The IPCMC is a crucial first step, and the only way in which rogue elements in the police force can be identified, says Steven Thiru.
The Malaysian Bar is aghast that the results of the second post-mortem conducted by Hospital Kuala Lumpur on 44-year-old S Balamurugan s/o M Suppiah (“Balamurugan”) released on 18 February 2017 confirms that the cause of death while he was in police custody was “coronary artery disease with multiple blunt force injuries”.
The first autopsy carried out at the Klang Hospital had reportedly indicated that he had died of “heart problems”.
Balamurugan was arrested by the police on 6 February 2017 and was found dead at the North Klang district police headquarters on 8 February 2017.
According to the police report lodged by his lawyer at his remand hearing on 7 February 2017, Balamurugan was weak and unable to walk, had bruises on his face, was bleeding from his nose and mouth, and vomited blood. His lawyer also stated that he had been informed that Balamurugan had been assaulted by the police.
The magistrate, upon observing Balamurugan’s condition, queried the investigating officer, who did not reply. The magistrate then denied the application by the police for remand and instructed the investigating officer to take Balamurugan to the hospital immediately. However, despite this clear and direct judicial instruction, Balamurugan was not taken for medical treatment at all.
The investigating officer appears to have knowingly disobeyed an order of the court. It is shocking that there has been no explanation as to why Balamurugan was neither released nor taken for medical attention. This defiance smacks of brazen disrespect for the court and a blatant disregard for the welfare of a person in police custody , who was apparently in obvious need of medical treatment.
Such misconduct warrants stern action by the court, to deter police officers from flagrantly ignoring the directions of the court. The police cannot be permitted to behave as if they are a law unto themselves.
It has been reported that more than 10 policemen at the North Klang district police headquarters are under investigation over Balamurugan’s death. Given the results of the second autopsy report, it is inexplicable and outrageous that none of them has been suspended or arrested.
The police officers who are suspected to have been involved in the assault on Balamurugan that led to his death must not receive special treatment or protection. Immediate action must be taken so that the truth may be uncovered and the perpetrators brought to justice.
It is alarming that detainees in police custody continue to die under extremely questionable circumstances, despite this matter having been highlighted to the police and the government time and again. We must not permit this untenable situation to continue unabated, and for wrongdoers in any enforcement agency to operate in an environment of impunity.
It is well past the time for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission to serve as an independent external agency tasked solely to receive and investigate complaints of police misconduct and abuse of power.
The Malaysian Bar has incessantly urged for the IPCMC to be set up, since it was first proposed by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police in its report in 2005.
We repeat our call today. The IPCMC is a crucial first step, and the only way in which the rogue elements in the police force can be identified, isolated and held accountable for their misconduct and criminal acts.
Let Balamurugan’s death be the last ever in police custody. Establish the IPCMC now.
Steven Thiru is president of the Malaysia Bar.
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