Sunday, 1 February 2009

Mkini:Cops to quiz deputy ministers over morgue barging

The police will record the statements of two deputy ministers over Tuesday night's incident where some 50 people barged into the Serdang Hospital mortuary where the body of 22-year-old Kugan Ananthan who died in police custody was being kept.

It was reported that Deputy Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department T Murugiah and SK Devamany were present at the morgue.

When contacted, Murugiah (photo) said that Kugan's family members had already entered the morgue by the time he arrived there.

"I got a call from the victim's family member at nearly 11pm and I rushed to the hospital... by the time I got there the family members had already rushed into the morgue," he said.

"The reason I went there was to calm the situation as some of them were frantic after looking at the injuries on his (Kugan) body."

Murugiah added that he also felt intimidated when members of the victim's family began shouting at him, blaming the government as well the police force for Kugan's death.

He said that he went to the hospital in his capacity as the chief of Public Complaints Bureau after receiving the call that night.

"I even called the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Musa Hassan and he promised that he would investigate the matter and assist the family," Murugiah said.

He also said that he was ready to cooperate with the police on their investigation.

Devamany: I'll cooperate too

Devamany also said that he went to the morgue to "help the situation" after receiving calls from MIC Youth leaders.

"I went there to see how I can help the situation... these are poor people and they are not empowered enough to tackle this by themselves," he told Malaysiakini.

Devamany (left) said although the family members were distraught yet they listened patiently to explanation from the hospital's director on the post-mortem.

"The director assured that they would act fairly and would present the facts accurately," said Devamany, who is currently in his constituency Cameron Highlands to deal with a landslide problem in a Hindu cemetery there.

Asked on the police probe on him for allegedly barging into the morgue, the MIC treasurer said that he was willing to cooperate with the police "as long as justice is served".

Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar was reported today as saying that the post-mortem results showed that Kugan died because of 'liquid in his lungs'.

The youth collapsed and died at the Taipan police station in USJ, Subang Jaya on Tuesday. He was arrested on Jan 15 in connection with several car theft cases. He was cremated today.

Get independent medical report

Meanwhile, MIC Youth advisor S Vell Paari said the movement will do its utmost to help Kugan's family.

He has informed Youth chief T Mohan to seek a second medical opinion on the cause of death.

"We should not just rely on the hospital post-mortem," he told Malaysiakini.

Vell Paari said the second independent medical report would help indentify the true cause of Kugan's death.

"We talk and fight for the Palestine and Sri Lankan causes but similar atrocities are committed right under our noses. This has to stop and the cowards who caused the death of Kugan must be charged with murder," he said.

Vell Paari also said that the party's youth wing will work to set up a committee to monitor the welfare of all Indians under police custody.

"This will also avoid this sort of abuse and murder in the future," he added.

The disturbing statistics and link

In a related matter, DAP's Klang member of parliament Charles Santiago lambasted the Selangor police chief for trying to protect his officers and claiming that Kugan had died of breathing difficulties.

"I watched the video recording of Kugan taken at the mortuary. The footage revealed severe marks on his body, deep cuts on his wrists and bruises on his legs. Blood was oozing from his nose," he said in a statement.

"Kugan was held under a two-week remand to facilitate police investigations linking him to several car theft cases. The job of the police is clearly to find enough evidence to charge him in court. It was not to beat him to death," he added.

Santiago said this was not the first case of incidents of police detainees being abused or of custodial deaths.

He added that statistics revealed in Parliament last year showed that there were a total 1,535 custodial deaths in the country between 2003 and 2007.

"However, the lack of action by the government to punish errant police officers only goes to show the disturbingly close link between the government and the force," he said.

The MP said the "audacity and blatant disregard for the law displayed by the police force" has to stop.

He stressed that a through probe must be done on the Kugan incident and serious action must be taken against the police officers involved.

"Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi must also issue a serious warning to the police force to stop abusing its powers to prevent custodial deaths in the future," Santiago said.

Nalla: What caused the scars?

The same matter was also raised by Malaysian Indian United Party president KS Nallakaruppan, who said that the police must come clean on the matter.

"This is the second incident in a short period of time. First we had the case of car park attendant B Prabakar and now this," he told Malaysiakini.

The Prabakar-case involved police personnel allegedly abusing and pouring hot water on the man while being questioned in police custody. He was picked up to assist in the investigation into a robbery.

Subsequently seven police personnel were charged with voluntarily causing hurt to Prabakar and 18-year-old C Solomon Raj to make them confess to a criminal intimidation case.

Nallakaruppan said that the police must similarly show accountability and transparency in the Kugan matter and bring the wrongdoers to justice.

"The police must reveal on how Kugan had so many scars on his body. Why were there deep cuts in his wrists?

"And they must also explain on how the interrogation was done on him and by whom it was done," he said.

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