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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When policemen proudly proclaim themselves gangsters...



The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) hearing into the death in custody of S Balamurugan on Feb 8, 2017, has revealed a great number of disturbing details.
Before continuing, it is important to remember that what happened to Balamurugan is not an isolated incident that only happens to hardened criminals.
This ongoing abuse affects anyone who may find themselves in police custody, and in Malaysia today, it really isn’t as unlikely, as we think, to find ourselves wrongly arrested.
Let’s pay careful attention to what is ongoing in police lock-ups, in order to ensure that our loved ones will never meet the painful, barbaric fate of Balamurugan.
I will begin with a recap and some observation. After the current round of hearing ends this Friday, we will explore in detail some of the more technical failures to adhere to the law and the rules and standard procedures of our police force, PDRM.
A hellish nightmare
Balamurugan was arrested with two others at 6.30pm on Feb 6 his year and taken to the Bandar Baru Klang police station.
Balamurugan’s wife, a fellow detainee named Tamilasan Karapiah, and two junior policemen were among those who testified before the EAIC, describing the hellish scene of beatings and torture that took place that evening.
Tamilasan testified that “Balamurugan had been slapped in the face and punched in the chest for about 10 minutes… (Tamilasan) claimed that while no weapons were used against Balamurugan, he, however, was hit on the head repeatedly with a bamboo stick and beaten on the soles of his feet with a rubber hose over the course of a 30-minute interrogation.”
I believe that, in this context, a bamboo stick and rubber hose should definitely be classified as weapons.
“I heard them screaming… calling out to stop and cries for help…” Lance-Corporal Anwar Nyat testified.
"When I got to the station the police said he was inside and that I can't meet him. Approximately 45 minutes later, a group of policemen walked into the station, and shortly after I heard my husband screaming," Balamurugan’s wife Natthanan Yoochmsuk (photo, second from right) said.
Balamurugan was shivering and unable to walk as he was transferred from Klang to Shah Alam. At a magistrate’s court in Klang the next morning, Balamurugan vomited blood during the remand hearings.
Due to a lack of evidence, the magistrate refused the police application for Balamurugan’s remand.
The magistrate instructed the police to take Balamurugan to the hospital, but instead, he was rearrested and taken to the North Klang district police headquarters, where he died the next day.
The post-mortem confirmed that Balamurugan had died from 'coronary artery disease with multiple blunt force trauma'.
Two sides of the same coin?
There are a few other disturbing details about this case worth noting at the outset.
At least two officers, presumably from the Serious Crimes Unit (D9) of the Klang Utara district police station, were present at the interrogation of Balamurugan on the night of Feb 6 - Inspector Mohaneswaran Thiagarajah and Inspector Vickneswaran Poobalan.
A witness and fellow detainee claimed that while Mohaneswaran was beating Balamurugan, “Mohaneswaran said in Tamil, “You are a (gangster) head outside, but I am the (gangster) head inside (the police station).”
Amidst all the cases of beatings in custody, and the numerous human beings who have died for no reason at the hands of the police, this one statement really jumps out.
Such an appalling declaration really brings home a common perception that police and gangsters are really just two sides of the same coin.
This probably results from systems and arrangements where both police and gangsters profit from the various criminal activities of the gangsters - creating a toxic ecosystem that will leach from the general public.
Shocking self-admission
I’m sure that we, the general public, share with the inspector-general of police himself the ardent desire that policing be recognised to be the extremely noble, respected higher calling that it should be.
After all, the police are charged with upholding the law, maintaining a peaceful order, and protecting the public - what could be more honourable?
Gangsters do the exact opposite: they break the law, thrive off chaos and prey on the public.
How painfully shocking to hear, from a policeman’s own mouth, the proud admission that they are one and the same as gangsters.
It is bad enough that the public have such a poor perception of the Malaysian police as is, but such a brazen admittance - even as the perpetrator is ruthlessly brutalising an unarmed man who is posing no immediate physical threat whatsoever - should shake our society to the core.
Do we turn a deaf ear, too?
Equally sad is how Anwar and his colleague, L/Cpl Sabri Abu Bakar heard the screams and pleas for help, but turned a deaf ear.
The excuse they gave was that the officers conducting the interrogation were their seniors, who they did not want to offend by interfering.
Again, this is the behaviour that can be expected of gangsters, where loyalty to your boss supersedes all else.
As a policeman, loyalty to the law should supersede all else, and even a low ranking officer has the right to arrest his own superior, should that superior be breaking the law, as Mohaneswaran clearly was.

The only question that remains is whether we will be like the policemen Anwar and Sabri, and ignore the silent screams of those who are being beaten, abused and brutalised in custody?


NATHANIEL TAN acknowledges that the EAIC is not an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC, which was proposed but not implemented). Nonetheless, he commends the EAIC for at least helping to bring to light some of these terrible abuses, and hopes that together we will all continue to push harder and further for justice.-Mkini

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