The permanent coroners’ court, set up by the government to hear cases related to deaths in custody, must be allowed to function independently, said human rights lawyer N. Surendran.

“I am still cautious about the initiative as I would need to look at the details of the system but the government is slow in implementing this,” he said in Petaling Jaya today.

“The coroners must be appointed independently and must be allowed to function independently.”

“It is a step in the right direction but I would rather wait for the full details before welcoming it.”

He also said the setting up of the court alone would not be enough to stop deaths in custody unless accompanied by the formation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

The cabinet had approved the setting up of a permanent coroners’ court in each state to deal with the rising number of deaths in custody. The courts will be initially set up in Selangor and the Federal Territory.

The recent death of N. Dhamendran in a lock-up at the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters saw three policemen being charged with his murder.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) may be given the power to prosecute to add bite to its role.

Low said the ministry was looking at providing EAIC with disciplinary powers in cases of misconduct, and prosecution powers for criminal cases.

“However, the areas to be strengthened and measures to be taken will have to be studied first,” he said.

“As it is now, EAIC already has enough provisions to keep enforcement agencies in check, but the commission will be given more resources especially in terms of human resources.”

Low said this at a joint press conference with Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and de facto law minister Nancy Shukri.
Ahmad Zahid also said the move to strengthen the EAIC was due to the public’s perception that the system had failed them.

“The cabinet views custodial deaths as an important issue and feels that measures in dealing with the matter must be expedited as it has become polemic,” he said. – June 19, 2013.
Rita Jong, The Malaysian Insider