The grieving family of N. Dharmendran, the latest person to die in police custody, held a mock funeral where they perform prayers for the deceased’s remains at the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters here, in a symbolic gesture of protest against an incident that has drawn condemnation from opposition politicians and rights groups.
The dead man’s uncle, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he and his family are holding the police responsible for Dharmendran’s death and they intend on showing that by performing final rites within the vicinity of the police headquarters where he had been held.
“We want to protest against the KL Criminal Investigation Department chief who said that Dharmendran died of a heart attack… we don’t believe it.
“Everytime there is death in custody they say its a heart attack,” he said by the sidelines of prayers held at the family’s flat in Taman Mulia, Bandar Tun Razak here.
According to news reports, Dharmendran, 31, was picked up by police on May 11 after he lodged a police report at the Pudu police station for his alleged involvement in a fight. He had been remanded at the Kuala Lumpur police contingent headquarters since that day.
According to N Surendran, the family’s lawyer, Dharmendran’s parents and wife had been kept in the dark about his arrest and were only informed of the matter on Sunday.
The victim was supposed to be released on bail on Tuesday but after a long wait, Dharmendran’s wife had received a call from the police who informed her that her husband had passed away and asked her to identify the body at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
After looking at the body, Surendran said they found Dharmendran’s body to have been severely bruised while both his ears appeared to have been stapled.
“There were physical evidence of beatings and torture to the front of his thighs, and at the back of his body, there were beating marks on his back (that) it had swelled up.
“The ears are stapled and there are staples left intact, which could be seen on the ears,” he said.
The police had earlier said that Dharmendran had died of asthma. Following public pressure, they later retracted their statement can classified the case as murder after the autopsy findings pointed to homicide.
Surendran, who is also the newly elected Padang Serai MP, claimed this was the worst case of police brutality he had seen since A. Kugan, a high profile police custodial death case that drew attention to an issue that had been kept from public knowledge in the past.
At today’s mock funeral, opposition lawmakers and family members gathered around the MPV carrying Dharmendran’s body and held placards showing the victim’s bruised face and captioned with “murdered”.
“We want to know what happened to Dharmendran. Why is it that everytime there an Indian boy gets detained he will die and when there is a death, the police say its heart attack. What is this? They are mad the police,” said former Kapar PKR federal lawmaker M. Manickavasagam.
At this point, Dharmendran’s mother, who was earlier sitting in the car and held back from joining the mock funeral, burst through the crowd near the police headquarter’s entrance and began shouting hysterically towards the police.
“You murdered him. Now who will look for food? Did you think about that? You just murdered him and do nothing about it?” She shouted in Tamil.
She was later approached by other family members who, despite being just as grieve stricken, managed to calm her and escorted her back to the car.
Just as the police began crowding the area looking alarmed and ready to act, Dharmendran’s family and the entourage began to disperse and subsequently left for Cheras. The victim was buried there at press time.
Surendran later told The Malaysian Insider that the family is now waiting for the police to announce the arrest of the culprits involved in Dharmendran’s death.
“We will give them 24 hours to make an announcement before we take further action..it shouldn’t take them that long to arrest the culprits,” he said.
He added that the family will also be lodging a police report on the post-mortem findings.
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 occured in 2012, while five cases took place this year.
The five cases this year include Chang Chin Te as well as C. Sugumaran, with the latter dominating headlines in January and February after several eyewitnesses accused the police of allegedly handcuffing and beating the 39-year-old security guard to death. Police denied the allegations, pointing out that an initial post-mortem showed that Sugumaran had died of a heart attack.
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.”
The Bar Council, civil society groups and several politicians from both sides of the divide have called for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to reform the police force since 2006.
PDRM is real good in Taichi. Always tries to blame everyone and everything for the cause of death.
Many of the suspects have weak hearts? Why always give heart attack as excuse. Be creative la... Like choke on tofu.
Too much. Needs to push for IPCMC and police must be held accountable, esp those involved in this case. Not small fry officer. Heads MUST ROLL!