Well, herein may lie the reason, well, actually 80 of them! Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob, the Chief Judge of Malaya, has expressed her deep concerns that 80 deaths in police custody occurred between January 2000 and December 2004 – that’s an average of 20 people dying per annum while in police custody, or almost a frightening 2 per month for 4 continuous years - but only 6 inquests, less than 10% of the deaths, were even held.
The Chief Judge has been troubled that in some instances, deaths occurred hours after detention. As an example, mechanic Alias Othman was detained at 10 pm on March 22 for alleging causing a disturbance at a mosque in Bachok, Kelantan, but just a mere 5 hours later, he was very dead.
Siti Norma wants answers why so many people have died under such circumstances. She demanded to know why police had seen it fit to decide that inquests were unnecessary in 22 cases of such deaths. She reckoned the abysmal failures to conduct inquests have resulted in public perception that there was foul play or the police had something to hide, which naturally added to the negative perceptions about the police force.
In fact, the Criminal Procedure Code specifically makes it mandatory to have inquests into deaths under police custody. Yet the IGP has not addressed this unacceptable omission, a violation of the Criminal Procedure Code. The IGP must be held responsible and accountable for his failure. As I said before, this man should be sacked immediately but obviously he is either too powerful for the PM to take any action against him or he has powerful strings to hang on.
The good judge has been far too kind in terming how the public views the police euphemistically as ‘adverse public perception’. But I suppose as a judge she couldn’t well say the Malaysian public has become damn sh*t scared of our police. Malaysia is becoming more and more like one of those South American or African nations where the police could just make you ‘disappear’.
As the current saying goes, the most dangerous place in Malaysia is inside a police station.
She asked: "The obvious question one would ask is: What happened to Alias Othman? That question can only be answered if an inquest is held for him." "The law governing death of persons in police custody is clearly set out in Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code and, from my reading of it, it is mandatory to hold inquests to ascertain the cause or causes of death." She said that even if detainees died from natural causes, the inquest must still be held, and speedily too, via a prompt and well-conducted inquiry.
Well, may I just add that if it’s to be well-conducted, we cannot leave it in the police own hands. That’s why we must have the IPCMC. Even the ancient Romans recognised the concept of ‘conflict of interest’ in their Latin saying of Quis custodiet ipsos custodies, which means "Who will guard the guards?"
Siti Norma also lamented the frequent delay in conducting inquests. She noted that in some cases, an inquest had not been conducted despite the fact that Sudden Death Reports had been submitted to the magistrate more than 18 months before.
She advised: "While I understand that the courts are overburdened, it must never be forgotten that no case is unimportant and that officers of the court should be aware of the serious implications when a decision is taken that an inquest is not necessary or when there is a delay in conducting an inquest.”
"The law, as it stands, requires in all cases of death in police custody, that post mortem reports and inquests to be conducted immediately and that the magistrate transmit his record of evidence and findings to the Public Prosecutor."
Well I suppose that’s why she’s a judge and not KTemoc, because I would have imputed more sinister motives. But suffice to say that "Justice delayed is justice denied." We must have the IPCMC!
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