Sunday, June 8, 2014

Penang's seventh death in custody in six months

2:35PM Jun 8, 2014- Susan Loone ( Malaysiakini)

Penang's seventh death in custody in six months

Another case of custodial death has taken place in Penang. This time it's a lorry driver who died in the Bukit Mertajam hospital yesterday.

This brings the number of custodial deaths involving Penang to seven cases since this year, and ten nationwide.

Agin Raj Sunmarkkan Naidu, 29, was detained on June 2 for suspected drug addiction in the Prai Industrial area where he worked.

He was remanded for four days in the Bandar Perda police lock-up before he was admitted to the hospital on June 5, for suffering fits.

His case was highlighted by Deputy Chief Minister II and Perai assemblyman P Ramasamy, who met reporters at the Forensic Department of the Seberang Jaya hospital where a post-mortem is currently being conducted to ascertain Agin Raj's cause of death.

His sister, Regina Devi, said on June 6, Agin Raj was charged for theft of steel objects, and advised he would be fined RM2,500 if he pleaded guilty, while bail was set at RM8,000.

He was charged while in hospital where a magistrate and interpreter was present.

Regina said the family (left) did not have time to engage a lawyer to guide her brother.

She also complained that the investigation officer was reluctant to meet with her to discuss the case, and refused to provide details.

"I only managed to raise RM4,000. If I managed to raise the money, he would still be alive today, I could have saved him, he wouldn't be dead inside there," Regina said, bursting in tears.

"It is not fair. His friend, who was detained together with him was only imposed a bail of RM3,500. Why the difference?" asked Regina, who works as a customs officer in Prai.

"Why did they have to impose such a high bail? When he was admitted, he couldn't even walk and even seemed delusional," she added.

Writhing in pain

Regina said when she and their mother, Sivapakiam Palchamy, 47, visited her brother in the hospital on June 5, he was writhing in pain, screaming to be released from being handcuffed and did not seem to recognise his family.

She noticed bruises around his lips, wrists and legs.

She claimed that when they asked the doctor on duty about it, he arrogantly told her, "when alcoholics don't get their fix, they normally go into fits".

She added when they brought an isotonic drink for her brother, the police on duty did not allow it, and said he could only have the warm water provided by the hospital.

It is learnt that Agin Raj has been detained twice before, between 2010 and 2012, and he tested positive for drugs on both accounts.

"He was a much pampered boy, and would only eat my mother's cooking. He gets into fits when he is stressed and emotional," she said.

Agin Raj came from a broken family, which lives in Kampung Mainroad in Prai. His father is detained in Penang prison in a drug related case.

Ramasamy said he wants the hospital authorities to probe into the conduct of the doctor which he said was "unprofessional and inhumane" towards the detainee's family.

He also wants the police to probe the conduct of the investigation officer who failed to communicate with the victim's family.

"I am extremely displeased that the poor detainee was not provided food or drinks and asked to admit to a crime which he did not do.

"I find this very shocking, uncivilised and barbaric. To do this to someone who is only 26 years old - he had his whole life ahead of him.

"He might be a criminal, thief or scoundrel, it doesn't matter. Do the necessary. But did he have to pay with his life?" he asked.

'Case of class discrimination'

Ramasamy said he will speak to state police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi to express displeasure with investigation and the conduct of the police as there had also been other cases of custodial deaths.

He added that this was not a racial issue but seems to be a trend among the poor, whether the victim is a Chinese, Malay or Indian.

"There seems to be no hope for the poor, the rich can get away. This is a clear case of class discrimination," he fumed.

Ramasamy, who is state executive councillor, also demanded an inquest into the death of Agin Raj.
When contacted, Abdul Rahim (left) said the post mortem results showed that Agin Raj died of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain). He added the case was classified as 'sudden death'.
‎"He was charged in the hospital as the doctor said he could not be released in his present condition," Abdul Rahim said.
He said if necessary, an inquest into Agin Raj's death will be recommended by the police.
On the increasing number of custodial deaths in Penang,  Abdul Rahim declined to comment.

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