Malaysian Bar: Let Balamurugan’s death be last in police custody

StevenThirui-jailKUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar today reiterated its call for the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in the wake of the latest death in police custody.

Bar president Steven Thiru said the IPCMC was a crucial first step, and the only way in which rogue elements in the police force could be identified, isolated and held accountable for their misconduct and criminal acts.

“Let S Balamurugan’s death be the last ever in police custody. Establish the IPCMC now,” he said in a statement.

The Malaysian Bar, he said, was aghast that the results of the second post-mortem conducted by Hospital Kuala Lumpur on 44-year-old S Balamurugan, and released on Feb 18, confirmed that the cause of death while he was in police custody was “coronary artery disease with multiple blunt force injuries”.

The first autopsy carried out at the Klang Hospital had reportedly indicated that he had died of “heart problems”.

Balamurugan was arrested by the police on Feb 6 and was found dead at the North Klang district police headquarters on Feb 8.

Thiru said according to the police report lodged by his lawyer, at his remand hearing on Feb 7, Balamurugan was weak and unable to walk, had bruises on his face, was bleeding from his nose and mouth, and vomited blood. His lawyer also said Balamurugan had been assaulted by the police.

“The magistrate, upon observing Balamurugan’s condition, queried the investigating officer, who did not reply. The magistrate then denied the application by the police for remand, and instructed the investigating officer to take Balamurugan to the hospital immediately.”

However, Balamurugan was not taken for medical treatment.

Thiru said: “The investigating officer appears to have knowingly disobeyed an order of the court. It is shocking that there has been no explanation as to why Balamurugan was neither released nor taken for medical attention.

“This defiance smacks of brazen disrespect for the court and a blatant disregard for the welfare of a person in police custody, who was apparently in obvious need of medical treatment.

“Such misconduct warrants stern action by the court, to deter police officers from flagrantly ignoring the directions of the court. The police cannot be permitted to behave as if they are a law unto themselves.”

On reports that more than 10 policemen at the North Klang district police headquarters were under investigation over Balamurugan’s death, Thiru said, given the results of the second autopsy report, it was outrageous that none of them had been suspended or arrested.

He said the police officers suspected to have been involved in the assault on Balamurugan must not receive special treatment or protection. The truth must be uncovered and the perpetrators brought to justice, he added.

The Bar president said: “It is alarming that detainees in police custody continue to die under extremely questionable circumstances, despite this matter having been highlighted to the police and the government time and again.

“We must not permit this untenable situation to continue unabated, and for wrongdoers in any enforcement agency to operate in an environment of impunity. It is well past the time for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, to serve as an independent, external agency tasked solely to receive and investigate complaints of police misconduct and abuse of power.

“The Malaysian Bar has incessantly urged for the IPCMC to be set up, since it was first proposed by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police in its report in 2005. We repeat our call today.”