The testimony of Sivanesan Tanggavelu that he was hit with a metal rod, punched, kicked, slapped all over and even caned on his genitals and the soles of his feet until he passed out from the pain, while in the custody of the ACA, should be cause for serious concern for all Malaysians. After all, we have been plagued with a series of suspicious deaths in custody, and we have seen many complaints against the high-handed tactics that Malaysian law enforcement agencies allegedly use. In the context of Teoh Beng Hock's mysterious death while in custody of the MACC (the ACA's new name), it raises an extremely serious question about the circumstances surrounding Teoh's death: did he also experience such abuse before he died?
Given the seriousness of the issue, what does Ahirudin Attan, editor-in-chief of The Malay Mail have to say about it? Here is his blog post of 9/9/09, charmingly titled "S'pender at Inquest":
NST 09/09: Beng Hock's inquest: Witness T. Sivanesan alleges he was slapped, kicked and caned on penis by MACC officer, showed underwear as proof
After all these years, many of us still can't get images of the mattress during the Sodomy Part I trial. And now we have this - a torn s'pender* at the Teoh Beng Hock inquest!
I don't know why the Coroner allowed Sivanesan's spender to the hearing. The MACC official who had caned his prick could be a rogue officer. If it's true, Sivanesan's bad experience should be brought to the Royal Commission that the
Government has set up in connection with TBH to look into the procedures at the MACC.
The Coroner must now allow for witnesses who were NOT tortured by the MACC interrogation to share their experience with the Inquest. Just a week ago, a GLC head told me of his experience. I'm sure he still has his untorn s'pender/boxer/underwear to prove his point.
* S'pender is an old slang, believed to be short for suspender, to describe underwear. It's like gostan, which is derived from go a stern, which we still use to mean reverse.
(Please read the Rocky's entire, updated post here)
Without offering any supporting evidence, Rocky is quick to rationalise and justify Sivanesan's ordeal as possibly the actions of a rogue officer. He makes light of Sivanesan's humiliation at the ACA hands, and to add insult to injury, he mocks Sivanesan's testimony by expecting us to believe that a GLC head would be treated the same as how someone like Sivanesan would be. Finally, Rocky chooses to enlighten us on the Malaysian slang for underwear; what an impeccable sense of priority and proportion he has!
What Rocky did is to divert our attention from the horrific implications about TBH's death which arise from Sivanesan's testimony. He did this by making fun of Sivanesan's alleged torture and humiliation by ACA officers, and focusing our attention on his torn "spender" instead. This is a common propaganda technique, namely dehumanising the victim to make their testimony carry less weight. Rocky's message is: Sivanesan's story is a laughing matter and a joke, we should all laugh at it and not take him seriously.
I'd like to know just who, or what, is Rocky spinning for this time?
From "The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect", (bold emphasis mine):
There was a time when Rocky used to speak out against torture, police states and abuses of the weak by the powerful. When two Malaysians were detained at Guantanamo Bay, Rocky called upon the Abdullah administration to "demand that they are sent back here to be fairly dealt with", because (in Rocky's words), "Human rights does not exist in Guantanamo Bay". Rocky also remarked, in a post titled "torture for two", that Bush could "keep the two Malaysians - and everyone else - detained at Guantanamo Bay for as long as he wishes and also resorts to the harshest means - including torture - to get them to confess to their crimes and terror links." He also reported how Al-Jazeera accuses "the US of resorting to methods usually applied in 'police states'."
- Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
- Its first loyalty is to citizens.
- Its essence is a discipline of verification.
- Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
- It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
- It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
- It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
- It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
- Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
It was certainly commendable of Rocky to speak for human rights then. It is sad to see him change his tune now that his circumstances have changed. Does his criteria for what constitutes torture and abuse depend on who is signing his paycheck? Can The Malay Mail still claim to be "the paper that cares" when it's editor-in-chief does not even pretend to anymore?
UPDATED: Ong Hock Chuan from Indonesia, who blogs at Unspun, had this to say about Rocky today:
"... Rocky's Bru, a blog that used to speaks its mind, but now seems to be channeling the UMNO establishment. "Looks like others have noticed Rocky's metamorphosis too.