PUTRAJAYA: Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin believes that the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the discovery of mass graves of suspected human-trafficking victims in Wang Kelian, Perlis, is a case of “better late than never.”
He said the government needed to take action on the issue as the matter involved the country’s image and sovereignty.
“Despite many reports made, investigations conducted by Malaysian and Thai authorities, there remain some quarters who voiced dissatisfaction over the issue.
“This has affected the country’s image in terms of perception. That is why, although delayed, it is still not too late (to set up the RCI) because when something affects our image and sovereignty, we have to act.
“In my opinion, it’s better late than never. I presume that when the RCI’s investigations conclude, there will no longer be criticism that Malaysia doesn’t care and is keeping mum over the matter,” he said.
He said the Wang Kelian tragedy had captured the attention of international audiences as Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh were affected by the human trafficking cases.
“Myanmar and Bangladesh were affected as their people were the victims while Malaysia and Thailand were the transit countries,” he said.
In May 2015, police discovered 139 mass graves and 106 bodies, believed to be of Rohingya refugees, together with 29 illegal immigrant detention camps deep in the jungles of Bukit Genting Perah and Bukit Wang Burma, a few hundred metres from the Malaysia-Thai border in Wang Kelian.
The RCI was established after receiving the nod from the Cabinet on Oct 26 last year.
Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said the formation of the RCI is in line with the government’s aim to uncover the truth behind the gruesome episode.
“The RCI’s establishment reflects the government’s commitment to seek the truth behind the tragedy via an independent, transparent investigation.
“At the regional level, Malaysia is at the forefront of issues pertaining to tackling migrant-smuggling, a key aspect in cross-border crimes at the Asean-level.
“As pioneers in tackling this issue, Malaysia’s action is setting up the RCI proves the government’s determination to resolve this tragedy,” he said.
Muhyiddin earlier handed over appointment letters to the seven newly-elected RCI members at an official ceremony at the Home Ministry’s headquarters.
Former Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria will head the RCI, and assisted by former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Norian Mai.
Other members of the RCI are former Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) Head of Prosecution Datuk Noorbahri Baharuddin; Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail; and former AGC Head of Research Division Datuk Junaidah Abdul Rahman.
Former Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand, Datuk Nazirah Hussin and former Public Accounts Committee (PAC) vice-chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw form the remaining members of the commission.
Muhyiddin said the RCI will take will take six months to investigate the issue. The completed report will be submitted to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
He said during the six months, the RCI would peruse and investigate all documents and evidence on the discovery of the mass graves. The commission would also investigate current procedures and the procedures carried out after the incident by the authorities.
The RCI would also conduct an inquiry on the investigation officers, witnesses and any relevant individuals, among other responsibilities.