Press Statement
Latest death in prison a test for PH government’s reform agenda
7 June 2018

Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the death of 24-year-old prisoner Mariappan Manivannan in Bentong Prison, Pahang on 6 June 2018.

We were informed by the deceased’s family members that Mariappan had been unwell for up to a month prior to his death, and for the past one week suffered from continuous vomiting and diarrhoea. He was admitted to the prison clinic but was not checked by a doctor for a few days. It was unclear if he was ever sent to the hospital, but he died at the prison clinic and the cause of death was attributed to severe acute gastroenteritis

That a prisoner could have fallen ill for an extended duration of time only to have his condition ignored, treated in the most minimal manner or sent to the hospital when it was too late is alarming. Sadly, Mariappan’s death is not the exception but rather the norm. Between January 2013 to April 2016, the Prisons Department recorded 721 deaths in all prisons – that is a shocking 18 deaths per month, with the vast majority of them attributed to diseases and health problems.

These statistics are an indictment of systemic problems in our prisons that have been ignored for far too long by the previous government: cramped and overcrowded detention conditions, poor hygiene and sanitation, lack of clean drinking water, food and healthcare provision. It is clear from the staggering number of deaths that the new PH government can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to these issues.

Mariappan’s death will be a test for the new government’s reform agenda and we call for the authorities especially the Home and Health Ministries to investigate the detention conditions in Bentong Prison and all other places of detention in the country.

The detention authorities must immediately improve access to medical treatment for all detainees including police lockups, immigration detention centres and prisons, lest another person needlessly lose his life to a treatable condition or due to wilful neglect of the detention authorities.

We further call for an inquiry to be held by EAIC or Suhakam into the death of Mariappan in order to uncover the causes and circumstances surrounding his death including the detention conditions and access to medical treatment.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty