Rights group demands action over Sungai Buloh custodial death blamed on TB

Melissa Sasidaran (white shirt) from Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) speaks to policemen at Hospital Sungai Buloh. — Picture via Twitter/Melissa_ms
Melissa Sasidaran (white shirt) from Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) speaks to policemen at Hospital Sungai Buloh. — Picture via Twitter/Melissa_ms

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — A human rights group called today for an investigation into the death of a 26-year-old prisoner in Sungai Buloh, allegedly from tuberculosis (TB).

Melissa Sasidaran from Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) told Malay Mail that M. Proosothaman — who was jailed in Sungai Buloh prison since December 2018 — was only admitted to Hospital Sungai Buloh after his condition had worsened to the point of unconsciousness on May 22.

Proosothaman subsequently died in hospital yesterday afternoon.

“The family only found out his admittance through a third party who is a friend of the deceased and not via the Malaysia Prisons Department which was supposed to have been done.

“According to the doctor, his death was attributed to TB to which the family demanded a post-mortem, but the hospital was reluctant to do so,” said Melissa, who is representing Proosothaman’s family.

She said every death in custody must be thoroughly investigated as prisons should be a safe place for any detainees.

“At the end of the day, there is an issue of negligence,” she said, adding that the hospital had since agreed to conduct an autopsy tomorrow after authorities yielded to the family’s demand.

Pointing out that all deaths in custody warranted an autopsy automatically, Melissa said she was unsure why the hospital had initially insisted that the family obtain a court order to commence a post-mortem when it is not necessary in the first place.

Melissa said Proosothaman had initially complained of stomach aches and walking difficulties when his relatives visited him in prison earlier this month but was only given paracetamol for the pain.

“The deceased has no known medical complications prior to entering prison and then fell ill all of a sudden.

“Medical treatment should have been given to him the first instance he complained of something and any detainees should not be left until attention is given when their condition worsened,” she said.

Adding that TB is an infectious disease, Melissa said Proosothaman may have contracted it while in prison, but conceded that the family has no clue how he was infected and how widespread the infection is in Sungai Buloh prison.

“If you have TB, you have to be quarantined. TB is a serious matter and health of the detainees are not just at stake but the prison wardens too,” she said, adding that the authorities should also disclose the standard operating procedures when dealing with infectious disease.

Newly-minted Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador recently said the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) would address integrity issues with the police following numerous complaints, including cases of custodial deaths.

When contacted later, Abdul Hamid said while he was not informed of the case, he encouraged a transparent investigations into the matter to be carried out.

“I am not privy to the case. But certainly I would encourage a transparent investigation be carried out to determine the facts,” he told Malay Mail in a brief text reply.

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