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Legal brutality

Kugan’s family members wail as his casket is lowered into the ground (file pic)

WHILE I am a staunch supporter of the Internal Security Act (ISA), deaths in police custody are not my cup of tea either. Furthermore, attempts to cover up such deaths so stupidly also make me slap my forehead and wonder just what the police are thinking.

Given recent political crises, one name has fallen off our radar: A Kugan, the 22-year-old man remanded on 15 Jan 2008 for suspicion of being involved in a luxury car theft ring. He died mysteriously while in police custody at the Subang Jaya district police station.

The Star‘s report gave the impression that Kugan collapsed only after drinking a glass of water during questioning and then died. Some have speculated that Kugan could have also died from an asthma attack. But then I stumbled across this link from Nathaniel Tan’s blog.

After seeing photographs of the state of the late Kugan’s body, I want to ask the police:

How could anyone drink a glass of water and then die, foaming at the mouth, with bruises appearing all over their body and blood dripping out of their nose?

Police station drinking water: more
harmful than potassium cyanide?
(© Trine de Florie /

Even potassium cyanide can’t do that. Was the quality of drinking water at the police station that bad? Even if it was, it doesn’t explain the bruising.

After the cover-up attempts fell apart, the Attorney-General ordered a probe into the matter, declaring that Kugan’s death would be classified as murder.

During Kugan’s funeral there was a serious protest against the police among the people mourning his death. A few people were detained, including a group that obviously did not get the memo that Hindraf is now illegal.

Not the first time

However, this is not the first time someone has died during remand by the police.

I wonder if Malaysians remember a certain Francis Udayappan in 2004, who allegedly managed to escape from the police station in Brickfields. Apparently he jumped off the first floor and drowned in the Klang River, and his decomposed body was found near Puchong.

The reason I remember it is because of reports of the funeral procession for him in front of the Brickfields police station. There were pictures of his anguished mother, and not one single police personnel from the station daring to show their face.

His decomposed body, though identified by his mother, was kept from her for two years because it was just that difficult to ascertain if the body’s DNA was indeed Francis’s. I understand that the police wanted to be sure that they were giving the right body to the grieving mother.

How many other dead bodies did the police expect to find in the Klang River in that period of time?
(© Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams / Wiki commons)

But was it necessary to delay such a decision to the point that her dead son was kept in the University Malaya Medical Centre mortuary for two whole years? Did it honestly have to wait two years to get a coroner to say that perhaps the DNA was so degraded that they could not determine if it was really Francis’s body? And how many other more dead bodies clad in the pink IPK-KL lockup t-shirt did the police anticipate finding in the Klang River in that period of time?

The age of outrage

And sadly, the age of detainees also does not seem to bother the police.

TheSun reported allegations of a 10-year-old that he was handcuffed, choked and hung upside down by the police in Kampar. The child, N Logeswaran, was also allegedly threatened with a gun and a parang to force a confession that he stole his teacher’s belongings.

The police should be admired for certain things, for example, setting up roadblocks to stop rempits from going haywire or pulling over speeding express buses on the highway.

Members of Malaysia’s police force
(© Deucrox99 / Wiki Commons)
But it has become extremely hard now to respect the police at all. There seems to be an angry, abusive and irrefutably illogical side of the police that is surfacing more and more. It is exactly this that causes Malaysians to no longer trust the police.

So what exactly would help the police repair their image?

Some think that setting up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) will do the trick. The police, of course, are against this. In their internal Buletin Bukit Aman, they called the proposed IPCMC “unconstitutional” and “prejudicial to national security”. Additionally, instead of the IPCMC, the government is planning to set up a Special Complaints Commission, which human rights advocates claim is very watered-down.

The bottom line is this — the Royal Malaysia Police force has way too much authority over, literally, our lives.

Ahmad Hafidz Baharom is a paradox. He’s an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who’s a lalang, and a twenty-something yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he’s a lovable moron.

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