I work for rights of the dead, not Selangor government

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Pornthip: I work for rights of the dead, not Selangor government
UPDATED @ 04:25:33 PM 18-08-2010
By Neville Spykerman and Boo Su-Lyn
August 18, 2010

SHAH ALAM, Aug 18 — As Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand faced relentless questions today about her qualifications and her testimony, the Thai forensic expert delivered what could perhaps be the line that fortifies her credibility as an expert witness in the Teoh Beng Hock inquest.

“You have to understand. I work for the rights of the dead, not the Selangor government,” she told the Coroner’s Court, drawing applause from a packed gallery, after Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) lawyer Datuk Abdul Razak Musa had questioned her qualification.

She had earlier maintained that she was sure Teoh’s death last year was not a suicide, but she declined to repeat her previous assertion that it was 80 per cent a homicide.

Dr Pornthip (picture, right) was testifying for the second time at the inquest into DAP political aide Teoh’s death. Teoh is suspected to have fallen from the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam, then state headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Before his body was found on a fifth floor landing he had been questioned overnight by the MACC.

Earlier today in court, Dr Pornthip testified that she disagreed with the findings of Dr Peter Vanezis, the British forensic pathologist brought in by the MACC to observe Teoh’s second post mortem last year. Dr Pornthip was also an observer.

Later, under questioning from Abdul Razak, who had suggested she was attacking the MACC with her testimony, she also told the court her university was among the top five in Asia when the MACC lawyer questioned her qualifications.

After telling Abdul Razak that she was working for the rights of the dead, she added that “my objective is to help the dead.”

Undaunted, Abdul Razak asked the Thai pathologist why she did not consider what transpired the night before Teoh was found dead.

“It is not important for the autopsy,” she said.

Asked again by Abdul Razak if she considered the point that there was no eye-witness to the pre-fall injury she asserted Teoh had sustained, Dr Pornthip answered that such injuries could be proven by scientific means.

At one point, Dr Pornthip even asked Abdul Razak if was indeed a lawyer, drawing more laughter from the gallery. Abdul Razak said he had been a lawyer for 24 years.

In what became a battle of wits, Abdul Razak also suggested that Dr Pornthip kept changing her position and “the goalpost.”

Abdul Razak then went on to point out to the inconsistencies of Dr Pornthip’s findings with those of Dr Vanezis and other local doctors.

But Abdul Razak also wrongly asserted that Pornthip spoke of strangulation today. But she denied citing strangulation as the cause of Teoh’s neck injury.

“I said that it was a pre-fall injury,” said Dr Pornthip.

She had earlier testified that the bruises around Teoh’s neck were caused by blunt force or trauma that was stronger than manual strangulation.

Abdul Razak pointed out that the other four doctors found no evidence of strangulation and asked Dr Pornthip if Teoh could have strangled himself.

Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo immediately stood up and asked Abdul Razak to demonstrate this, causing the gallery to erupt in laughter.

Abdul Razak also did not seem to grasp the difference between being unconscious and being dead.

He pointed out to Dr Pornthip that she had earlier testified that Teoh was alive at the time of the fall, to which she agreed.

“I agree he was alive, I never said he was dead,” she said.

Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas had to explain to Abdul Razak that the issue was about Teoh’s state of consciousness.

The finding of new evidence, purportedly a note written by Teoh, was also raised at the inquest today.

Gobind had asked Dr Pornthip about the significance of any notes found at a crime scene.

She said it was significant and police should do forensic investigation and collect fingerprints and conduct DNA testing.

She added that this was protocol for the crime scene investigator and that it should be done immediately after discovery.

Gobind asked if such evidence was still reliable one year after it was found.

“It depends on what kind of scientific evidence there is. I won’t rely on handwriting only. It should be based on fingerprints and DNA.”

Dr Pornthip concluded her testimony today and the inquest was fixed for mention on September 1.

Gobind informed the court that they were consulting their own experts on the issue of the note and needed time to determine if they would object to the introduction of the new evidence.

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