KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: We call upon your government to stop the attempts to bury the truth in the case of Amri Che Mat who was enforced disappeared on November 24, 2016, in Kangar, Perlis, seemingly targeted for being a Shia Muslim.
We bring to your attention certain facts revealed last week in a case before the High Court in Kuala Lumpur. These revelations point to egregious failures of the Malaysian government in upholding the rule of law.
These facts were revealed on March 20, 2024, in a court hearing a civil suit brought by Amri Che Mat’s wife Norhayati Mohd Ariffin against 21 parties (‘the Defendants’), including the government of Malaysia. 
Her claim concerns, among other issues, the acts and omissions of the Royal Malaysian Police or Polis DiRaja Malaysia (PDRM) in
investigating the abduction of social activist Amri Che Mat. (Please refer to the appendix for a summary of this case’s relevant key dates and developments.)
On April 3, 2019, after a year-long public inquiry, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) concluded that on a balance of probabilities, based on “direct and circumstantial evidence”, Amri had been enforced disappeared by state agents, namely PDRM’s Special Branch, Bukit Aman.
In what follows, we rely principally on (1) what was read to the court on March 20, 2024 from a Report submitted to the government on March 13, 2020, by a Special Task Force (STF) the government had formed on June 26, 2019; and (2) remarks by counsels for both sides pertaining to this Report.
Fact #1: The Malaysian government blocked the release of the STF Report to Norhayati by classifying it as an Official Secret, although this Report appears to be about incompetence and misfeasance, not national security
During the discovery phase of her civil suit, Norhayati sought a copy of the STF Report. The Malaysian government refused on the grounds that the Report was classified a secret under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972. 
Norhayati was given leave to apply for a judicial review of this decision and she succeeded. In May 2023, High Court Judge Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid held that the reason given by the Malaysian government to justify its classification as ‘secret’ was insufficient and so, ordered a limited release of the Report to Norhayati for use in her ongoing civil suit. For all intents and purposes, the judicial review decision, per Norhayati bt Mohd Ariffin v Mohd Russaini bin Idrus & Anor [2023] 12 MLJ 445, means that this STF Report no longer has a legal basis to remain a classified document under the OSA 1972. 
The Malaysian government then appealed to the Court of Appeal and obtained a stay. In December 2023, the court requested for a copy of the Report to be submitted to the three appellate judges for their review in chambers by March 2024. Just before this date, the Malaysian government withdrew its appeal. 
This in essence means that the Malaysian government accepts the High Court judgment and court order. A redacted copy of the Report was handed to Norhayati via her lawyer on March 15, 2024.
However, on March 20, 2024, the Senior Federal Counsel appearing on behalf of the Defendants, made it a point to ask the judge to put on record that the government still considers this Report an OSA document and had the temerity to demand that the judge sign an acknowledgement of this before he could read the Report. Suffice to say, Justice Su Tiang Joo made a ruling that the court would be guided by what was in Wan Ahmad Farid J’s court order in the judicial review case.
To avoid further embarrassment of trying to shut the stable doors after the horse has bolted, we urge the Malaysian government to do the right thing and declare this Report declassified once and for all, making it available to the public.
Fact #2: The AGC was either lacking in candour or competence in its disclosure of how the investigation of Amri Che Mat’s abduction was classified by PDRM
What was revealed when selected parts of the Report were read out in court was that the STF was assisted by a Deputy Public Prosecutor named Ramesh Gopalan from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) with the approval of the Attorney General (AG)
It follows that the AGC was aware of the findings and conclusions of the STF since it participated in this investigation. It is also noted that when the Malaysian government announced the formation of the STF in 2019, included in the list of task force members was Mohd Sophian Zakaria, described as a legal officer from the AGC’s public prosecution division.
According to the STF Report, on April 16, 2019, 13 days after Suhakam’s report, the AGC instructed PDRM to re-classify the Amri Che Mat case from “missing person” to “kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person”, per section 365, Penal Code.
As read out in court, paragraph 284 of the STF Report says: “PPK mendapati bahawa PDRM telah cuai dan tidak kompeten kerana gagal mengklasifikasikan kes Amri Che Mat sebagai kes penculikan di mana dalam keadaan biasa, seorang pegawai polis yang kompeten dalam keadaan kes sebegini akan mengklasifikasikan kes ini sebagai penculikan di bawah seksyen 365 Kanun Keseksaan dari peringkat awal lagi.”
“The STF finds that PDRM was negligent and incompetent because it failed to classify the case of Amri Che Mat as an abduction. In normal circumstances, a police officer with competence in handling such cases would have classified this case as an abduction under section 365 of the Penal Code from the very beginning of the investigation.” (Translation by CAGED.)
Yet, 14 months later, on June 15, 2020, in its written defence to Norhayati’s claim, the AGC claimed that the Amri case remains classified as a ‘missing person’ case. As Norhayati’s lawyer pointed out in court on 20 March, this may open the AGC “to an argument that there is now an attempt to interfere with the due administration of justice.”
Was the AGC being less than honest in documents submitted to the court? Or, as the Senior Federal Counsel seemed to be claiming in court on 20 March, is this a case of incompetence where one section of the AGC seems to have kept the other side in the dark? Did the Defendants from PDRM deliberately give wrong information about the case to the Senior Federal Counsel who was responsible for their defence? Whatever the answers are, this does not reflect well on the Malaysian government, to say the least.
Fact #3: Saiful Bahari, the gold Toyota Vios and PDRM’s incompetence 
One of Norhayati’s claims is that PDRM failed to immediately act on credible evidence given by an eyewitness about a gold Toyota Vios PFC1623 seen near Amri’s house and where he was abducted. It would seem from PDRM’s acts and omissions that arguably, there was an effort to suppress evidence. 
After all, it was only during the Suhakam Inquiry in 2018, via the efforts of Norhayati’s lawyers and Suhakam officers, that the public found out that the registered owner and driver of this car was one Saiful Bahari who worked as an “independent contractor” with Special Branch Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur. It must be noted here that even after his identity was revealed at the Suhakam Inquiry, PDRM claimed they were unable to locate Saiful Bahari, who remains at large until today.
Despite the well-established findings of fact about Saiful Bahari in the Suhakam Inquiry, the Malaysian government and PDRM continued to assert that PDRM’s dismissal of Saiful Bahari as a person of interest, and indeed, a suspect in the Amri Che Mat case, was not in any way negligent. This is apparent in their written defence filed in court. It is shocking that the Malaysian government made these assertions even after they knew or should have known what the STF had written about Saiful Bahari in their 2020 Report.
Norhayati must have felt both vindicated and betrayed when she read out the part about PDRM’s handling of Saiful Bahari in their investigations.
As read out by her, paragraphs 249 and 250 in the STF Report say:
“PPK juga mendapati Saiful Bahari adalah saksi utama yang dapat membantu siasatan kes kehilangan Amri Che Mat. Namun begitu, PPK mendapati PDRM cuai kerana gagal menjadikan Saiful Bahari sebagai saksi utama yang berpotensi menjadi suspek utama. PDRM juga gagal menyegerakan tindakan mendapatkan maklumat peribadi serta mengesan pergerakan dan kedudukan beliau. Selain itu, PDRM juga gagal menyemak kedudukan dan pergerakan kereta Toyota Vios berwarna emas dengan nombor pendaftaran PFC 1623 seberapa segera, walhal kereta tersebut berada di tempat kejadian. Pihak Cawangan Khas Bukit Aman juga gagal memberi kerjasama sepenuhnya dalam mengemukakan maklumat yang diminta oleh PPK berkaitan perkhidmatan Saiful Bahari.”
“The STF considers Saiful Bahari a prime witness who could help in the Amri Che Mat disappearance case. The STF finds PDRM negligent because it failed to treat Saiful Bahari as a prime witness, potentially a prime suspect. PDRM also failed to expedite actions to obtain personal information about him, and to trace his movements. Additionally, PDRM failed to review the location, status and movements of the gold Toyota Vios registration number PFC 1623 expediently, despite the fact that the car was at the incident location. Also, the Special Branch, Bukit Aman, failed to cooperate fully with the STF to supply information about Saiful Bahari’s service.” (Translation by CAGED.)
It is bad enough that PDRM chose to not properly investigate this Special Branch ‘contractor’ when his identity must have been known to them as soon as they received information about his Toyota Vios PFC1623 and ran a standard Road Transport Department (JPJ) check. This information was communicated to PDRM on November 26, 2016, the day after Norhayati’s first police report about her husband’s disappearance.
That PDRM continued to block even the STF investigation about Saiful Bahari is extremely worrying as it reflects an impunity which has allowed PDRM to place itself above the law and the scrutiny of a Task Force established by the Home Affairs Ministry with Cabinet authority. As such, the claim now that PDRM has not been able to locate one of their own since 2018 cannot be treated as credible, and in fact, raises reasonable suspicion of a cover-up.
Fact #4: The AGC contests the conclusions of the STF 
There was an exchange of letters between Norhayati’s lawyers and the SFC about the STF Report. The letters are dated March 18 and 19, 2024. The gist of the exchange is that the AGC insists that although it agreed to release the STF Report to Norhayati, it does not agree with the contents of the report. This is how Norhayati’s counsel put it: “They are seeking to dissociate themselves from the STF.”
Going by what was said in court, your government is contesting the contents of a report of a task force assembled by the Home Affairs Ministry, set up under the authority of Cabinet, all of whose investigations were conducted by PDRM and professional investigators from two other statutory bodies: the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). If this is the position your government has adopted, we demand that you explain it to the public.
It is neither ethical nor politically acceptable to use legal sophistry and games to first try to bury a Report produced under the auspices of the Malaysian government, and then, when the burial effort fails, to then dissociate from the facts uncovered in it.
Fact #5: The STF does not rule out complicity of rogue elements in the police in collaboration with religious bodies or organizations. The STF names at least ten persons, including three Defendants from PDRM as individuals who “can assist with further investigation.”
As read out by Norhayati, paragraphs 251 and 252 of the STF Report say:
“Individu-individu berkepentingan (Persons of Interest). PPK mendapati kehilangan Amri Che Mat adalah berkemungkinan besar disebabkan oleh tindakan secara langsung atau tidak langsung pegawai PDRM yang bertindak secara bersendirian atau secara berkumpulan bersama individu yang tidak dikenali dari badan atau organisasi agama. Mengambil kira persamaan dalam kes kehilangan Amri Che Mat dan keterangan mengikut keadaan, PPK mendapati individu-individu berikut boleh membantu dalam penyiasatan lanjut.”
“Persons of Interest. The STF finds that there is a high probability that the disappearance of Amri Che Mat was either directly or indirectly caused by PDRM officers acting alone or in a group with religious bodies or organizations. Taking into account similarities in the case of Amri Che Mat and contemporaneous events, the STF finds that the following individuals can assist with further investigation. (Translation by CAGED.)
Additionally, based on what was read out in court, the STF Report listed a number of names as persons of interest. These included those who attended a meeting held in the Perlis Mufti’s office with Special Branch on October 7, 2016. According to documentary evidence submitted during the Suhakam Inquiry in 2018, Amri Che Mat’s house was featured in slides presented at this meeting, which was requested by Special Branch Bukit Aman to discuss the allegedly serious “national security threat of Shia” in Perlis.
The next month, Amri Che Mat was abducted:
“Sepuluh orang individu yang menghadiri ‘kunjungan kehormat’ ke pejabat Mufti pada 7 Oktober 2016 adalah: Dato’ Dr Mohd Asri, Dato’ Awaludin, ACP Hanafi Mohd Sani, ASP Razman, Insp. Mohd Fadli bin Selamat, Sarjan Wan Nasaruddin bin Pa’Wan, Dr Hazman dan Hj Mohd Nazim bin Haji Mohd Nor dan dua pegawai lain yang tidak dikenal pasti.”
“Ten individuals who attended the ‘courtesy visit' to the Mufti’s office on 7 October 2016 are: Dato' Dr Mohd Asri, Dato' Awaludin, ACP Hanafi Mohd Sani, ASP Razman, Insp. Mohd Fadli bin Selamat, Sergeant Wan Nasaruddin bin Pa'Wan, Dr Hazman and Hj Mohd Nazim bin Haji Mohd Nor and two other officers who have not been identified.” (Translation by CAGED.)
Based on what was read out in court, it would seem that the STF also made special mention of “Dato’ Awaludin Jadid, Penolong Pengarah KPP Bahagian E2M, Cawangan Khas Bukit Aman”.
We are certain you would already have been apprised of who Dato’ Awaludin Jadid was in Special Branch PDRM and what his E2 division – “Bahagian Extremism Sosial” – did during his tenure as its head, from 2015 until 2018. As such, you would know that Dato’ Awaludin was a senior officer who had no qualms about creating enemies and threats based on nothing more than rumours and conspiracy theories. 
As presented at the Suhakam Inquiry, Dato’ Awaludin gave a highly incendiary and extremist speech at the Seminar Belia Menentang Keganasan, at the KDN Kompleks, Kuala Lumpur on November 6, 2016, where he raved on about Shia plots, among other things. The speech was uploaded to YouTube and at the time of writing this letter, the link is still there.
Despite all this evidence against him, as far as the public knows, PDRM has not taken any action against Dato’ Awaludin.
We do not know the full Terms of Reference of the STF. But from what was read out in court from the STF Report, we see that it may have tried to do what the public expected it to do: police the police.
Dear Mr Prime Minister, we ask you to do what your predecessors failed to do. We ask you to demand that the Home Affairs Ministry, PDRM and the AGC come clean about what happened to Amri Che Mat. Also, Raymond Koh, and Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Sitepu, whose disappearances were similarly investigated by Suhakam in public inquiries. 
We remind you that Suhakam concluded that all four of them are probably victims of Enforced Disappearance, as defined in a United Nations Convention. We ask you to order the public release of the complete STF Report, and to charter a parliamentary select committee to receive public responses to it. 
We urge the Malaysian government to act on the recommendations of the STF, which includes a suggestion that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be set up to investigate this further. We ask that you take steps to ensure that the enforced disappearances of Amri is properly and independently investigated with the objective of bringing to justice those responsible, and also those who have actively or by complicity or by acquiescence covered up the truth.
We ask that the same be done for Pastor Raymond Koh who was abducted on February 15, 2017, and Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Sitepu who disappeared in November 2016.
As Norhayati’s lawyer read out in court, the STF had asserted strongly in its Report:
“Negara kita mengamalkan konsep kedaulatan undang-undang (Rule of Law) dan setiap orang berhak untuk mendapat perlindungan undang-undang. Ini adalah selaras dengan prinsip kebebasan asasi yang diperuntukkan di bawah Perlembagaan Persekutuan, terutamanya perkara 5(1) yang menyatakan tiada seorang pun boleh diambil nyawanya atau dilucutkan kebebasan dirinya kecuali mengikut undang-undang. Jika konsep ini tidak dipatuhi, negara ini akan menjadi seperti negara-negara yang tidak mengamalkan konsep kedaulatan undangundang yang mana rakyatnya hilang tanpa dapat dikesan.”
“Our country practices the principle of the Rule of Law and everyone has the right to be protected by the law. This is in line with the principles of fundamental freedoms provided under the Federal Constitution, especially article 5(1) which states that no one shall be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with the law. If this principle is not followed, this country will become like countries that do not practice the concept of rule of law whose citizens disappear without a trace.” (Translation by CAGED.)
Mr Prime Minister, show us that you will bring to book anyone who fails to uphold the right to life and the right to equal protection under the law as enshrined in Articles 5(1) and 8(1) of our Federal Constitution.
Stop the burial of truth in the case of Amri Che Mat.