KUALA LUMPUR: Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has guaranteed the personal safety of Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand in the wake of claims that she had been pressured not to attend the Teoh Beng Hock inquest when it resumes on April 20.
Abdul Gani told The Malay Mail that Dr Pornthip, who had reportedly said she would not testify at the inquest due to "political pressure" from the government, should not be stopped from giving evidence.
"I've not not seen or heard anything about this threat. No one should stop her from giving evidence, not even the government," said Abdul Gani, who called on Dr Pornthip to contact him to explain what was preventing her from testifying.
"I can assure her protection and that she would not be harmed."
"We want her to come to give evidence. No one should stop her from doing so." Dr Pornthip, popularly known "Dr Death", reportedly said that she might face problems if she came here, including the possibility of being denied entry.
The pathologist had reportedly claimed to have been advised by high-ranking officials from the Thai ministry not to go to Malaysia for the inquest next week, alleging that the Justice Ministry had received information from the Thai Foreign Ministry that she may even be denied entry.
Dr Pornthip, 54, the director-general of the Justice Ministry's Central Institute of Foreign Science, had reportedly said the Thai Foreign Ministry received "signals" from the Malaysian government through "informal channels", suggesting that her presence at the inquest would not be welcomed.
It was conveyed to me by certain senior Thai government officials that there had been political pressure from certain Malaysian government circles to block my presence in court, so much so that it might interfere with my current important forensic mission in southern Thailand, she was reported as saying.
Dr Pornthip had also reportedly said she was involved in ongoing forensics work requiring her to go to Kelantan to investigate a case related to the killings in southern Thailand.
She had claimed that when she tried to get permission to enter the State in January, she could not do so after a "signal" from the authorities forbidding her from crossing the border.
Given our well-intended assistance in the Teoh case has now turned into a political issue, I have no choice but to choose my work in south Thailand, she was quoted as saying.
Abdul Gani said if Dr Pornthip is refused entry, she should seek help from his Thai counter parts to get legal assistance.
"I am not aware of any party in the government wanting to prevent her from entering the country. There is no such thing, tell me who said that.
"If she wants to enter (through) Kelantan, she can seek mutual legal assistance. She can go through the formal way if she wants to come here."
He said while Dr Pornthip can refuse to testify at the inquest and cannot be forced to come as she is in Thailand, she should be present to testify and finish what she had already started.
"Please do come, as you have already given evidence midway," he said, adding that he was waiting for Dr Pornthip to e-mail him on the matter.
Lawyer urges Dr Death to attend hearing
DR PORNTHIP should continue her testimony.
Lawyer Art Harun said it was only fair that she does this as she had given her professional opinion that there was an 80 per cent chance of homicide in Teoh's death.
"She had made the opinion public and stood by it. It is only fair that she comes to argue her stance and allow herself to be cross-examined." Art said, according to the law of evidence, only Dr Pornthip can tender her evidence.
"If they are tendered through other people, the report will not carry much weight as the maker is not there to confirm the report or answer cross-examination questions."
Teoh, who served as political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead on July 16, last year, a day after he was called in for questioning over allegations of corruption at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office in Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam.
Dr Pornthip, who was appointed by the Selangor State government, is one of three pathologists testifying. The others were Dr Shahidan Md Noor from Sungai Buloh Hospital and Dr Peter Venezis, appointed by the MACC for a second post mortem on Teoh's body in November.
Teoh's family welcomes Abdul Gani's assurance
KUALA LUMPUR: Teoh Beng Hock's family lawyer, Gobind Singh Deo, welcomes the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail's willingness to help Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand in testifying at the inquest.
"I welcome the A-G's statement and I think arrangements should be made to convey the message to the Selangor State government," Gobind told The Malay Mail last night.
He said an email exchange between Abdul Gani and Dr Pornthip is, however, not proper in this case. As an officer of the court, Abdul Gani should speak to the lawyers of the State government to get to the root of the problem.
"I think the A-G should speak to the lawyers " to get their consent."
Gobind said if Dr Pornthip's trip to Malaysia is cleared and assurances be given to her, he does not see a problem with her testifying.
"If she cannot be here physically, alternative ways to adduce evidence exist. I leave the matter to the State government lawyer, Malik Imtiaz, and I will provide assistance if required."
Although Dr Pornthip's testimony is important, he said the basic facts of his case had been established through other witnesses."Her evidence would help to further clarify some of her findings which she made earlier and her evidence, too, would give a greater insight of the second post-mortem report."
"The A-G's statement is much better than that of (Minister in the Prime Minister's Department) Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who called Dr Pornthip a liar, which reflects his ignorance and arrogance."
Gobind said Nazri should have first investigated allegations by Dr Pornthip and not interfere in the court process as he was in no position to determine the weight that ought to be given to Dr Pornthip's testimony.
In a statement earlier, Gobind stated that it was through Dr Pornthip's effort that Teoh's body was exhumed for second post-mortem " the results of which has given a whole new dimension to the circumstances surrounding his death.
Gobind said this is not the first time Dr Pornthip has complained of harrassment in her handling of Teoh's inquest.
Meanwhile, Bar Council president K. Ragunath, said if Dr Pornthip's claims were true, this amounted to witness intimidation.
"She needs to clarify what the government pressure is. She is a witness, and the courts should enquire from her lawyers the basis for her fear and she has to explain.
"The government has to ensure it protects witnesses. Kesavan said, since Dr Pornthip is an expert witness, she cannot be compelled to appear in court as she is not a subpoena witness.
Nazri slams Thai doc
PETALING JAYA: Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has lambasted Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasun, for refusing to attend Teoh Beng Hock inquest on April 20, citing "political pressure" from the Malaysian government.
"Dr Pornthip is making excuses. This is her way of running from responsibilities. She is saying a lot of things now so as not to appear at the inquest," he told The Malay Mail last night.
Nazri said the pathologist has nothing to worry about her safety, as the government will assure her security.
"I wonder how she could come up with the idea the government wants to stop her from testifying. The government would be happy to see her appear at the Teoh Beng Hock inquest.
"Isn't this is a clear indication that Dr Pornthip is afraid to wrap up her testimony after what she said at the inquest some time ago?"
Nazri wondered if Dr Pornthip was creating controversy and was unable to support it with credible evidence based on scientific analysis.