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Suhakam to focus on health in prisons

 | April 25, 2014

The year-long study, beginning this Monday, will cover several issues, including custodial deaths.

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jailKUALA LUMPUR: Suhakam has decided to carry out a comprehensive study on health conditions in detention centres, covering, among other things, the causes of custodial deaths and how they can be prevented.

The issue would be a focal point of the commission’s activities this year, commissioner James Nayagam told reporters today during a discussion on Suhakam’s annual report for 2013.

He said commissioners would begin visiting detention centres this Monday, adding that prison authorities had shown their willingness to cooperate.

“Up to 90% of deaths in detention centres are caused by health reasons,” he said.

Nayagam has identified several issues that the study should cover. These include budgeting, manpower, facilities, the age of buildings, overcrowding and the wellbeing of prison staff.

“Some places are meant for 1,000 people, but there are 2,000 there,” he said.

After the study, Suhakam will submit recommendations to the Health Ministry, the Prisons Department, the Treasury Department and the Prime Minister’s Department.

“We need to monitor the implementation of our recommendations after that,” said Nayagam.

Facilitating the rally

When presenting Suhakam’s 2013 report, commission vice-chairman Khaw Lake Tee said there had been an improvement in enforcement authorities’ attitude to public rallies.

She noted that police allowed the People’s Awakening Rally in January last year and did not take harsh measures during last December’s public demonstration against price hikes.

She also praised the police for conducting negotiations with organisers of the anti-GST rally planned for May 1.

“It is a positive step,” she said. “The police should now take action to facilitate the rally.”

Suhakam chairman Hasmy Agam touched on the issue of the commission’s media relations, lamenting poor coverage of its activities by the mainstream press.

“We are toothless and we want the media to broadcast our bark,” he said. “The Internet media is very open and I hope the mainstream media gives us more space.

“If you don’t agree with me, you can take me on in your editorial column.”


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