WAS IT AR­SON?

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have rea­son to be­lieve foul play may have been at work

New Straits Times - - Front Page - » RE­PORTS BY NST TEAM

AS the vic­tims of the Darul Qu­ran It­ti­faqiyah tah­fiz school fire were buried yes­ter­day, thou­sands turned up to mourn their deaths. And, a na­tion mourned with them.

Though the dead can now rest in peace, the author­i­ties will not. They will move on to the next phase, so to speak — in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cause of a tragic in­ci­dent in which lives were sense­lessly lost.

And, while In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice Tan Sri Mo­hamad Fuzi Harun said po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors had clas­si­fied the case as “sud­den death”, it ap­pears that this may be a tem­po­rary sta­tus.

The NST has learnt that in­ves­ti­ga­tors — both from the po­lice and Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment — have rea­son to be­lieve foul play may have been at work.

The key to this would be the pres­ence of two gas cylin­ders out­side the door to the dor­mi­tory on the sec­ond floor where the vic­tims, and those who sur­vived the rag­ing in­ferno, had been sleep­ing, an anom­aly as the kitchen is on the ground floor.

While fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors were work­ing to es­tab­lish the point of ori­gin of the fire, what started it and what caused it to spread so quickly, po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors, the NST has learnt, will pore over footage from sev­eral closed-cir­cuit tele­vi­sion (CCTV) cam­eras nearby, in­clud­ing that of the Mus­lim Con­sumers As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia, whose build­ing is lo­cated right next to the school.

Po­lice sources said the footage may point to an “in­tru­sion” into the school com­pound at 3am, a few hours be­fore the fire started.

The con­clu­sion of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, how­ever, may be a long way off. What mat­tered most yes­ter­day to the fam­i­lies of those killed in the fire on Thurs­day, was the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and re­cov­ery of their loved ones’ re­mains from the Kuala Lumpur Hospi­tal (HKL) mor­tu­ary.

Fam­ily mem­bers had pro­vided DNA sam­ples the day be­fore and were back at the mor­tu­ary early yes­ter­day morn­ing, hav­ing been told the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion process would be fast-tracked.

By mid-morn­ing yes­ter­day, Health di­rec­tor-gen­eral Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said all 23 vic­tims had been iden­ti­fied. Then be­gan the painful and ar­du­ous task of view­ing the charred re­mains.

The next of kin were called in, one fam­ily at a time. They were told they could view the bod­ies, but were ad­vised against it.

If the fam­ily in­sisted on view­ing the bod­ies of their loved ones, they were first shown pic­tures on a lap­top com­puter. If they still in­sisted on see­ing the bod­ies — and some steeled them­selves to the task — then they were al­lowed to do so. Min­utes after Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi and Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Ba­harom ar­rived at the mor­tu­ary yes­ter­day, the first of the bod­ies, be­lieved to be that of one of the two teach­ers killed in the fire, was brought out and placed rev­er­ently in a hearse.

Shortly after that hearse moved off, a sec­ond body was placed in an­other hearse. The sad pro­ces­sion of hearses kept on com­ing, their pre­cious car­goes taken to the HKL surau where the je­nazah prayers were per­formed.

As each prayer was com­pleted, the re­mains were again placed in hearses to be trans­ported to the var­i­ous ceme­ter­ies — in the Klang Val­ley, Perak, Kedah, Ke­lan­tan and Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan — where they would be buried.

A livid Zahid had said that the sug­ges­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions sub­mit­ted by the Royal Com­mis­sion of In­quiry (RCI) set up to in­ves­ti­gate the fire that killed 27 stu­dents of Seko­lah Agama Rakyat Tau­fikiah Khairiah Al-Hal­im­iah, also known as Pon­dok Pak Ya, in Yan, Kedah, in 1989 was not im­ple­mented.

He said the spe­cial task force formed to in­ves­ti­gate the fire at Darul Qu­ran It­ti­faqiyah would re­visit all sug­ges­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions by the RCI on safety re­quire­ments for re­li­gious schools.

Deputy Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Datuk P. Ka­malanathan had said his min­istry was reg­is­ter­ing tah­fiz and re­li­gious schools.

BER­NAMA PIC

Yang di-Per­tuan Agong Sul­tan Muham­mad V (right) lis­ten­ing to a brief­ing dur­ing his visit to the Darul Qu­ran It­ti­faqiyah tah­fiz school in Kam­pung Datuk Kera­mat, Kuala Lumpur, yes­ter­day. With him are Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Ros­mah Man­sor.

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