Government Must Act Urgently to Stop Custodial Killings

Press Statement by Charles Santiago

I strongly denounce the action of the police officers who were involved in beating up Kugan Ananthan, resulting in his death. It is disturbing to note such barbaric behaviour among some members of the police force.

But what is even more shocking is the fairy tale spun by Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar who has been reported saying Kugan had died of breathing difficulties.

Khalid should be ashamed of himself for trying to protect his officers who had caused grievous bodily harm to the 22-year-old man.

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.

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.

This is not the first time we are witnessing abuse of detainees or custodial deaths. Human rights lawyers, civil rights activists and members of non-governmental organisations have highlighted cases of police abuse in the past. But there has been no concerted action taken by the government or police.

According to statistics revealed in Parliament last year, there were a total of 1535 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.

The nation was shocked when reports of police personnel abusing and pouring hot water on carpark attendant B.Prabakar surfaced. But the fact that the incident and public outcry did not stop other officers from abusing Kugan only goes to show the leverage of power enjoyed by the police force in Malaysia.

But such audacity and blatant disregard for the law displayed by the police force has to stop. I strongly urge the Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar and police chief Musa Hassan to initiate a thorough investigation into the custodial death of Kugan and take serious action against the police officers who had abused him.

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. In fact, the IPCMC is relevant now more then ever.  

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang