Saturday, January 31, 2009


I am deeply shocked to learn about the death of a young Malaysian, Kuhan s/o Ananthan , aged 22 years, in police custody recently. I am also equally shocked and alarmed by the media reports that A.Kuhan marks the 126th lock-up death in this country over the past 10 years . A.Kuhan’s death has caused furore among many Indians to ponder about the procedures observed in interrogating a suspect in police custody.

A.Kuhan was arrested by police and detained at Taipan Police station, Subang Jaya,Selangor for interogation on 15 Jan 09. He was alleged to be involved in car theft. It was reported that A.Kuhan collapsed and died while in police custody on 21 Jan 09.A.Kuhan body was taken to Serdang Government Hospital for a post-mortem. The post-mortem revealed that A.Kuhan died of breathing problem due to liquid in the lungs.

A.Kuhan’s parents were not convinced with the Serdang Hospital post mortem because they found extensive injuries on their son’s body.

There was some controversy over how A.Kuhan’s parents had access to the deceased in THE Serdang Hospital mortuary. Police and the home minister alleged that A.Kuhan’s parents barged into the mortuary by force. It was reported that there were two deputy ministers, namely Dato’ S.K.Devamany and Senator T.Murugiah of the Prime Ministers Department, present at the hospital’s vicinity. Later, media was briefed with VCD footage that it was not a break in but the mortuary attendant voluntarily opened the doors and ushered A. Kuhan’s family members to the deceased body. The family members then had taken pictures of A.Kuhan’s injuries.

Based on the extent of the injuries on the body of the late A.Kuhan, public at large presumed that A.Kuhan could have died due to police brutality. Even, the Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail classified the death of A.Kuhan as murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

A.Kuhan body was taken for burial at Puchong Hindu cemetery on 22.1.09. But being dissatisfied with the post-mortem report prepared by the Serdang Hospital, A.Kuhan’s parents changed their mind on the way to cemetery and request for a second post-mortem at Universiti Hospital . Police, A-G as well as Universiti Hospital authorities agreed. The second post-mortem was done on 25.1.09 and the report is not out yet.

There was a large gathering at the Universiti Hospital on 28.1.09, when A.Kuhan parents came to collect the deceased body for burial. Over 1,000 people were present at the UH to pay their their last respect.On the way for burial, the hearse stopped at Subang Jaya Police station, where A.Kuhan died. A brief funeral service was conducted for A.Kuhan soul to rest in peace. Some commented that there were more police personel on duty than the spectators!.

Pakatan Rakyat parlimen members, Prof.P.Ramasamy, Gobind Singh Deo and Manickavasagam were present at the UH mortuary hailing for a public inquiry over A.Kuhan’s death and also demanding Selangor Police chief to resign for misleading the public on the cause of A.Kuhan’s death. No BN leaders were visible at the scene.

A.Kuhan is dead and buried and his death is still a misery.The cause of A.Kuhan’s death is for the court to decide. A.Kuhan was a car theft suspect and yet to be charged in court.Hence, no one has the right to proclaim that A.Kuhan is a criminal.

The public feel that the police have failed miserably in protecting A.Kuhan while the deceased was in their custody. Isn’t it the duty of the government (police) to take care of a detainee?

Nevertheless, the Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar’s advice to the public not to make heroes out of criminals, nor demons out of the police. Even though the minister meant in general, it was not well received by the public because the parents ,family members and friends are grieving having lost a loved one. The public emotions are also high against the misfortune.

A.Kuhan death is only the tip of an iceberg. There have been many casualties in detention but not brought to public’s attention. There is a report elsewhere that about 1,300 immigirants died while in detention.

Eventhough it was reported that a large number of detention death involve Indians, let us leave race out of it. As Datuk Nik Aziz, MB Kelantan has pointed out, Malaysian should feel that they have lost a life, the colour of skin is immaterial . The time has come for fellow Malaysians and government not only to address the issue of detainees subject to violent brutality in detention but also revisit the shelved Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Comission (IPCMC) .

Let us put an end to lock-up abuses and deaths. While we are talking aloud about the injury and sorrow alleged to be inflicted on the Palestinians by Israelis in Gaza, we should also take a stand together to stop such atrocities in our backyard.

Lastly, my family and me wish to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the late A.Kuhan .