Current Affairs

Steven Sim discusses “death in custody” statistics

Media statement by Steven Sim Chee Keong, MP for Bukit Mertajam

Death in custody – when will it end?

The nation is once again shocked with yet another death in custody. This time, the victim is Kamarulnizam Ismail. He was found dead on 8 March 2014 in Tapah jail. Family members claimed that Kamarulnizam’s death was shrouded with suspicions and bruises were found on his right cheek and left arm.

A week prior to that, on 1 March 2014, a detainee named Ramasamy Nagu was found dead while in custody in the centralised lockup in Bayan Baru.

On 10 February, A. Punniyanathan was found dead in Nibong Tebal police station and on 18 February, J. Kulanthangam was found dead in Dang Wangi police station.

In summary, this year alone, in just three months, there are already four deaths in custody in our country.

Centralised lockup – The government’s admission that death in custody statistics is worrying

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that from year 2000 to May 2013, there were 231 cases of death in police custody. In other words, an average of 17 cases a year and one death every month.

According to another report by the Home Ministry, from 2003 to 2007, there were 1,531 deaths in custody in Malaysia (PDRM and other agencies).

High profile cases such as the death of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbani have yet to receive justice.

Last year, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi introduced the centralised lockup concept costing RM25 million with the objective to prevent further death in police custody. The move is clearly an admission by both PDRM and the government on the escalating seriousness of this issue.

Yet, the death of Ramasamy Nagu in one of the centralised lockups casted doubts on whether the RM25 million was rightly spent.

Where is the coroner court?

Last year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nancy Shukri said that a coroner court will be established to investigate cases of extraordinary death such as death in custody. This is a much welcomed measure, but where is the court after six months of its announcement?

Setup IPCMC now

The repeated occurrences of death in custody proves that there is no other way but for the government to establish the long-overdue Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

Among the first duties of the IPCMC is to immediately launch an investigation on cases of death in custody, analyse statistics and past cases, identify patterns and trends of such cases, assess existing infrastructures and procedures, and propose improvements in practice and policy to prevent such tragedy from happening in the future.

I see that there is no other way forward, and there is no other way to clear PDRM’s name except through the setting up of IPCMC as proposed by the 2005 Tun Dzaiddin Royal Commission report. The people need to regain confidence that PDRM is truly independent and professional.

In addition, without a truly independent body to investigate enforcement officers, even if there is a coroner court, it will not function properly.

I have also stressed before this that the IPCMC to be set up should also be given the power to decide on police promotions so that good police officers are promoted without any political intervention as claimed by former IGP Musa Hassan.

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