Friday, March 25, 2011

‘Did you put words into Teoh’s mouth?’

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer was today grilled on whether he had put words into Teoh Beng Hock’s mouth and on the process of questioning witnessess.
The enforcement officer Mohd Nazri Ibrahim was testifying before the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into Teoh’s death.
Nazri had recorded Teoh’s statement prior to the DAP politicial aide’s death in July 2009.
Commission chairman James Foong asked Nazri what was the meaning of the phrase “recording statement” and concluded that although it was a “nice word”, it however still meant that the witness was interrogated.

Foong: Interrogation or recording statement, what is the style? (Is it) I am just a clerk (taking down the answers) or are you asking questions as an interrogator?
Nazri: I just ask, it is more or less like an interrogation.
Foong: Is that the normal way? (When the phrase) “record statement” is used in MACC, it is interrogation, not that you (witness) say whatever you like and I just record.
Nazri: Usually it is like that.
The MACC officer also revealed that Teoh did not have a choice when it came to recording his statement.
Foong asked Nazri if he had given Teoh the choice of returning to the MACC office on another day if he felt tired.
Nazri said that he needed to consult his superiors if Teoh’s statement “would not be taken or if it was delayed”.
Foong: Under what section did you take his statement?
Nazri: Section 30
Foong then refered to Section 30(10) of the MACC Act which stated that it was an offence for a witness not to give a statement.
“It is not voluntary. Recording statement (is a) very nice word but it is interrogation,” he said.
When questioned by conducting officer Awang Amardajaya Awang Mahmud if Nazri had informed Teoh of the consequences should he refuse to answer the questions, Nazri said Teoh was not informed of this.
Prodding further to find out if Teoh could have left the MACC office without giving his statement, Awang asked if Nazri had ever mentioned to Teoh that he could go home.
Awang: Did you say, if you are tired today we can continue this tomorrow?
Nazri: I told him that if you don’t feel like recording now, you can rest.
Awang: But he could not go home?
Nazri: (Yes) Could not go home.
Awang: Did you tell him the statement had to be completed that day?
Nazri: No I didn’t inform him.
Nazri also revealed that Teoh’s statement had to be re-worded by him (Nazri) because Teoh’s answers were too short.
At this juncture, commissioner T Selventhiranathan asked if Nazri had “put words into Teoh’s mouth”.
Selventhiranathan: The passage didn’t come out of his mouth?
Nazri: Yes.
Selventhiranathan: The words were put in his mouth?
Nazri: But he agreed (as I was typing)
Selventhiranathan: Yes, but you agree you were putting words in his mouth?
Nazri: Yes
The MACC officer clarified that he would ask Teoh questions, listen to the answers and then type out the statement in his own words after he had understood what the witness meant and Teoh would double check soon after.
Nazri: In the statement, it is not 100% of what Teoh said. It had to be added. The sentences that were hanging, I would complete them
Awang: So if one sentence in his statement contained six facts, there would be a lot more questions than that six?
Nazri: Yes, maybe more
Nazri was also asked why Teoh’s statement was not recorded in a question-and-answer format but rather in a narrative form, to which the MACC officer replied that it was the standard practice.
Later, Foong said: “It is just not a voluntary statement as we understand it to be. Though it looks straight forward, some of the words typed are not Teoh’s words; they could be words put in by him (Nazri).”
Asked about Teoh’s demeanour during this period, Nazri repeatedly said that the witness sighed frequently, appeared sullen and was very reserved.
The inquiry resumes on Monday.
Teoh was found dead the morning after his overnight interrogation by MACC officers at their office in Shah Alam.
He was the political aide to Ean Yong Hian Wah, the Selangor state executive councillor whom MACC was investigating for alleged misappropriation of funds.
His body was found on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam, the same building that housed the MACC office on the 14th floor.

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