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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whatever happened to Pastor Raymond Koh?

I usually look forward to attending any events related to Malaysia. Being an expatriate in London, these events are an important way to keep in touch with my country of origin.

Last Sunday, however, as much I looked forward to meeting my friends, I was dreading the day’s event as it was about Pastor Raymond Koh’s disappearance.

His disappearance signalled to me a new ominous phase in Malaysia’s political history.

The event was by the Monsoons Book Club which had organised important seminars such as the talk by G25’s Datuk Noor Farida Arrifin in 2015.

Last Sunday’s event was hosted by Mariam Mokhtar, an activist and writer who is quite vocal in her criticism of the government. The main speaker was Thomas Fann, a founding member of Citizens Action Group on Enforced Disappearances (CAGED). He had come all the way from KL.

The story of Pastor Koh’s disappearance seriously defies belief. Without trivialising what happened, it feels like one of the Jason Bourne movies: Pastor Koh was driving in Petaling Jaya when in the short space of less than a minute, his life changed forever.

Out of nowhere, a convoy of black SUVs and motorcycles appeared and efficiently boxed his car in. A group of unidentified men got out of their vehicles, forced Pastor Koh to get out of his vehicle and into one of the SUVs and then sped off. Apparently, they even had the presence of mind to redirect traffic as well!

So there you have it. A well planned and executed manoeuvre. Could this have been a kidnapping? If it was, it would be a terribly inefficient one as we are nearing six months since Pastor Koh’s disappearance with no ransom note at all.

So what is the motivation behind it? According to the United States Commission on Religious Freedom in its annual report, Pastor Koh had been harassed on suspicion of converting Muslims to Christianity. 

It would not be the first time Pastor Koh received negative attention either. According to a report by The Star, he had received a rather unsubtle threat in the form of a bullet sent to his home.

Apart from that, raids have apparently been carried out on his thanksgiving and fundraiser event in 2011.

Fann commendably did not limit his analysis to just Pastor Koh’s disappearance. Two other members of the Christian clergy were mentioned as well.

Another Christian pastor, Joshua Hilmy (who is reportedly a convert from Islam) and his wife Ruth have been missing since last March. It is not difficult to surmise that if Hilmy was an apostate, his presence would have been irksome.

The fourth missing person is Amri Che Mat, who was reportedly a Shi’ite Muslim; the sect is becoming increasingly taboo in our country.

Fann added that prior to these disappearances, several Malaysians who were connected to gang-related crimes were kidnapped and murdered.

So where do these facts put us? Are we now living under siege? If indeed people can be apprehended in broad daylight, taken away and never heard from again, then I would say the answer is yes.

What is important for us to note is that it can happen to anyone, not just people of a particular religious persuasion. Until we solve the mystery of Pastor Koh’s disappearance, we cannot assume otherwise.

Pastor Koh’s family sees this tragedy as a test of the faith. I wish them all the best and despite the outcome looking bleak, a miracle still may happen.

By Farouk A. Peru (21 July 2017)

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