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Friday, April 16, 2010

Why the need for Pornthip?

The fact that Dr Pornthip had to be asked to testify at all is a damning statement on how low the belief is in our justice system. Her presence casts a shadow over the judiciary.

THE controversy surrounding Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand especially the cicumstances surrounding her reluctance to return to testify at the Teoh Beng Hock inquiry is something that does not surprise me.

There are accusations and counter accusation by so many sides - some even defamatory.

However, that is not what I wish to concentrate on here. There is a bigger issue. The question that we should be asking is why did we have to obtain the services of Dr Pornthip in the first place?

Prominent figure: Dr Pornthip arriving at the Shah Alam court to testify as an expert witness in Teoh’s case.

True, she is very good at what she does, and it was through her efforts that forensic sciences in Thailand have developed by leaps and bounds.

But she was brought in not just for her expertise but because, frankly, of a lack of faith in the Malaysian justice system.

There is uncertainty that local experts will be able to do their work without any interference from outside parties.

In the Asian Rare Earth case of the 1980s, where a village in Perak became the dumping ground of radioactive wastes by an irresponsible company, the villagers had to get expert witnesses from Japan and Canada to provide evidence of the higher than normal radiation levels.

It was not a situation where they could not find any local person with the ability to use a Geiger counter, it was just that the company in question had influential shareholders, and local experts were unwilling to come forward.

In the Teoh Beng Hock case, it is not a company that is under scrutiny but the MACC, a government agency.

Furthermore, the young man who died was working for an opposition party. It is therefore even more likely that a local expert could be faced with all sorts of pressures, especially if he or she works in a government institution.

This is not to say that pressure will be applied. Neither is this to suggest that the government will resort to such underhanded tactics.

It boils down, not to a matter of fact but a matter of faith; faith that our system of justice is incorruptible and fair.

It really does not matter if it is or not, the problem is just as profound if one simply does not believe that it is just and honest.

Yes, it is very sad that Teoh Beng Hock died in such violent circumstances, and yes, it is imperative that we find out the truth about how he died. But there is also a larger question to be answered here.

The fact that Dr Pornthip had to be asked to testify at all is a damning statement on how low the belief is in our justice system.

Is it possible for us as a society to wipe clean the debris that is our justice system and build again?


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