Why has custody become a potential death sentence? — Jasmine Cho

JULY 17 — We all look towardsthe authorities and lawful agencies to protect our rights, to treat us with respect and to keep us safe, as this is their role. But in Malaysia those in charge of law and order have a habit of exploiting their power and abusing their authority. The news of yet another custodial death haunting the grounds of Malaysia has made this crystal clear.

Just imagine the family of Nigerian doctorate student Thomas Orhions Ewansiha right now. He leaves his home to pursue his studies in Malaysia, a country that promised him opportunities, he makes sure to bring along all the valid papers and permits he needs...and yet he is detained for 14 days, suffers a seizure in his cell, and dies on the way to the hospital.

What do his family, his loved ones, and the public get in response when we cry out at this tragedy? When we turn to those authorities for answers? That “they had followed the standard operation procedures, no more, and no less.”

My hands are shaking with anger as I copy down that disgustingly half-hearted response offered by authorities in response to an event that took a young life fuelled with potential, for absolutely no reason. As the head of the Malaysian Bar wroteOne death in custody is too many!’ Does it matter whether this was a Malaysian citizen whose life was lost while under the responsibility of authorities or a foreigner? Not in the slightest. And let me remind you- this is not the first, second, nor third time a similar event has occurred.

An article in FMT broke it down: ‘From 2011 to 2018, there have been a disturbing 104 deaths in country- 56 “medical” cases, 8 “suicides”, 2 “accidents”, 4 by “blunt force”, 34 “unknown”’ but who even knows whether the causes given are authentic. Remember N Dharmendran, the 32-year-old Malaysian who was found dead in his cell while in custody also due to a supposed epilepsy attack. Well, what was soon discovered by his port-mortem was the 52 injuries caused by blunt forced trauma which were only a few days old, and the cause of death was ruled as ‘diffuse soft tissue injuries due to multiple blunt force trauma.’ Epilepsy my arse.

And what about Teoh Beng Hock, the Malaysian driven to suicide by the incredibly aggressive interrogation methods used by MACC officers? It has been a decade and Teoh’s family are still thirsty for answers, and absolutely fed up. Last year the PH government swore to reopen his case for murder, but what did they do? Now they have reopened the case and changed the charge from murder to ‘wrongful confinement’, a far less serous accusation.  As Teoh’s sister stated, “This is absolutely incomprehensible. Was the culprit responsible so powerful that they can affect the course of the investigation and even make the case to be investigated under a different penal code?’’

Case after case, life after life. All has been lost at the hands of the same authority that is meant to protect us. Malaysian or not, guilty or not, detained persons have every much as right as anyone to be treated with respect and valued with the inherent dignity all human beings deserve.

Mahathir and his PH government promised to usher in a New Malaysia. One that would respect and value human rights and rid our country of archaic edicts that allow corrupt and sadistic officials to abuse their power. Yet, we have seen that the new PH government continues to offer their totally meaningless and insulting methods of creating “Task Forces” that go nowhere slowly rather than investing in swift and professional investigation work that is so very necessary.

We have seen this happen when pastors Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat disappeared in 2017, and no doubt we will see a similar unfolding now with this new innocent victim the world has lost because Malaysian authorities have looked the other way.

It is long past the time were Malaysians and the international world need to pressured Prime Minister Mahathir, the Attorney-General, The Home Minister, and every other authority in our country to up their game. A life is a life, and we will not sit by silently as these injustices continue.

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

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