Include Prisons under IPCMC in view of custodial deaths, urges Ramasamy

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy (centre) with Deviga Subramaniam, 45, at the Perai DAP service centre here today. (Facebook pic)

GEORGE TOWN: DAP’s P Ramasamy said the scope of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) ought to be widened to include the Prisons Department following unresolved cases of custodial deaths.

He said with the recent death of Ahnbalagan Muthu, 44, at the Penang Prison, the IPCMC ought to look into any incidents of alleged collusion among the police and prison officials.

Ramasamy said Ahnbalagan was found dead in his cell on May 11, with wardens claiming that he had hung himself with a blanket in prison.

However, he said when his wife had come to claim the body, he was found with wounds on his forehead. A forensic report, he said, claimed Ahnbalagan had died due to “hanging”, which he said was unacceptable.

“There have been too many deaths in custody over the years. Hence, the IPCMC must look into deaths in police and Prisons Department lock-ups, too.

“In the latest case, could there have been a collusion between the police, the prison authorities and even the Penang Hospital’s Forensic Department?

“We urge the authorities to investigate this matter thoroughly,” Ramasamy told FMT.

According to the home ministry’s reply in Parliament in 2017, the official number of deaths in police custody were 257 from 2002 to 2016.

The Human Rights Commission was reported as saying 400 out of 700 lock-ups in the country were in “active use”. It also said there were not enough people to monitor all these 400 lock-ups.

Ahnbalagan was found guilty of housebreaking by a court and was sentenced to three years’ jail at the Kangar Prison.

However, two weeks ago, he was transferred to the Penang Prison upon his own request as he wanted to be closer to his family in Penang. When he died, he was serving the third month of his sentence.

In a press conference with Ramasamy at his service centre in Perai today, Ahnbalagan’s wife Deviga Subramaniam, 45, claimed that there was a big cut near his left eye which required stitches.

He said Deviga was told the cut on his left eye was due to a fall after wardens untangled Ahnbalagan’s noose fashioned out of a blanket.

Ramasamy said Deviga’s attempt at lodging a police report was met with resistance, with officers refusing to take the report. He said the report was only accepted when municipal councillor P David Marshel sought the help of the deputy district police chief.

David, who was at the press conference, said Deviga was approached by policemen at the Batu Lanchang Hindu burial ground, asking her why Ahnbalagan was buried instead of being cremated.

He said there were plans to conduct a second post-mortem since the first post-mortem declaring Ahnbalagan had died due to “hanging” was suspect.

Ramasamy said in the meantime, letters had been written to the Penang police chief, Prisons Department and the Penang Hospital for an explanation.