Balamurugan's death in custody — Charles Santiago

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FEBRUARY 11 — Two hundred forty two people walked into police lockups alive but left in body bags since 2000. This is according to Malaysia National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

S. Balamurugan is number 243.

I welcome investigations by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) and Suhakam into Balamurugan’s death in police custody.

These inquiries must be public hearings and the findings must also be made available to the public.

But there is one glitch here: the recommendations by these national bodies are not binding. They may remain good only on paper but may never be enforced.

As such, how do we ensure justice is served to the grieving family?

How do we convince the family and the public that those who were responsible for Balamurugan’s death will be punished?

More so as, despite the hue and cry, no police officer has been suspended? And neither has the police chief responded.

Let’s look at other cases of death in police custody:

The Coroner’s Court found the police responsible in the cases of Karuna Nithi and C. Sugumar. The EAIC arrived at the same conclusion in the case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Nur. But no one was charged or held to account.

In April last year, the EAIC investigations concluded that four police officers from the Serious Crimes Division were responsible for N. Dharmendran’s death by torture. These officers were acquitted.

As such, could we expect anything different with Balamurugan’s case?

The circumstances leading to his death are outrageous. He was not released and neither was he sent immediately to the hospital despite the judge’s ruling.

This clearly shows that the police have no respect for the law that they have promised to upkeep.

They continue to evade responsibility for these flagrant human rights violations, committed with impunity.

The police continue to abuse their powers, act above the law and yet face no consequences for their actions.

Police brutality and abuse of authority by unwarranted excessive force inflicted on detainees while performing their official duties must end.

It’s therefore imminent that we look at reforming police procedures and the interrogation process.

It’s time that all interrogations are recorded on camera and made available upon request.

An independent oversight body, such as the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commision (IPCMC) must be established without any further delay.

Police officers who investigated Balamurugan must be suspended immediately and the family’s request for a second post-mortem must be accepted.

Celebrated author, Isabel Allende said "what I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse".

Families have suffered because of police power with impunity.

To put a stop to that, observations and recommendations by the EAIC and Suhakam must be implemented. 

Or the investigations would end up as just another charade.


* Charles Santiago is a Member of Parliament of Klang

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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