Ganapathy’s passing puts spotlight on deaths in custody

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Gobind Singh has urged the AG to hold an inquest to determine what caused the death of Ganapathy.

  • Malaysian Bar pushing for formation of IPCMC
  • NGOs call for investigations into claims that 22 detainees were abused by officers at the Jelebu Prison last month
  • Claims of detainees’ private parts sprayed with chilli oil

The Malaysian Bar has urged the federal government to take decisive action into the phenomenon of custodial deaths in Malaysia, saying the proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) must be formed as soon as possible.

Its president AG Kalidas said an immediate and independent investigation and inquest into the death of cow milk trader A Ganapathy must be conducted, following his death on April 18 at Selayang Hospital.

“Unabated deaths in custody have led to an erosion of confidence in law enforcement authorities. It is therefore incumbent on such authorities, including the police, to ensure that the confidence instilled in them by those they are tasked to protect, is safeguarded and deserved,” he said in a statement.

Referring to news reports, Kalidas said Ganapathy had spent 12 days in police custody before being released and subsequently admitted to Selayang Hospital.

“While the police have issued a statement that Ganapathy’s cause of death was necrotising fasciitis of the right lower limb complicated with sepsis, it was reported that according to Ganapathy’s lawyer, his autopsy report found that he had succumbed to injuries inflicted on his shoulders and legs.

Ahmad Zamzahuri

“In a separate statement, the police indicated that there is no evidence that he had been beaten while in custody. This is a matter of great public concern and warrants the highest priority,” he said, adding that a thorough and transparent investigation must be conducted in order to uncover the facts surrounding Ganapathy’s death.

Kalidas said that Ganapathy’s death means the need for the formation of the IPCMC is now greater than ever, so as to act as an external and independent civilian oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to clothe it with disciplinary authority.

Meanwhile, two NGOs have called for investigations into claims that 22 detainees were abused by officers at the Jelebu Prison in Negeri Sembilan last month.

Speaking at a press conference, several of the detainees’ family members described how their loved ones were beaten with plastic pipes, sticks, chairs and other objects on April 8.

They also claimed their private parts were sprayed with chilli oil, leaving the traumatised detainees fearful for their lives, with some even contemplating suicide.

Highlighting the death in custody of Ganapathy, 40, NGO leader Malaruvanan Devadass said he did not want to see history repeated.

The family members told the press that their loved ones were arrested in 2019 under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) after being suspected of being involved in organised crime.

“We don’t know what offences these 22 detainees committed. If they are guilty, they should be sentenced. But don’t torture them like this,” said Malaruvanan, the president of Pertubuhan Ilaya Thalaimurai Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor.

“We don’t want another case like Ganapathy’s. Prisons are a place for rehabilitation, and that’s what families want for their family members who are imprisoned— not to lose them forever.”

FMT

Prince Jon, the vice-president of another NGO, Sebaran Kasih, said that he wanted the police to take action on the 10 police reports lodged by family members of the detainees, who alleged abuse, so as to protect their well-being behind bars.

“Indians are in the minority in Malaysia and they are being abused and mistreated in prison. But even though we are in the minority, we are still Malaysian citizens,” he said.

“We are not against the government, but we are against the abuse of power and the brutality of those in authority.

“We have our rights and we deserve to be treated the same as others. We don’t want another death in custody to happen to anyone. We know about Ganapathy and we want to do something before it’s too late.”

Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo joined the chorus, calling for an inquest to determine the cause of Ganapathy’s death.

He said AG Idrus Harun, who is also the public prosecutor, could rely on Section 339 of the Criminal Procedure Code to call for an independent inquiry to ascertain the circumstances that led to the victim’s death while in custody.

“This section empowers the public prosecutor in cases of death, such as Ganapathy’s, to direct an inquiry with a view to take action if there is a need,” he said in a Facebook post.

Faihan Ghani/The Star

Despite the denial by police, Gobind said this should be determined by an independent inquiry in which the victim’s family should also be given a right to be heard.

“The law is therefore designed to meet and address cases like this. There is no reason not to make full use of these provisions in order to ensure justice for Ganapathy.

“The government too must speak up. The home minister (Hamzah Zainudin) must break his silence,” he added.