Hafidz Baharom, yes, justice for all victims of torture please

Hafidz Baharom condemns the politicising of Beng Hock’s death, calling “the suspension of the MACC team involved in the investigations” which has not happened yet “lynch mobs” and hailed “online evidence that clearly points out a case of corruption which took place not only in the past government of the state, but even embroiling the current one as well”.

I could not help but to respond immediately on the face book, which took five messages as facebook messages have limited lengths.  I reproduce them here, sorry for the poor organization and repetition:

There is one thing confirmed – at least by the voluntary confession by MACC – they tortured a witness by interrogating him for nearly 11 hours. Another one for 7 hours.

Of course, unless in your dictionary, long hours of interrogation and sleep deprivation do not constitute tortures!

Now, you call the proposed – not actualized – suspension of the MACC team involved in such torturing lynching? So, rule of law means letting them continue their institutional sadism?Read More

One wonders how Mr Hafidz can give MACC benefits beyond doubt that “even his detention and interrogation are under speculation right now” on one hand;

and claim “we’re finding online evidence that clearly points out a case of corruption which took place not only in the past government of the state, but even embroiling the current one as well” on the other.

2. While Pakatan Rakyat may hope to score political points, does this make MACC innocent? Even if some Pakatan Rakyat politicians are corrupt, would that justify the torturing of Beng Hock and other witnesses?

Now, this is why many Malaysians are so angered by Beng Hock’s death, more than other custodial deaths. He was technically clean – other casualties were easily painted as criminals and drug addicts. For many, suspicion of criminal involvements means that the torture one suffered is somewhat justified. Look at how Kugan’s was labeled by minister as car thief and the public were asked to be reasonable.

Beng Hock’s death was the jimmy-comes-lately last straw that breaks the camel’s back because he was innocent, not because he had not yet been proven guilty, but because he was not even detained as a suspect. Read More

The online blog that Mr Hafidz seems to hail as a great discovery is exactly an attempt to destroy the sympathy Beng Hock enjoys.

3. I dont care much if Pakatan Rakyat scores political points if BN wants to once and again score their own goals.

I do take offense when the dead was treated with less respect than he deserve, by any party including DAP, as well as defenders of MACC – people who can’t wait to dismiss any suspicion of MACC in torturing witnesses by declaring suspicious online allegations of corruption as clear evidence; as if torturing would be justified if there is some truth in the allegation.

I used to enjoy Mr Hafidz’s column and really think he is intellectually more capable than reacting to what he sees as wrong.

While there may well be institutional racism in MACC, the greater problem is its institutional sadism. Just half a year ago, Halimi Kamaruzzaman, was remanded by MACC Pahang. He alleged his treatment was compared to that in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq: punched, stripped and threatened to have his private part burned with cigarettes.

Halimi is a Malay, Muslim and in fact UMNO leader!

4. So, why was Mr Halimi’s ordeal ignored by Pak Lah, by the great 1Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, by the opposition and by the public? Are we racist?

No, I would argue that Halimi was unfortunate for two reasons.

First, his party did not stand up for him. Why? Allegedly, he was actually tortured to implicate another UMNO politician Norza Zakariah (KJ’s boy) in money politics in UMNO. His party did not stand up for him. Nor KJ. There was no political mileage to score in standing up for him!

Second, everyone else – the opposition, the NGO and the public also could not care less. For one I did not write anything to demand justice for him. I am guilty on my part. Why? Is it because he did not fell off the MACC Pahang headquarters? Isn’t it sick that we care to check MACC’s excess only when someone fell off a building?

I suspect even then some still may not truly sympathize with Mr Halimi because many would believe that he was corrupt.

5. This is exactly the problem: does one need to be innocent to be treated humanly and to fear not torture?

Isn’t this the cultural reason why over 1,800 persons had to die in custody in a span of six years time? Most of them were detained for suspicion of criminal involvement.

The allegation of Halimi – cannot be falsified till now because no independent investigation has been carried out – suggests that the main problem of MACC is not institutional racism, but institutional sadism.

And all of us have bloods in our hand because we have tolerated it so far. Beng Hock’s death wakes us up because he was seemingly so innocent. He took away any excuse of tolerance of custodial death, exactly what the “Truth for Teoh Beng Hock” blog and its echo chamber try to provide.

So many of us are now saying: over 1,800 custodial deaths in 6 years is simply not acceptable, for even one life lost is too many.

Mr Hafidz wants us to rally for justice, please condemn MACC’s torture even if DAP is corrupt.


This is not the first time Mr Hafidz Baharom dismissed critics or protesters of the government by presenting some arguments that sound reasonable.

But I have to thank him for evoking my anger and helping me to understand the possibly most important rootcause of our apathy to custodial death.


2 responses to “Hafidz Baharom, yes, justice for all victims of torture please

  1. From “Is This the Standard of Journalism in the New Straits Times Today?”

    Lynching, is “violent punishment or execution, without due process, for real or alleged crimes.” It is a crime punishable by law in Malaysia, and it is what the writer accuses Pakatan Rakyat of doing to the MACC. Does the writer have any evidence to support this? If he did, he certainly did not share any of it with us in his article.

    The irony is that the exact opposite may be argued. Teoh Beng Hock was either a witness or a suspect in an alleged crime, and was, prima facie, in the custody of the MACC. If these two accounts of MACC’s interrogation methods are reliable, then there is enough cause to suspect that Teoh too may have been the victim of high handed interrogation tactics. Did it stop there? Was there any physical violence used? These are reasonable questions to ask.

    The very nature of criminal investigations: the secrecy, the power differentials involved, our unfortunate history of deaths in custody, and the inescapable fact that whatever was done to Teoh was done in OUR NAME, makes it absolutely vital that we actively get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding Teoh’s death. Asking the tough questions and being skeptical about the answers we are given is not lynching, it is merely demanding accountability from our public servants.

    By turning the meaning of the word “lynch” on its head, this “wordsmith” from the NST has used his command of the English language to make a mockery of the idea that our government and law enforcement authorities are accountable to the Rakyat.

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