which in [his] experience, leads to suicide in custody’, as he had not been made aware of anything ‘to explain panic and distress sufficient to drive [Teoh Beng Hock] to conclude his honour had been irreparably tarnished.”
And the joint report of Dr Badiah Yahya and Dr Nor Hayati Ali, who were present in the court proceedings and had interviewed people close to Teoh, apart from confirming Teoh’s status as low risk for suicide, states:
“We did not have any evidence on how the investigation was conducted as there were ‘no written questions posted to [Teoh Beng Hock]’ or audio recording as to ascertain the amount of pressure that he experienced. It is not known whether he had experienced in his mind the effects of being possibly prosecuted on the allegations, whether it would have been devastating for him and/or his organisation.”
Despite these two psychiatrists’ clear stand that there were no evidence that suggested Teoh’s suicidal move, RCI persisted in using part of these psychiatrists’ observation to buttress its suicide postulation. The psychiatrists observed that Teoh was subjected to emotional stress over these two events prior to his questioning by MACC:
• Teoh had to bring forward his wedding after discovering that his fiancée was pregnant.
• The gathering of documents by MACC from District and Land Office insinuating misappropriation of allocation by his boss YB Ean.
That RCI has to resort to using these two rather tame events to support its conclusion of suicide only exposes that RCI is actually scraping the bottom of the barrel to convince a sceptical public.
Bringing forward a marriage due to unplanned pregnancy is already a common and accepted occurrence in local society and, hence, it is not supposed to raise any eyebrow, not to mention causing any emotional crisis.
MACC officers visiting government offices to fish for evidence to incriminate Pakatan leaders has long been recognised as BN’s modus operandi to sabotage the Selangor state government, and should therefore be no big deal to a seasoned politician like Teoh.
Spinnig suicide will damage BN more
However, despite RCI’s unconvincing attempt to spin a suicide, it has nevertheless done a good job in exposing the deplorable state of lawlessness and abuse prevailing in MACC, which, like almost all other institutions, has been depraved through the long reign of a corrupted political leadership.
If only RCI has applied the same measure of honesty on the cause of Teoh’s death, as it has done in criticising MACC’s mismanagement, it would have done its political masters a great favour, as nothing will reassure the electorate more than the moral courage to own up to an ugly truth.
As it turned out, Teoh Beng Hock in his death will continue to take his pound of flesh from the political masters who were ultimately responsible for his tragic death.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.