By Kasthuri Patto
GEORGETOWN, Malaysia--A 38-year-old detainee has died in police custody in Pahang this year. Only 34 days into the new year 2022 and Malaysia has been plagued by 6 deaths of men who were under the protection of the Royal Malaysian Police in lock-ups.
In 2020, 13 men died in police custody whereas 6 died for the first 8 months of 2021.
This year, one person died in police custody every 6 days. A mockery and travesty that detainees are dying in police custody at such a frightful rate and yet not a single chest-thumping or statement of bravado by the Inspector General of Police, the Home Minister and neither the Prime Minister on ensuring justice is served for the families of men and women who had died in police custody and a firm undertaking that the perpetrators must be dealt with by the long arm of the law, without fear, favour or prejudice.
How many investigations has been conducted by the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance which was formed under former IGP Khalid Abu Bakar in 2013? 9 years after its existence to monitor from within, it's strict and structured in order for police personnel that any wrong doings or abuse of power can be kept at a minimum, and custodial deaths keep happening, year after year as if there is no law and order within the fraternity of our men in blue.
4 Prime Ministers, 3 Home Ministers and 3 Inspector General of Police later, the number of custodial deaths is hardly at a minimal and worse, a severe absence of commitment and drive to zero-rise custodial deaths.
The newly formed Criminal Investigation Unit on Deaths in Custody in December 2021, parked under PDRM’s Integrity and Standards Compliance Department must be having its hands full in dealing with 6 deaths in custody this year alone.
And yet not a single whisper on the findings of the investigation on these deaths in custody.
Over the years there has been a severe deficiency in the reporting of deaths in custody with only one in 4 cases making news. This analysis by Malaysiakini based on data collected by a human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) from Parliamentary answers by the Home Ministry did not reflect the number of cases that were reported in the media, and neither did it reflect the ethnicity of the victims of custodial deaths.
Given this scenario, could there possibly be far more custodial deaths in our Malaysian police lock-ups in the first 34 days of 2022?
To date there are numerous Government agencies and departments that investigate, overlook, set standards and monitor custodial deaths, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance and the Criminal Investigation Unit on Deaths in Custody amongst others.
Where is the report and findings of the investigations by the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance? Where is the report by the EAIC?
I call upon the Prime Minister Ismail Sabri to instruct the Inspector General of Police as well as the Commissioner of the EAIC to prepare a report on the investigations and findings of custodial deaths from the time the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance was formed, and that the reports are tabled in Parliament for all Members of Parliament in the coming Parliament sitting on the 28th of February continuing for 6 weeks.
The Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Fundamental Liberty Constitutional Rights must summon the Head of the Department of Integrity and Standard Compliance as well as the Commissioner for EAIC to answer and explain on accountability on these custodial deaths.
I wish to see a bullet speed reaction by the Prime Minister as the Head of the Malaysian Family or Keluarga Malaysia to step up and escalate this matter and ensure that the report on custodial deaths be tabled in the coming Parliament sitting for all MPs.
Remember, a seat at the UN Human Rights Council means that Malaysia must show it is committed to protecting and defending human rights and a death in custody is indeed in grievous violation of it.
Even one person, who died under the watch, care and guardianship of the police must be accounted and accorded for.