Jun 15, 09 7:05pm
Another death in police custody, and it is another Indian Malaysian.
While the police claimed that the sudden death of burglary suspect A Gnanapragasam, 53, could be linked to drug addiction, an opposition party expressed concern over the trend of the same race meeting the same fate.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar said the police were waiting for the post-mortem report on the wireman, a hardcore drug addict.
He also vowed that the police would not conceal information from the public pertaining to Gnanapragasam’s sudden death.
“Prior to this, when a detainee dies in a lock-up, a magistrate and doctor will be brought over to look at, or examine the body before the body is removed,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
A policeman found Gnanapragasam, a father of six, dead in a toilet at the Damansara Damai police station lock-up early yesterday.
Happens to the same race
Commenting on the matter, PKR communications director Johnson Chong said not only are the deaths increasingly frequent but they seem to happen only to suspects from a particular racial community.
“Although the police have asked the public not to speculate on the latest death, PKR hopes that both the inspector-general of police and home minister will seriously look into the matter before it becomes a full-blown racial issue in our country, which is already divided along racial lines,” he added.
Chong said in light of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s attempts to promote the concept of 1Malaysia, the authorities must ensure that no community, regardless of race, religion, gender or economic status, is sidelined or ill-treated.
Moreover, the fact that most, if not all, of the deaths in police custody are happening to Indian Malaysians reflect the reality that they have not been able to advance either socially or economically, he added.
He said the federal government must recognise that this is not only an issue of crime or law and order, but also one that requires an urgent government policy to assist the Indian community in Malaysia to overcome the social and economic realities faced by them.
“If the Umno-Barisan Nasional government is serious about the people being the first priority, they should take real steps to resolve this matter holistically and stop trying to cover-up the real causes of these deaths in custody,” he added.
Form royal commission
Also expressing concern was PKR Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong, whose constituency encompasses Damansara Damai.
According to her, the deceased’s widow had met her husband on Friday, two days after he was arrested.
“During her visit, he informed her that he had complained to the magistrate who heard his remand that he was beaten in custody. Furthermore, his widow reported to me that her husband had a bruised right eye during her visit.
“His widow was then informed by the police that her husband was expected to be released on Monday without charges. Thus, it is shocking that a day before he is due for release, he was found dead,” she said in a statement.
Wong said it is immaterial whether the suspect has a police record or not; a suspect is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
“One expects the police to be fully responsible for the well-being and fair treatment of suspects while being in their custody.
“I urge the home minister to investigate this case thoroughly and for all policemen on duty during the days when the deceased had reported he was beaten in the lock-up, leading to his demise, to be suspended pending the investigation,” she added.
Wong also suggested that a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Deaths in Police Custody to be formed, for the numbers of persons dying in police custody is a matter of national concern.
“I join my fellow members of Parliament and state assemblypersons in urging for the formation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and a coroner’s court to arrest this problem.
“It is our collective wish that after this tragic incident, no other person would enter into a police lockup and come out in a body bag,” she said.