Suhakam: Horrendous Lock-Up Conditions

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The lock-up condition at the Semporna district police headquarters is horrendous with faeces scattered all over the place, reveals the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

Its commissioner Jerald Joseph said the commission was shocked when it visited the lock-up in October where almost all of the 16 cells had clogged toilets and drainage system.

“We visibly saw the toilet condition. There were 16 cells, (in them) almost all of the toilets were clogged. They were black and brown, stinky, whatever you can imagine (that’s) how bad it was.

“There were faeces scattered all over the place in the unused cells which caused a horrible smell.

“The cell floors were dirty, and the ventilation was bad. There was no fan. The hallway was dark because of a wiring problem,” Joseph told the media in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The poor maintenance is due to the lack of budget from the government, Joseph said, adding that the last maintenance was done 10 years ago.

“We feel sorry for the detainees and the police on duty there. Both of them suffer. The police chief wants repairs and maintenance (to be done) but he has to wait for the budget.

Celine Ho/Malaysiakini

“None of us deserve to be treated with such degrading and inhumane conditions. Repair must be done. Perhaps the lock-up should be temporarily closed.

“Perhaps we can get the Finance Ministry to release an emergency budget?” he said.

When Suhakam visited the lock-up, there were 16 detainees in the cells, he said.

With its terrible condition, it had filled about 15,000 detainees from January to September 2019, which included women and children, he added.

He ruled out that the lock-up is designed that way to make the detainees suffer.

“The police have been asking for improvement. It’s a long process. Even to fix two toilet bowls you need a full procedure.

“Maybe it’s time we have a higher standard. Improve the lock-up, make sure it is up to mark. Our standard is too low. This shouldn’t happen,” he said.

On a similar matter, Joseph also revealed six prisons which still use the bucket system for inmates to “do their business”.

They are the Penang remand prison, Taiping prison, Seremban prison, Pengkalan Chepa prison, as well as Muar and Batu Gajah rehabilitation centres.

“These six prisons don’t have toilets. The inmates use a bucket. One cell is provided with two buckets. So, you can imagine the smell and the cleanliness of the area.”

He said the Prison Department had notified Suhakam that three of the prisons will be upgraded to the modern toilet system following meetings with various stakeholders last year.

They are the Batu Gajah rehabilitation centre with the upgrading cost of RM1.5 million, Pengkalan Chepa prison (RM126,000), and Seremban prison (RM4.38 million).

The other three prisons couldn’t be upgraded following the buildings’ old structures but Suhakam is engaging architects specialising in heritage buildings to find a solution.

The Penang remand prison and Taiping prison were built in 1811 and 1879 respectively. – Malaysiakini