“Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state (attributed to James Jesus Angleton).”
– Umberto Eco, ‘Numero zero’
Around the same time a North Korean dictator’s half-brother was assassinated, a Malaysian was abducted. Now I am not implying that there is any connection but when Big News ask me to look here, I am one of those people who are more interested in looking there.
I have no idea why Raymond Koh Keng Joo was kidnapped. Indeed, at the time of writing, no form of financial motive has been discovered. Indeed, the only money that has been offered is a reward by the family for information leading to his release.
What I do know is that this is atypical for a kidnapping in Malaysia. I have no idea why the state security apparatus was slow to acknowledge this. The literature of kidnappings in Malaysia is clear-cut. Personal and financial motives are the norm, and ransom paying as the means of resolution is commonplace.
What is not normal is the manner in which he was abducted. As reported in the media, the family was told by witnesses that “one of the men was seen recording the incident while another diverted traffic. All of the kidnappers were reportedly wearing black ski masks” – that implies a certain formality to the proceedings.
There are numerous reasons why professional kidnappers would record the abduction, normally for certificate of life – popularly known as “proof of life” – evidence, but what is unusual is that there has been no ransom demands. However, in this case the recording raises other implications, which I will get to later.
What is unusual – if witnesses are to believed – is that one of the abductors was directing traffic and this implies a level of confidence that while not unusual is certainly suspicious when it comes to the victim of this particular case.
The imagery of these black masked kidnappers is an important factor in this narrative. How many times have we witness the spectacle of the state security apparatus “arresting” people – politicians, activists and dissenters – on various criminal charges while other state actors are exempt from those charges?
I am not implying anything, but to not mention something like this strikes me as disingenuous. Of course, kidnappers who operate in broad daylight will mask themselves, I am just making this observation to acknowledge what people are thinking about but are hesitant to say publicly.
While there are many security reasons why the state would make arrests in such a manner – and I would be in agreement with – the reality is that if people are suspicious of the actions of the state security apparatus, it is incumbent on the state to correct such misconceptions. So far, they have done a poor job and sadly continue to nurture the perception that the security apparatus serves the hegemon instead of the people.
Then there is the alleged “recording” of the proceedings. There is no point in not acknowledging the fact that Raymond Koh had received attention from the state on that most pernicious of allegations. When you are a Christian in Malaysia, especially if you are a pastor in charge of whichever denominational flock you shepherd, you are sometimes open to charges of proselytisation.
I have seen no cogent evidence that members of the Christian clergy are attempting to convert Malays to the Christian faith. Indeed, I wish those making such cowardly accusations would adduce evidence instead of wilfully creating a toxic atmosphere amongst followers of the Abrahamic mode.
Till this day, after the numerous raids, the banning of religious text, the vilification of Christians and the numerous other provocations in the guise of “defending” the majority’s faith, there has not been one shred of evidence that there is a concerted effort to proselytise to Muslims in this country.
Attacked by Hasan Ali
Indeed, it was Raymond Koh’s charitable organisation, Harapan Komuniti, that was in the centre of the “church raid” championed by then-Selangor exco member Hasan Ali, that was supposed to be converting Muslims during a dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), a few years back.
While Hasan made the bold claim that there was “evidence” of proselytisation, till this day none has been adduced beyond the words of religious officials and the matter has been swept under the carpet – just another data point on how the community is vilified and there is really nothing anyone can do about it.
Here is a description of the “raid” that Hasan claimed was not a raid, according to witness Pastor Daniel Hoh – “Around 30 Islamic religious and police officials entered the church compound in Selangor state without a warrant and began taking videos and photographs.”
Therefore, that imagery of the state recording the event crops up again. Again, this of course could be just a coincidence but at this point, can anyone blame the average citizen for being sceptical? Can anyone blame the average citizen from wondering all over cyberspace that something is wrong in how the state is handling this case?
We live at a time in Malaysia where Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom declares, “The government will set proper limits to control and curb the elements of religious pluralism in the country so that all threats related to it will be kept at bay.”
Yes, this is a special case. This is a special case because for years the state has stood idly by and in many cases, used state actors to intimidate and harass citizens of different faiths in the name of protecting “bangsa” and “agama”.
At this point, I am less interested in commissions investigating past corruption scandals – forex, for example – and more interested in commissions addressing the fact that religion has been used to subjugate one section of society and harass another.
Why do I get the feeling that the kidnapping of this individual is just another symptom and that nobody is interested in addressing the cause? I may be wrong, and there is ample evidence in my opinion pieces that I never had a problem in publicly stating when I have been wrong, but this case reeks of something sinister.
In most kidnapping cases, the “why” is answered almost immediately. Reasons range from ransom, robbery, extortion and the gamut of criminal motive and enterprise. However, in this case, the “why” is left suspended in the air.
Who kidnapped the pastor and why did they kidnap him becomes entwined in a web of speculation, innuendo and toxicity. The cynic in me tells me that this is exactly what someone wants. This fear that it could happen to anyone maybe even a specific class of people.
The optimist in me hopes that this is just another kidnapping with a ransom demand paid and a somewhat happy conclusion with the pastor returning to his family. All I know is that the “why” is troubling, and hopefully not the shape of things to come.
I hope I am wrong. I hope everything that I have written is just the ramblings of an old sailor who has seen too much. I sincerely hope that the pastor is returned to his family.
Therefore, hope is a fitting end to this piece.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
Source : @ Malaysiakini