[Malaysiakini]MACC objects Dr Pornthip to testify via video conferencing in TBH's inquest
I have attended Teoh Beng Hock's Inquest yesterday morning. I am really disappointed with MACC who objected to Selangor State Government's application to have Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand testify via video conferencing. It's a well established principle that a case should be disposed of based on merits and not on technical grounds. If MACC head of prosecution Abdul Razak Musa is so sure that they are heading with 4-0, then why so afraid of Dr Pornthip?
Furthermore, If we are not going to allow witness to testify via video conferencing, then what is the point for the parliament to amend Section 272B of the Criminal Procedure Code last year?
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has resorted to an analogy of the World Cup to exonerate itself of any involvement in the sudden death of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock.
All this did was to irritate the Selangor government's representative who was attempting to have Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand testify via video conferencing in the inquest, which continued this morning.
MACC head of prosecution Abdul Razak Musa, who objected to the application, said the commission has been victimised by the allegation that it was responsible for Teoh's death.
"She (Pornthip) has said there is an 80 percent chance that Teoh's death was homicide," he said, referring to the Thai expert's observations based on the first post-mortem report.
"However, four (other) pathologists (three government doctors and MACC-hired Dr Peter Vanezis) have testified Teoh was conscious when he fell. This shows that he was not murdered and this evidence should absolve the MACC of foul play."
Abduk Razak quipped that if this were a soccer match in the World Cup, "the score would be 4-0 (in our favour)."
His remarks led to an exchange of words with the Selangor government's counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who objected to Abdul Razak's line of reasoning.
Malik said the merits of the case and where the blame lay on Teoh's death was a matter for the coroner to decide, not MACC.
"It is unwise for the MACC to come to such a conclusion and attempt to influence this court," he said.
The pathologists who 'scored' for MACC were government pathologists Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim from the Klang Hospital and Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar from the University Malaya Medical Centre, who performed the first post mortem.
Sungai Buloh Hospital chief pathologist Dr Shahidan Md Noor performed the second post mortem.
'No reason to stay away'
Abdul Razak asserts that “the actual reason why she (Pornthip) cannot come is because she cannot defend her earlier assertion”.
He argued that there was no reason for Pornthip not to come and testify in Malaysia, as other witnesses, such as Dr Vanezis, had done so despite a threat made against him, over which a police report had been lodged.
Malik had earlier told the coroner that the Selangor government is making its application in the interests of justice.
He asked that Pornthip be allowed to testify and to ensure her safety in the face of threats she is allegedly facing.
dap islamic state roundtable 100807 malik imtiazMalik (left) submitted the application under Section 272b of the Criminal Procedure Code.
"She is willing to testify and the Selangor government is willing to provide the facility to hold the video-conferencing."
The application is supported by Teoh's family and the Bar Council. Selangor Menteri Besar political secretary Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, also submitted an affidavit in support of the application.
Abdul Razak submitted that the MACC insists that the video-conferencing, if allowed, be done in Malaysia.
This, he said, is similar to the Child Act 2007 where such testimony is given in a separate court.
"It must be done in a court atmosphere. Furthermore, there is a possibility of Pornthip not telling the truth - we do not have jurisdiction in Thailand (to subject her testimony to the Malaysian legal process)."
However, Rajpal Singh, representing the Bar Council, suggested that the video-conference can be done at the Malaysian diplomatic mission in Thailand.
The MACC prosecution head also questioned Dr Pornthip's qualifications, which he says is not recognised in Malaysia.
“She may be an expert witness in Thailand. But all of her testimony is recorded in Thailand and none of them in Commonwealth countries. Hence, there are questions surrounding whether her testimony could be accepted in court,” said Abdul Razak.
Malik submitted that the this conclusion was a gross misrepresentation, as Pornthip is an expert witness and was willing to testify.
“It is not as (what MACC's representatives put it), that she does not want to testify.
"(Furthermore) if you look at Dr Shahidan's testimony, he had said that the neck injury was a pre-fall injury.”
“This is against the wishy-washy testimony given by Dr Vanezis, whose expert testimony had been rejected by a United Kingdom court before. The MACC is making a ridiculous analogy in likening it to a soccer match,” he said.
Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, representing Teoh's family said if it were not for Pornthip's sharp eyes in discovering the red marks on the neck, the matter would have been buried by the MACC.
“We know the MACC well. After all they are the ones who said they wanted to meet (the private investigator involved in the Altantuya Shaariibuu) P Balasubramaniam, but have not done so till today, according to media reports,” he said.
gobind singh deo jalan duta court 230409 05Gobind (left) also said the court must understand Pornthip's predicament as she was employed by the Thai Ministry of Justice, who advised her against coming to Malaysia.
He said this was due to police reports lodged by the MACC against her, and also Minister in Prime Minister Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz calling her a liar, as reported by the press.
“You cannot fault her for not coming here to Malaysia as she has to follow orders from her employer who advised her against it,” he said, adding the purpose of Section 272b was to accommodate information technology to help the court in such cases.
Malaysiakini reported that Balasubramaniam's lawyers have extended an invitation to the MACC to interview the private investigator in London, but till today it had yet to reply.
'May set precedent'
Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abbas did not rule on the application, but invited all parties to cite authorities on whether the video conferencing can be done outside Malaysia, whether the diplomatic mission is deemed to be under Malaysian jurisdiction, and if the premises can be considered to be a court room.
"I want to know of case laws, whether there are Indian cases or other Commonwealth case laws, where video-conferencing can be done extra-territorially (outside the country's borders)," he said.
Lawyer Tan Hock Chuan (right), representing the government, noted that under Singapore law, video-conferencing must be done within the country.
"Section 272b is silent on whether evidence from video-conferencing can be done outside our territory. We have to tread cautiously," said Tan.
If the application is allowed it would set a precedent where foreigners would be allowed to testify from their countries without ever needing to come to Malaysia.
All parties have until June 25 to submit the authorities, with the coroner to deliver his decision on July 14.
Taken from Malaysiakini.