Another Questionable Death in Malaysia

If Teoh Beng Hock had died in the custody of the police in Moscow or Chechnya, the death would have been all over the western media as yet another example of the brutality of the system. But because Malaysia buys lots of arms from the west, western tourists love Langkawi beaches, and Manchester United makes millions from its Malaysian fans, this appalling story rated the briefest of international mentions. Yet murder goes closer to top people in Malaysia than it does to their equivalents in Russia.

Teoh was an aide to an executive councilor in the Selangor state government which is controlled by an opposition coalition including the Democratic Action Party (DAP) of which Teoh's boss was a senior member. He was found dead on the fifth floor roof of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission building having allegedly jumped to his death after an interrogation.

The story is not just a tragedy for Beng Hock, his family, fiancée and friends. It is yet another tragedy for the Malaysian system of law and justice. Exactly what happened at the Shah Alam, Selangor, of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission we shall probably never know. Cover-ups will go on indefinitely, as also in the case of the murder of Mongolian model and translator Altantuya Shaaribu , the pregnant former mistress of Razak Baginda a close associate of now prime minister Najib Razak who was killed by members of Najib's security detail.

According to the MACC, Teoh's interrogation had ended some hours earlier but he had elected to stay at its offices, from which he later jumped. At the very least, if Teoh had killed himself it could only have been after mental or physical torture or administration of drugs by the MACC. Teoh was not the subject of investigation by the MACC, the agency said, only his boss. He was a former newspaper reporter for the Chinese daily Sin Chiew Jit Poh until joining the state government after the opposition victory last year. He was due to be married soon.

The MACC may sound a worthy institution dedicated to clean government. But foreigners should not be fooled. Its interrogation of Yeoh was clearly aimed at trying to dig up something to pin on his boss and hence disrupt an opposition coalition already subject to the money politics which has helped keep the UMNO-led coalition in power at national level for more than 50 years.

The MACC meanwhile has singularly failed to investigate the payment of "commissions" totaling €114 million to Najib's friend Razak Baginda for the purchase of French submarines while Najib was Defense Minister. The French-speaking Altantuya visited Paris with Razak Baginda during discussions with the French so was almost certainly privy to the deal and, by her own admission, later tried to blackmail Baginda. According to testimony which was not allowed in court, Najib was also present on one of these Paris visits. Indeed, according to a private detective who later recanted his testimony then disappeared, Najib himself had previously had a sexual relationship with Altantuya.

The trial of Razak Baginda, who was acquitted, and two members of Najib's squad, who were found guilty, was a bizarre affair which made a mockery of justice. (see Asia Sentinel: Altantuya's Killers Judged Guilty) Yet western governments, which continue to lecture Russia and others on human rights and the rule of law for their own commercial reasons, continue to accord Malaysia's government and courts a liberal and democratic status which they lost two decades ago.

The death of Teoh Beng Hock is yet another tragic illustration of how rotten the Malaysian system has become after years of one party rule, racialism and blatant corruption on a massive scale.