21 February, 2011

“Ulcer” - the cause of deaths of detainees in lock-ups ?

It is becoming a trend for the police to cite “ulcer” as the cause of deaths of detainees in lock-ups, Kapar MP S Manikavasagam said.

“Previously, it was heart attacks. Now the trend is to cite ulcer as the cause of deaths of detainees,” he said.

Manikavasagam feared that there maybe more deaths in detention this year if nothing is done to address the serious problem. There were 160 deaths in detention from 2002 to 2010.

He said this after handing over a memorandum to the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar at Bukit Aman here this afternoon.

The memo calls for the police to investigate the cause of death of 26-year-old Khairul Amri Alias at the Sungai Buloh prison on Feb 17.

“The police said the cause of death was ulcer but his mother Zaleha Bahari said that she saw bruises on the back of her son’s body,” said Manikavasagam.

She denied her son was suffering from any sort of ailment, he said.

“We want the police to reveal the reason for arresting Khairul Amri,” said Manikavasagam. “They initially said it was for theft but they changed the charge to a drug-related offence.”

Khairul Amri, a fisherman from Jeram, Kuala Selangor, was detained on Feb 11. His mother visited him on Feb 15. Khairul was found dead in the wee hours of Feb 17.

Since 2000, at least 147 people have died in police custody (unless otherwise stated, statistics are from PDRM – released during P.Uthayakumar’s ongoing sedition trial) but yet there is little accountability, transparency or any real investigations by the authorities responsible, namely the courts, the police, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the hospitals which provide medical assistance or conduct post-mortems.

Despite the obvious seriousness of any death in custody, these important state institutions in most, if not all of these cases, chose to gloss, downplay, cover up, ignore or even make outrageous claims over these deaths – causing these institutions to lose credibility and public confidence.

And despite the long list of custodial deaths, very few policemen are criminally charged much less found guilty of any offence. Statistics between 2000 and February 2010 showed that 64 Malays died while in police custody, with 30 deaths among Chinese detainees, 28 Indians, 8 other races, and 14 foreigners. At least one thing you cannot accuse the police is that they practice discrimination – as all types of people die in their custody! (But probably not the rich, powerful and well connected).

Some of the reasons given for the cause of the deaths: 63 from “other diseases” such as ulcers, yellow fever (jaundice) and intestine, lung and throat infections, 23 were listed as “suicide” in the cells, and 12 deaths from brain hemorrhage, and 66 were termed as “no further action”. What century are we living in? Since when do people die from ulcers, jaundice and intestine, lung and throat infections? Do people for no apparent reason suddenly get brain hemorrhage and die?

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