How many more must die? – Insider editorial
How many more custodial deaths to reform procedures?
JUNE 02, 2013
P. Karuna Nithi died yesterday in a police lock-up, just under two weeks after N. Dharmendran died in another police lock-up.
How many more Malaysians or anyone else for that matter have to die before the authorities take notice and ensure that those who enter a police lock-up don’t come out in a body bag? How many more times do Malaysians have to raise this matter before the government takes action and throws the book at errant policemen? How many more times before Malaysians think that custodial deaths appear to be a policy condoned by those in power?
According to rights group Suaram, there were 218 cases of alleged deaths in custody in Malaysia from 2000 to this month, with its records showing that nine of those cases occurred in 2012, while five cases took place this year. A United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 2010 visit to Malaysian prisons and detention centres reported in 2011 that between 2003 and 2007, “over 1,500 people died while being held by authorities.”
All this shows custodial deaths are not new. Previous cases have thrown up proposals for CCTVs, independent oversight and better procedures but still, people die in lock-ups.
The duly elected government must take action now. Any delay will further deepen the trust deficit that already persists in the country. After all, if we can’t trust the police with our lives, who can we trust? Any other answer than the police will lead to social breakdown, absolute distrust and lawlessness. All because the authorities have ignored what is clear to all of us — a police force that thinks it is a law unto itself.