Mum of factory worker who died in prison to seek dependency claim

Rahaya Salleh (second from left) and family members with lawyer M Visvanathan outside the Ipoh High Court today. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The mother of a factory worker who died at the Tapah Prison five years ago will file an appeal against a High Court decision not to award a dependency claim.

Lawyer M Visvanathan said he was perplexed as to why Judicial Commissioner Anslem Charles Fernandis had declined to give the RM120,000 monetary award sought when he had found that the authorities who detained the inmate were liable for negligence and assault.

“We have also shown that the deceased was economically productive and was supporting his parents before his death.

“In every case of this nature, the court will award a dependency claim to the next of kin once liability is proven,” he told FMT.

Fernandis, who sat at the High Court in Ipoh yesterday, only awarded the mother of Kamarulnizam Ismail RM100,000 for unlawful detention and RM50,000 for misfeasance in public office.

The judge, in his oral judgment, awarded RM2,000 for funeral expenses and RM12,000 as costs after three weeks’ of trial.

A total of 28 witnesses for the plaintiff and the defendants gave evidence.

In 2014, Kamarulnizam was fined RM800 or two weeks’ jail in the magistrate’s court after he pleaded guilty to committing offences under the Penal Code and the Minor Offences Act.

His father, Ismail Ahmad, came to the Bukit Mertajam court to settle the fine but Kamarulnizam wanted to serve the jail term as he wanted the money to repair his car.

The son never came back alive. The parents collected Kamarulnizam’s body from the Tapah Hospital mortuary in March 2014.

The deceased, a bachelor, was 39 years old then and his parents had been depending on his income for their living expenses.

The mother, Rahaya Salleh, then filed a suit for assault and negligence against the government.

The suit also included a claim for misfeasance in public office against 12 senior police officers and prison officials.

Kamarulnizam, who had been employed as a general worker in a sugar refinery factory in Penang, earned RM2,500 per month.

In the statement of claim, Rahaya, a housewife, said the son gave RM1,300 a month to the couple.

Rahaya said her son was arrested by police on Feb 22, 2014 together with three others.

She alleged that Kamarulnizam was assaulted by three policemen during detention at the Seberang Perai Tengah district police headquarters in Bukit Mertajam.

After the court’s decision, the deceased was sent to Tapah Prison in Perak to serve the jail term on March 3.

Fernandis said the two days spent in the police lock-up were unlawful detention because under Section 282 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it was mandatory for police officers to act within a reasonable time to transport those found guilty to the prison.

“While at the prison, he was given medication for diarrhoea after he complained of not being well. Knowing that the deceased was not well, the prison wardens should have kept an eye on him, and be more vigilant towards a prisoner under their care,” he added.

The judge said he was agreeable with the pathologist’s findings and post-mortem results that Khairulnizam had died of a lung infection.