Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Death of detainee - Syed Hamid says it all again

-A commentary-

Amidst the lunar new year celebrations, the week has been marred with controversies involving two deputy ministers, a Home Minister, the police and a death of a suspected car thief. The public, including friends and family of Kugan Ananthan were outraged to learn about the death of the 22 year-old while he was in police custody. Two deputy ministers of the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk K. Devamany and Senator T. Murugiah were also alleged to have 'raided' the morgue with the crowd where Kugan's body laid.

Our beloved Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar (image above) on January 25 issued a stern warning to the two deputy ministers, saying both of them are likely to face action for 'breaking the law' by accompanying the crowd.

“No minister or member of the administration is above the law and if you have committed an offence then you have to face the consequences,” Syed Hamid said. [25/1/09]
Being there with a crowd who so happened tried to enter the mortuary to see the body of their loved one is a crime?

The initial autopsy revealed that Kugan had died of fluids in his lungs but his family sought for a second autopsy, insisting that he had died of injuries. Lo and behold, the second one found external injuries caused by blunt brute force trauma on Kugan's body and it was suggested that he could have died of cardiac arrest following the injuries. That was pretty amazing - It took two autopsies for the authorities to actually 'discover' external injuries.

The police have promised a full investigation into the matter with all 11 police officers from the Subang USJ Taipan police station being suspended from duty.

No one is above the law but the Home Minister?

The Home Minister once again points his holier-than-thou finger at the two deputy ministers for their alleged 'accomplice' in the mortuary invasion. Indeed, 'no minister or member of the administration is above the law' , to quote the ever wise minister but how many times we Malaysians have seen the police and most importantly the Home Ministry act as if they are 50,000-feet above the law?

Malaysians are all too familiar with how the authorities handled peaceful marches like the BERSIH rally in 2007 and the arrests of participants of candlelight vigils and anti-war gatherings with riot police and water cannons. And not to mention the unholy trinity of ISA arrests of a blogger, an Opposition MP and a reporter of whom Syed Hamid gave the excuse of 'protecting her from death threats'.

If such indiscretion and the blatant abuse of preventive laws by the Home Ministry and the police are not acts far above the law, then what is? Syed Hamid must realize that for every finger he points at others, three are pointing back. It is true that the Home Minister is the man who calls the shots on who should be arrested and which assembly should be halted. But then again, every educated Malaysian knows adjectives like 'seditious', 'dangerous' or 'unruly' for an assembly or a person are subjected to the Home Minister's interpretation of events. The truth is, he is a lousy interpreter.

The police- abuse of power or sheer incompetence?

We should be warned not to turn Kugan's death into a racial issue, pitting the Malays against the Indians. I believe many Malays are just as disgusted and angered with the police force which just so happen to be a Malay-majority institution. Remember, we are all Malaysians and thus, this is a Malaysian issue at heart. The Selangor police chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar, on the other hand, pleaded with the public not exploit Kugan's funeral as a political protest. Yes, it should be a protest against the victim of its own declining credibility - the Royal Malaysian Police!

The force have been lambasted for their lackadaisical approach when dealing with a death of a detainee. The family of Kugan also revealed of ignorance to basic protocols by the police when they were not even informed of Kugan's arrest prior to his sudden death on January 14.

“The police never informed us that he was arrested and we only heard about it from an anonymous caller...All they (the police) said was that he had died and his body was at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC)... Look what they have put us through," Kugan’s uncle V.Raviroy told reporters. [The Malaysian Insider, 26/1/09]

I could only imagine what Kugan's family had gone through when Raviroy said that while Kugan had died at 11am on January 20, his family members were only informed of his death at 9pm by several plain-clothed detectives who came to their home. Police incompetency again? It's nothing new.

If Kugan's death was indeed natural and was not caused by police brutality, the authorities still have answer for the other 80 deaths in police custody from 2000 to 2004, a sum according to The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police.

Out of the 80 cases, only 39 cases had been referred to the Magistrate for inquiry. And of the 39 cases, only in 6 cases did the Magistrate conduct inquest. The Royal Commission also found that in some 22 cases which had been referred to the Magistrate, decisions had been made to not hold inquests. This is a strict violation of The Criminal Procedure Code which states that when a person dies while in the custody of the police, the officer who had custody of that person shall immediately give intimation of such death to the nearest Magistrate and that the Magistrate shall hold an inquiry into the cause of the death.

It is also understood that no closed-circuit-television-cameras (CCTV) were placed in the lockup where Kugan was detained despite a governmental directive years ago for such devices to be installed to prevent police abuse.

Nevertheless, the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail have asked the police to classify Kugan's death as 'murder' after personally studying investigation papers and photographs of the deceased.

Kugan's death signifies an unfortunate fact that some things do not change in Malaysia. How many times have we seen real measures are only taken when there is death? It took several lives to be lost the last time to prompt the government to review the safety of hillside projects and take preventive measures to prevent another landslide. Just how many more lives must be lost before any serious affirmative actions are taken to address the dire incompetency of our police force?


  1. joshua said...

    Devamany stood up and told Syed not to make irrelevant statements.

  2. amoker said...

    Syed Hamid should look at himself and his police force. It is now a farce.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Albar, we'll remember that when we drag to to the lock up soon

  4. Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...


    Indeed what a heavy price to pay
    When the dead will have no say
    Except for the injuries to display
    When do we ever get to see fair play?

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 290109
    Thur. 29th Jan. 2009.