Kugan laid to rest, questions remain

(The Star) – Suspected car thief A. Kugan was laid to rest at 5:20pm Wednesday at the Batu 14 cemetery here, more than a week after his death while in police custody had created a controversy.

He was buried in the presence of family members and hundreds of supporters and well-wishers.

It was a day in which emotions were on edge. The drama started in the vicinity of the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in Petaling Jaya when the Field Reserve Unit (FRU) and the Light Strike Force were deployed, creating a massive jam at about 9:30am.

The units were placed there in anticipation of a large crowd for the procession that would begin at the UMMC mortuary where Kugan’s body was being kept, Petaling Jaya police chief Asst Comm Arjunaidi Mohamed said.

By 11am, that expected large crowd had materialised, even before Kugan’s family arrived at about noon.

Five men were arrested, the first two at about 12:15pm for trying to get through a barricade at the mortuary despite orders to disperse.

These arrests came after Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid had made an announcement asking the crowd disperse.

“They have been taken to the Brickfields police headquarters for questioning,” ACP Wan Abdul Bari said.

Two more were detained at about 1:40pm by plainclothes policemen for allegedly trying to incite the crowd.

All four were wearing t-shirts depicting the outlawed Hindu Rights Action Force movement, or Hindraf. One is believed to be former Hindraf coordinator R.S. Thanendran.

The fifth, according to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan at a press conference later in Putrajaya, was a murder suspect who was also wearing a Hidnraf t-shirt.

Denied entry

At 12:45pm, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam, Teluk Intan MP M. Manogaran, Penang Deputy Chief Minister (II) Dr P. Ramasamy and the family’s lawyer N. Surendran arrived but were denied entry into the mortuary by a UMMC security officer.

A heated exchange ensued before they were allowed in, together with Kugan’s parents and two other relatives.

Other relatives and friends were then allowed entry into the mortuary, but only in batches of five.

At a hastily-convened press conference at the scene, Manikavasagam denied online rumours that the funeral procession was going to proceed to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre to hold a demonstration.

Instead, he clarified, the procession would first proceed to Subang Jaya where a short prayer would be held at the Taipan police station in which Kugan died, before proceeding to Puchong for the funeral rites.

Meanwhile, Gobind said they were not there to cause trouble and blamed the police for blowing things out of proportion.

“We’re just here to show our support,” he said. “We’re just here to claim the body and allow Kugan’s funeral to proceed.”

Gobind also said that the second post-mortem report has been completed but the doctor who conducted it had yet to reveal anything.

The 22-year-old collapsed and died inside the Taipan police station in Subang Jaya on Tuesday last week. The initial post-mortem revealed that he had died due to fluid in his lungs, but Kugan’s family entered the Serdang Hospital mortuary that same day and took photographs of his body, which showed severe bruising.

They demanded a second post-mortem, although that report is not out yet.

While initially saying no foul play was involved, police have now reclassified the case as murder for the purpose of investigation, at the urging of the Attorney-General.

At about 1:25pm Wednesday, FRU officers came to the front of the mortuary and forced press photographers away from the scene.

Tempers flare

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok arrived as well before Kugan’s body was transferred to a hearse and driven to Subang Jaya, arriving there at about 2:50pm.

After short prayers near the Taipan police station, some people in the crowd brought out banners and posters, against earlier directives of the authorities, and began shouting accusations at the police.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar on Monday had said that police would not allow any carrying of banners or posters during Kugan’s funeral, adding that the funeral should not be politicised or turned into a racial event.

“The body should be brought straight from the mortuary to the cemetery in Puchong,” he had said, adding that if Kugan’s body was taken elsewhere, it would be considered an illegal gathering and the police would take action.

However, when faced with the angry crowd on Wednesday, the police kept calm and continued directing traffic.

The procession finally left a little after 3:00pm to proceed to the crematorium at Puchong.

His uncle, Ravi Roy, 42, had earlier told the media said that the family was not blaming the police force for Kugan’s death, but was merely seeking the truth.

“We are not blaming the entire police force, all we want is for the people who are responsible to be brought to justice,” he said at the Bandar Kinrara home here of Kugan’s parents on Monday.