Security tight at funeral

Six men arrested amid slogan-chanting against police, but procession generally peaceful

The large number of Indian supporters who showed up at Mr Kugan's funeral procession reflects growing anger towards perceived injustices against them.

By Elizabeth Looi, The Straits Times

About 500 mourners (AFP says: FUNERAL DRAWS THOUSANDS in attended the burial yesterday of a young Indian man who died in police custody, with many of them shouting slogans blaming the police for his death. (Photo Gallery)

The authorities, who had warned against turning the funeral into a political protest, arrested six men – including three who wore the orange T-shirts of outlawed Hindu rights group Hindraf.

But the funeral procession in Selangor was otherwise peaceful as riot police kept the situation under control and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Mr A. Kugan, a 22-year-old car theft suspect, died in police custody on Jan 20, raising questions about what had happened at the police station where he was detained.

Police said he had collapsed while undergoing questioning, after asking for a glass of water. According to an autopsy report, he had liquid in his lungs.

But after a public furore, the Attorney-General classified the case as murder and 11 policemen who were on duty at the police station when he died have been questioned.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Monday that there had been 80 deaths in police custody since 2000.

Mr Kugan's distraught parents postponed his funeral last week because they wanted a second post-mortem on their son's body.

They demanded a second autopsy after apparently barging into a Selangor hospital's mortuary and taking photographs of their son's body, which was covered with bruises.

The second autopsy was carried out at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) on Sunday but the results have yet to be revealed.

The Malaysian Insider online news claimed on Tuesday that pathologists who carried out the second autopsy found that external injuries on Mr Kugan were caused by blunt force trauma.

Mr Kugan's death has shocked many Malaysians and attendance at his burial reflects the anger of the Indians towards perceived injustices against the minority community.

Opposition politicians were among those at the funeral, at a cemetery in Puchong, Selangor, at 5.30pm.

Two Indian deputy ministers had been questioned by the police over their presence at the mortuary when Mr Kugan's family had barged in.

In the events building up to the burial yesterday, riot police were stationed at UMMC from morning and there were police roadblocks leading to the hospital.

Hundreds of people joined Mr Kugan's relatives, friends and supporters in gathering outside the hospital later.

At about noon, there was some commotion when security guards did not allow the relatives and friends into the mortuary to pay their last respects, but opposition lawmaker and lawyer Gobind Singh Deo managed to calm the crowd.

When the body was finally taken from the mortuary at about 2pm, traffic police escorted the hearse and diverted traffic.

While heading to the cemetery, the family requested that the hearse stop outside the police station where he had died for a short prayer.

Things got a little emotional as supporters of Mr Kugan's family gathered and chanted, amid shouts of slogans and name-calling against the police.

The supporters also called for the setting up of an independent body to investigate the murder.

'We want justice!' the supporters shouted repeatedly.

On Tuesday, Mr Kugan's uncle Ravi Roy, 42, told the media that the family wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.

'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.

The family later continued the journey to the cemetery some 20km away with police escorts, after 15 minutes of chanting of prayer outside the police station.