PUTRAJAYA: The Padang Besar police chief at the time of the Wang Kelian human trafficking case admitted today that investigators could have acted more urgently in handling the discovery of graves near the Wang Burma campsites in 2015.
Federal police Criminal Investigation Department technical assistance division (D6) assistant director Superintendent Rizani Che Ismail, who was then the district police chief in Padang Besar, told the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) probing the incident that police action was “slow”.
He said this when questioned by the deputy chairman of the seven-member RCI panel, former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Norian Mai.
Norian: In my opinion, when the incident was revealed, from the initial investigation until Op Wawasan was launched (in May), the reaction showed by police, regardless from district, state or (federal police headquarters in) Bukit Aman, was not as urgent as it should have been.
Rizani: For me, this case was urgent and huge. I felt the action taken seemed very slow.
Norian: So, you do agree that the action taken was slow?
Norian: Why do you think this happened?
Rizani: In my opinion, perhaps those in leadership positions wanted to take care of bilateral relationships with Thailand, since this is a sensitive issue.
Norian: Throughout the period of this case, were you contacted by Bukit Aman to assist with the investigation?
Rizani: I was never contacted personally by Bukit Aman officers, the inspector-general of police (IGP), DIGP (deputy IGP) or department directors. I only updated my state police chief.
Norian: Who was the state police chief at that time?
Rizani: Datuk Zul Aznam Haron. He is retired now. And just for your information, when the case unfolded, KP (Zul Aznam) was in the process of retiring. He retired three days before Op Wawasan Khas 1 was launched.
Asked by another panel member, former chief prosecutor Datuk Noorbahri Baharuddin, whether he agreed that police had kept the public in the dark on the case to protect the image of Perlis police, Rizani replied in the negative.
However, he agreed with the suggestion of another panel member, former research division head in the Attorney-General’s Chambers Datuk Junaidah Abdul Rahman, that the police standing orders with regards with the handling of illegal immigrants should be amended.
Earlier, Rizani told the panel that it was police practice to hand over illegal immigrants to the Immigration Department if no tekong was found with them.