Does Malaysia want to be a land of the disappeared?

The Malaysian Insight

PEOPLE disappeared during the apartheid years in South Africa. People disappeared during the Dirty War in Argentina. People disappeared in Sri Lanka during the Rajapakse years.

But people have not disappeared in such a brazen manner in Malaysia. Not ever.

Not during the harshest years of the Mahathir administration. And make no mistake, there were some dark days under the premiership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

People were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the keys were thrown away for as long as two years. But one small consolation was that family members knew that their loved ones were behind bars. They knew their husbands, fathers, siblings, children were alive.

The pastor Raymond Koh case takes us into unfamiliar and dangerous territory. A man is abducted in a highly organised fashion and all we have are stock answers from the police.

There is scant little on the investigation except the high and wide publicity has not made it easier for the police to conduct their probe effectively. Did they do the same for the Kim Jong-nam investigations?

Now comes a suggestion that the pastor had been involved in evangelising youth in northern Malaysia. If the authorities have proof of this activity, there are a slew of laws under which he can be charged.

Even if we accept that he has crossed a line, it doesn’t make his abduction acceptable or justified. Vigilantism is dangerous. Individuals or groups can’t take matters into their hands because they are unhappy about something or with someone. They can’t be allowed to usurp the power of the police and the courts.

Perhaps more dangerous is the perception that Koh’s abductors are home and dry.

That they are somehow able to slip past the law because of Koh’s alleged activities.

Every citizen has a right and freedom of movement, save by restrictions under the Federal Constitution and police laws. It does not mean anyone else can take that power and restrain Koh from his activities or even from being with his loved ones.

Malaysia should never be the place where people are abducted in such a brazen manner and nothing much is seen to be done about it. Koh’s abduction has cast fear among Malaysians, and not missionaries and evangelists, that one can be “made to disappear” without a trace.

The police have to do more. It starts with one abduction. Who is to say there won’t be more? Who is to say that those who abducted Koh will not strike again? Where does that leave the police then?

After all, does Malaysia want to join the ignominious list of countries where people disappear and no one gives a damn? – April 8, 2017.

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