KUALA LUMPUR: Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo has taken the Home Ministry to task for failing to fulfil its promise to ensure that no new deaths in custody take place.
He said the ministry had assured that it would ensure such incidents do not recur, but they have been continuing this year.
“From the point of view of law every death in custody should have an inquest. But when inquests are held, they do not resolve the problem,” he said.
“There were assurances that close-circuit television cameras would be installed (in lockups), but the deaths still occur and inquests do not change anything,” he added when debating the Royal Address in the Dewan Rakyat today.
“The ministry has failed because it had promised that this issue will not happen again.”
Gobind added that people are unconvinced when the police conduct investigations on deaths allegedly perpetrated by their own officers.
He said to address this issue, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) should be given the power to lay charges and prosecute.
“The EAIC itself has said that there were cases where detainees were beaten,” he said.
“Should not more power be vested into the EAIC so that we have an independent body that can prosecute?”
“If the police investigates misconduct by the police, how are we to feel that the investigations are free and fair? The time has come for us to recognise that the police cannot be investigating itself,” he said.
In response, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed (BN-Pulai) said it is not easy for the authorities to determine the health level of an individual who has been detained, and there have been instances where detainees did not reveal their true health conditions.
“Such problems happen when, for example, a drug addict in poor health dies in the lockup. It is not easy to determine the health of those who are held all the time.”
He said an option was to improve the standard operating procedure on detainees, and an inquest should be held to determine if action needs to be taken on any officers
Nur Jazlan disagreed that EAIC should be conferred prosecution powers as it would result in responsibilities overlapping with other agencies.
“The aim of the EAIC is to act as an ombudsman so that people can lodge complaints on the police. The question of giving the commission powers to charge does not arise,” he said, adding that the EAIC’s reports are free from interference.
On Feb 7, S Balamurugan, 44, was found dead in the North Klang police headquarters His family’s lawyers have claimed that a second autopsy on his body showed that he incurred multiple beatings that led to heart failure.
On Feb 25, Thanaseelan Muniandy, 43, was found dead in the Bukit Sentosa police station in Hulu Selangor. His family’s lawyer said something appeared amiss as Thanaseelan was taken to the hospital seven hours before he died and only prescribed gastric medicine.
The EAIC and Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) are investigating both detainees’ deaths.