KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 – The first witness in a public inquiry into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh said a police officer had told him that the abduction looked like a police operation.
“I asked the police officer if the scene I described looked like a kidnapping, but he told us not to worry as it looked very much like the modus operandi of a police operation,” said Roeshan Celestine Gomez, 25.
“I can’t recall his exact words. But that is what he said.”
According to Gomez, the officer cited aspects of the abduction such as the fact that it had taken place very quickly and in broad daylight, as well as the fact that someone had recorded it on video.
He said the officer had told him that “it all fit the police method quite well”.
“The police officer also said he had seen the same thing before. He proceeded to call someone in front of me to check if there was a police operation, but they said they would get back to him.”
Gomez was speaking at a public inquiry into the disappearances of Koh and three others, held by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
The inquiry will consider, among others, whether the cases of Koh, Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, were cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances as defined under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The convention defines an enforced disappearance as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state.
Gomez, a law graduate, identified the police inspector as Ali Asra from the Kelana Jaya police station.
“After the incident took place, I called the Kelana Jaya police station to report a suspected kidnapping and later went there at 11.30am to make the report.
“The officer who was at the desk asked me to meet the inspector and to narrate the incident to him.”
Gomez said on Feb 13, he had attended a funeral at a church, after which he headed to the Kampung Tunku crematorium.
“As I was driving at around 10.30am, my friend and I noticed what looked like a fight on the road.
“We saw three black SUVs surrounding a silver Waja, and I saw a struggle between one man and the driver of the Waja. It looked like the driver was being pulled out despite putting up a fight, and there were other masked men in black surrounding them,” he said.
When asked if he had seen who the driver was or what he looked like, Gomez said no, adding that he could not describe the driver, either.
“I couldn’t even tell if he was Indian, Chinese or Malay.
“I stopped my car behind the Waja, and my friend wanted to take a video, but she stopped when a fair Indian man approached us and pointed at her phone,” he said in response to questions from Suhakam officers and commissioners.
Gomez added that there had been three motorcyclists circling the area. He said he believed they were part of the same group but could not remember what they were wearing.
“When I left the scene, I noticed there was shattered glass on the ground and I noticed one of the Waja windows was smashed.”
According to Gomez, he had given the same description of the incident in his statement to Inspector Ali.
The inquiry then presented three CCTV recordings which Suhakam officers said had come from houses in the area.
In the videos, three black SUVs are seen surrounding a silver car: one in front of the car and the others behind it and on its right.
The Myvi driven by Gomez appears in the footage immediately behind the scene. A man believed to be the Indian man described by Gomez is seen approaching the Myvi and pointing at it. The Myvi then reverses and leaves the scene, following which the rest of the vehicles leave the area as well.
The public inquiry into Koh’s disappearance is chaired by Mah Weng Kwai and includes a panel consisting of Suhakam commissioners Prof Dr Aishah Bidin from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Salleh from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM).
At one point, Mah reminded those present that everything said about Inspector Ali remained hearsay until he was able to speak on his behalf.
Gomez said he only realised the incident had involved Koh the next day when he received WhatsApp messages about the abduction.
“Inspector Ali called me up to the station again and asked me more questions, especially about the shattered glass,” he said, adding that he was also asked to re-enact the scenario.
“The same night, the inspector asked me if I was willing to do a photofit for the Indian man. I later did about three photofits.”
After that day, he said, he had no communication with the police until a few months later.
“On July 6, I was told that the police had a suspect and was asked to come in for an identification parade at IPD PJ.
“On July 7, my friend and I went there for the identification parade. There were three line-ups. The police officers told us the first two line-ups were all Malays and third was Indian.
“We did not identify anyone. The police later explained that they had called us in to identify a suspect involved in a shootout in Kedah, as they found Pastor Koh’s number plate in the suspect’s house. The police have not contacted me since.”
Gomez added that just before the identification parade, his car was broken into in Kota Damansara and his laptop bag was stolen.
“In the bag, I had my witness statement for this case, copies of my identity card, some personal documents and work notes. I did not lodge a police report as I thought this was due to my negligence.
“Curiously, the bag was returned to my house in late July and put between the gate bars without anyone noticing who returned it. Everything was still in the bag except for a normal plastic file.”
Gomez said the bag’s return had frightened him and his family, with his first thought being that there might be a bomb in it.
“I did discuss with my parents if I should appear here at this inquiry, and despite being in fear, we agreed that this was the right thing to do.”
Mah said a report would be released at the end of the inquiry.
Koh, 62, was abducted from his car by a group of more than 10 men in a convoy of vehicles on Feb 13.
CCTV footage showed at least three black SUVs were involved in the abduction. Many speculated that his abduction might have been connected to his alleged attempts to spread Christianity, although his family has dismissed such claims.
Social activist Amri, 44, who co-founded charity organisation Perlis Hope, has been missing since Nov 24 last year.
His wife, Norhayati Ariffin, said witnesses saw five vehicles blocking the path of Amri’s car before he was taken away just 550 metres from their home in Bukit Chabang, Perlis.
Joshua and his wife Ruth, meanwhile, were last seen on Nov 30 last year.