PETALING JAYA: PKR vice-president N Surendran has threatened to hold a mass demonstration if the police and the government fail to address the issue of custodial deaths.

He accused the government of  practising a “culture of neglect and abuse” against detainees.

“A total of 147 people had died in custody since 2000, according to statistics presented in Parliament. Sixty-three of them died of preventable ailments,” said Surendran, also a lawyer

For example, he said that in 2006, a 22-year-old Sabahan died of internal bleeding while in police custody.

“An inquest into his death found no foul play. What caused the internal bleeding was never established. The statistics also showed that 32 detainees died of HIV. Were they not given treatment
while in custody?” asked Surendran.

He said that 66 cases of death have been filed but “no further action” have been taken. “So far, inquests into deaths in custody have not been satisfactorily resolved,” he added.

He added that if the government failed to resolve the matter quickly, PKR would organise a peaceful protest at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

On M Krishnan’s death, which absolved the police of any wrongdoing, Surendran accused the police of being guilty of manslaughter for failing to provide medical treatment to him.

On Jan 3, Krishnan was detained for a drug-related offence at the Bukit Jalil police lock-up. Three days later, he was rushed to Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM) for stomach complications and died the next day.

New eyewitness

The first autopsy conducted by HUKM showed that Krishnan died due to stomach ulcer. A second autopsy at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) on Jan 25 gave a similar result.

Surendran said there were eyewitnesses who claimed that Krishnan was assaulted by the police while in detention.

“He had contusion marks on his back. Ulcer does not kill you instantly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty campaign director, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, said that there is a second eyewitness who saw Krishnan being assaulted in custody.

“We are trying to get him to lodge a police report soon,”said Fadiah.

The first witness, A Sargunan, who was arrested along with Krishnan, lodged a report at the Dang Wangi district police station on Jan 12, claiming that he saw the latter being beaten by policemen in the lock-up.

He alleged that the police made both of them lie on their stomachs, then started kicking and stomping on their backs with regulation boots on.

Sargunan, who fear for his safety, is now staying at an undisclosed location.