As many as 147 deaths in police custody have been reported since 2000 and NGO activists today demanded guarantees from the home ministry and the police force that such deaths will no longer occur.Lawyers for Liberty representative N Surendren and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) co-founder R Sivarasa also insisted that investigations into the cause of death of any person while in the custody of the authorities should be carried out responsibly.

“This is a high number. Under the section 334 of the Penal Code, inquests into deaths in custody are mandatory. There are no two ways about it,” Surendran said. “The statistics show kegagalan (failure) on the part of the BN and the police in taking care of suspects in custody,” he said, adding that every system of the government appeared to be a failure.

Statistics between 2000 and February 2010 showed that 64 Malays died while in police custody, with 30 deaths among Chinese detainees, 28 among Indians, eight people of other races, and 14 of the dead being foreigners.Surendren said ridiculous reasons had been given for the causes of the deaths: 63 from ‘other diseases’ such as ulcers, yellow fever (jaundice) and intestine, lung and throat infections, 23 had been listed as ‘suicide’ in the cells and 12 deaths from brain haemorrhage.

He asked how diseases such as cardiac arrest or pneumonia could “suddenly affect” detainees when many of them were aged between 30 and 40 years.Surendren also questioned why a large number of deaths in custody – 66 – were termed as “no further action” (NFA).”When they classify deaths as NFA, these files go to storage and nothing happens. No action,” he stressed.

NGOs, rakyat to protest if deaths still occur

Sivarasa, a well-known Malaysian lawyer who together with Surendran represented Kugan’s family in the case in which a police constable was charged with causing Kugan’s death, challenged the home ministry and the police to achieve 90 days of ‘no death in custody’. The policeman, A Navindran, 28, was this morning acquitted by a sessions court in Petaling Jaya.”We challenge them to achieve this, and show that deaths can be avoided.

“If such deaths still occur, NGOs, opposition parties and the rakyat will organise a peaceful gathering to push for reformation in the police force,” Sivarasa  added.It has been quite clear from the incidents, he said, that many youngsters detained in police stations die, and this was manslaughter.

Malaysians for Beng Hock movement co-ordinator Ng Yap Hwa, who was also present at the press conference, called for the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission be set up immediately.”During (former prime minister) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s era, money was spent on infrastructure for the police force, but what about their behaviour?” Ng asked, and said there had been no remorse on the part of the police for deaths in custody

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri , who is also with Lawyers for Liberty and was present, described as “wrong” the procedures used by the police force.Fadiah  said several memoranda had been sent to Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar , but he was yet to reply.”We have been sending the IGP a memorandum on deaths in custody every year since 2005, but nothing has changed until today. We have not even received any reply from the police. Nothing at all.
“The government has complicity in this wrongful act (brutality) of the police force,” she said adding that it was the responsibility of the government, including the home minister, police and doctors, to provide justice for those who die in police custody,” Fadiah said.”All they are doing is suppressing information from being made public.”