Thursday, April 9, 2009

Placating Kugan's ghost and Marginalization of Malaysian Indians

Malaysiakini - Helen Ang Apr 9, 09 2:25pm

In Bukit Selambau, MIC fielded a Datuk who is party Kedah deputy chairperson and an old hand in politics. The PKR victor is a greenhorn almost 15 years younger than his rival. Yet voters placed more confidence in S Manikumar to do the job.

At a press conference on the Kugan autopsies, Dr Mohd Ismail Merican – a Tan Sri who is Health Ministry director-general – tilted to favour ‘years’. He pointed out that Serdang Hospital’s Dr Abdul Karim Tajuddin who conducted the first autopsy had 26 years of working experience as a pathologist.He also revealed Dr Prashant N Samberkar, who carried out the second autopsy, had 11 years work experience mainly in India and Fiji before serving in Malaysia in 2008. The Health DG did not allow that the younger doctor might possibly have done a more honest post-mortem.

It was Monday that he briefed reporters about the inquiry panel finding on discrepancies between the autopsies. On the same day, police seized forensic specimens, photographs, documents and other materials relating to Kugan Ananthan from Dr Prashant’s office at the University Malaya Medical Centre. Since Kugan had perished under police custody, it seems a conflict of interest for police to be raiding Dr Prashant.

The Health DG summarised, “All body injuries noted on the deceased were insufficient, either individually or collectively to cause death directly”.Dr Ismail also added, “There was no evidence that the deceased had been`branded’ or been given repeated application of heat with an instrument or object”. The inquiry instead offered that injuries on Kugan’s back resulted from repeated trauma by a blunt but flexible object, like folded rubber hose.

The authorities fail to explain (in words I can understand) just how Kugan died. Bernama, our national news agency, is no better either with its report headlined ‘Kugan died of Acute Pulmonary Oedema: Inquiry’. As a lay person, I can only surmise that for some unfathomable reason, the youth threw himself backwards against, perhaps, a coiled rubber hose. Wounds and bruises on the body hint that Kugan might have managed this feat remarkably with his limbs bound. He smashed his own back repeatedly over five days in lock-up until his 22-year-old heart gave way.

Friendly cops, and robbers

Kugan is not alive to defend his good name but the mainstream media keep calling him an “alleged car thief”. I prefer to think of him as my fellow Malaysian. Malaysians of Kugan’s skin colour are more inclined to die young, usually after an encounter with police. Following Kugan’s case in January was 20-year-old R Dilip Kumar in February.
Dilip was shot dead by police along with five other Indian men in Kulim.
According to N Naragan’s recce (who together with a human rights group visited the scene of the shootout), Dilip had seven siblings and the family live in a dilapidated little estate house. Two days before the incident, Dilip had asked one of his family members for RM20. Describing Dilip’s injuries, Naragan wrote: “He had gunshot wounds on the forehead and it looked like the back of his head was all bloodied as if from an exiting bullet. He was dressed only in a towel at the time of his death. His parents even had difficulty putting together some money to buy him a shirt and a dhoty for his burial. Thirty six ringgit was all they had.”Like Kugan, Dilip had no criminal record. Yet the media in their reports labelled the men ‘criminals’, ‘armed robbers’ and ‘thieves’ without any qualifiers. We cannot know for sure that Dilip was an armed robber as he was never brought to court, not to mention the lad was likely too poor to afford or acquire a gun. It is really the relationship between poor people and police profiling that bears our scrutiny.

Surviving on RM720

Who is poor and what is considered poor? Jayanath Appudurai writing for the Centre for Policy Initiatives quoted government statistics that in 2007, Malaysia’s poverty rate was 3.6 percent – an admirably low figure. Jaya writes that this Poverty Line Income [PLI] is determined by the government itself. Malaysia’s PLI stipulates that a household – comprising 4.6 people – in the Peninsula earning more than RM720 a month is not deemed impoverished. However if a PLI of RM1,000 were to be employed, then 8.6 percent of households would be poor instead of the 3.6 percent as claimed by the authorities. If a PLI of RM1,500 is used, then one-fifth of Malaysians are mired in poverty, or a total of 1.2 million households. Is the government baseline of RM720 a realistic figure to sustain a family of four-and-a-half persons, Jaya questions?(To sidetrack slightly, the roughly RM157 – as stated by Malaysia for each individual to minimally survive a month on – is not enough to pay for a Children one-day entry ticket to Paris Disneyland which costs RM182.)

State expenditure, for instance in Kugan’s home state of Selangor, on poverty eradication programmes might properly be asked of Disney-loving ex-Selangor menteri besar Dr Khir Toyo. While police undoubtedly have an image problem, how Joe Public reacts to the polemics should be tempered as well, Jaya writes in his other article (this one on the Kugan case). Popular depiction of the Indian community is pulled in two opposite directions.

One is that of gangsters and criminals. The Hindraf movement started both because of the Indian community’s own concern over its social problem of gangsterism, and Police Watch’s alarm over custodial deaths.But it doesn’t clarify matters when the authorities choose to ban the messenger Hindraf rather than address the root cause of their grievances, which is poverty begetting poverty and the lack of legitimate opportunities.

How now, sacred cow?The other popular depiction pushed by official media like Utusan is that Indians have nothing to complain about because many are doctors and lawyers. But even before Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar screwed the statistics, Dr Mahathir Mohamad did. “It (the number of Indian doctors) never was 40 percent until I was PM. Why didn’t they say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’?

I get many people coming up to me to say thank you but very few Indians say thank you”, Dr M told an interviewer on the eve of the last general election. Samy Vellu rebutted saying that Mahathir did very little for the Indian community when he was prime minister. “Despite the MIC appealing again and again for help, he refused to budge.”

The BN formula has been of ethnic champions appealing to the grace of one autocrat or to Umno ‘proper channels’. Using this method to solve national problems has not proven effective. If, as Samy recently conceded, Indians were in dire need of assistance and not getting it, then it is the way the whole system operates that’s at fault.
The NEP was intended to help every Malaysian who is poor. It obviously didn’t and doesn’t. For those who feel they do not owe the Mahathir regime their gratitude, the way forward is to change the status quo. This is being slowly altered through electoral mandate. However, the more insidious canker (because unlike loud politicians they’re less obvious) is bureaucratic functions. These range from Biro Tata Negara to the Little Napoleon in Ipoh city council who ordered the Democracy Tree plague to be removed by tractor, to top civil servants in ministries and state secretariats. To further good governance, we clearly need a reform in the ruling parties; even our erstwhile premier finally admitted it in his final address as Umno president.
But at the same time, do replace some rusty cogs in the wheels of government machinery too.

Disclosure: The writer is attached to Centre for Policy Initiatives.

HRW- New Malaysian PM Should Repeal ISA and Reform Laws Used against Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly

(New York, April 6, 2009) – Malaysia’s new prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, should follow up on his surprise release of 13 detainees by promptly acting to rescind the internal security law, Human Rights Watch said today.
On April 3, 2009, his first day in office, Prime Minister Najib ordered the release of 13 detainees and promised that the government would review the Internal Security Act (ISA) under which they were held. The ISA permits indefinite detention without charge or trial. By April 5, all 13 had been freed, including eight terrorism suspects, three alleged forgers, and two leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

Three foreigners among them have been deported, while the 10 Malaysians remain under police supervision. “The release of 13 detainees is a welcome surprise from Prime Minister Najib, who had long supported the Internal Security Act,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “We hope that his promise to review the law is genuine and that he realizes that it is a blight on the Malaysian justice system and the country’s reputation.”

The detention of the Hindraf members exemplifies the government’s long misuse of the ISA. The release of the two Hindraf leaders, V. Ganabatirau and R. Kengadharan, leaves three Hindraf members in ISA detention for more than 15 months for their part in organizing a massive demonstration on November 25, 2007, to protest educational and economic discrimination against Malaysian Indians.

Hindraf had held the rally even though the police had refused to issue a permit. All five have been accused of threatening national security by “upsetting harmony” among Malaysia’s Malay, Chinese, and Indian communities. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan publicly stated, without providing any supporting evidence, that the five “clearly have links with international terrorist organizations and they are involved in activities that amount to inciting racial hatred.” “The government imposed the ISA instead of charging the Hindraf activists with credible criminal offenses,” said Adams. “If it can’t promptly charge them and others still held and give them a fair trial, it should release them.”

Also on his first day in office, Prime Minister Najib lifted the ban on two opposition party newspapers, Suara Keadilan, published by Parti Keadilan Rakyats (PKR), and Harakah, published by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS). The ban had been imposed on March 23, 2009, and was widely seen as an attempt to limit opposition parties from getting their messages to voters before by-elections on April 7. Under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, annual license renewal is mandatory for all newspapers.

The Home Affairs Ministry can restrict or ban a publication outright on several vaguely defined grounds and no legal remedy is available, as the minister’s discretion to grant, revoke, or suspend licenses is “absolute” and not subject to judicial review. Human Rights Watch said that lifting the ban was an important step and called for a revision of the printing and publications law to ensure it was consistent with the right to freedom of expression. The government also continues to use criminal defamation and other laws to undermine opposition politicians and critics of the government.

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, founder and editor of Malaysia’s most popular website, MalaysiaToday, was originally detained under ISA for demeaning Islam. He was freed on procedural grounds on October 7, 2008. The government is appealing the ruling. He also has been criminally charged with sedition under the Sedition Act 1948 and criminal defamation under the Penal Code on what Human Rights Watch considers to be a politically motivated charge of defaming a government leader.

Opposition parliamentarian and Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairperson Karpal Singh had been charged under the Sedition Act for remarks he made in relation to political changes in Perak, one of Malaysia’s 13 states. And opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is currently facing trial on politically motivated sodomy charges. “If Prime Minister Najib wants to back up his claim as a reformer, he will repeal laws empowering the government to censor the media or to engage in dirty tricks used previously against political opponents,” Adams said. Also crucial for improving freedom of expression in Malaysia is repeal of the Police Act 1967, which mandates the need for a police permit for public assemblies of three or more people.

In 2008 alone, the law was used to shut down peaceful vigils supporting the repeal of the ISA and to limit election rallies by opposition parties. “Free expression and peaceful assembly are bedrocks of a rights-respecting society,” said Adams. “Until Malaysia’s government stops carving out legal rules to attack its political opponents, it cannot claim to be a modern democratic state.”

For more information on human rights in Malaysia, please visit: For more information, please contact:
In New York, Mickey Spiegel (English): +1-212-216-1229; or +1-917-968-9937 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-790-872-8333 (mobile)

Kugan's case: Unsettling questions remain

Malaysiakini - David KL Quek Apr 9, 09 12:33pm

It is laudable that the Ministry of Health had taken the preemptive move to help diffuse the public anger regarding the custodial death of Kugan Ananthan, especially in the light of discrepancies between two separate post-mortems.

Whether an inquiry initiated on its own behalf is the correct avenue to address the public unease about this custodial death, is open to differing interpretation, acceptance or otherwise.Any inquiry if it should be made at all should be carefully-constituted, thoughtfully empanelled and well-empowered by law. Its terms of reference must be made absolutely clear. It must uphold the final truth.It must be based on facts and rational analyses of findings which are consistent, and which should be striving towards the ultimate truth of what actually is the cause of death or its contributing factors.It should not be simply to water down discrepancies which would need fuller explanation and perhaps further elaboration from the actual forensic pathologists who had performed their respective tasks.

These pathologists should be allowed to defend their findings and interpretations.Furthermore, more expert and renowned forensic pathologists should have been invited to give their interpretations as to the facts of the findings and their weightage of causes of death, especially since there had been unmistakable evidence of torture, i.e. undeniable beating marks and unexplained bruises. These experts should be fiercely independent and thus unimpeachable.

Most importantly, this inquiry held behind closed doors, should not be seen to be papering over any misdeeds of any authority which it may be perceived as trying to defend.Also, since this is not a public hearing and we know that the second pathologist declined to take part in the inquiry, this may make the report less than solid or above reproach. Seniority of pathologists is no measure of professional competence. Forensic evidence based on previous precedents and specialist experience, and not conjectures should be the essence of any meaningful truth-finding exercise.It is usually disingenuous and pointless to assume another chance event as having taken place to be the cause of death, just because it is possible.

Suggesting the unlikely pathologically- unevidenced diagnosis of acute myocarditis is simply conjecture. Whichever is more probable and plausible is usually the truth, to paraphrase the legendary Shelock Holmes.

Doctors are alarmed by seizure
Unfortunately, because of these glaring slants to the report, questions will continue to linger as to whether this report is truly independent and whether all the inquiry members are in agreement with the findings.The legal standing of the report is still questionable, and may be challenged in a proper court. It might be better to have a public inquiry where all queries and representation can be made known to the satisfaction of the public, and especially, the victim's family.

To add salt to injury, doctors are aghast and very alarmed that the police had raided the UMMC pathologist's office and taken the material records of his autopsy findings. We are also shocked about media reports that tissue samples for toxicology which had meant to be sent to an independent laboratory in Australia had been intercepted and seized by the police.

Toxicological studies should always be allowed to enable proper and independent discovery of the truth. Denial of such a legitimate avenue for forensic finding would prejudice against the police, and make their action that much more difficult to accept or to tolerate.Therefore, this arbitrary seizure is reprehensible, unprecedented and certainly breaches normal procedures of medico-legal discovery.

Usually only detailed reports are obtained from court-approved injunctions and demands.Medical records and details are nominally the property of the physician in charge or the facility where he practices, and should only be made available under a court order, and are usually never confiscated or seizable by any enforcement authority.

There are clear procedures to be followed, and are well articulated in handbooks for the police and enforcement authorities, clearly established by the UN Center for Human Rights. I'd like to reiterate that: "International humanitarian law prohibits the following acts in all situations: - murder; - torture; - corporal punishment; - mutilation; - outrages upon personal dignity; - hostage-taking; - collective punishment; - executions without regular trial; - cruel or degrading treatment."Such extrajudicial actions should never be made in a climate of intimidating circumstances just because these events may mar the good name and professionalism of the police force.

It is difficult to comment when the DG of Health decides to come forward and announce this so-called independent inquiry, which incidentally incorporates two foreign specialists. At best this inquiry had added to the confusion of being a third interpretation into this sad case of custodial death and did not refute the probability of torture.

Adhere to humanitarian principles
Any custodial death in any instance the world over, is inexcusable, wrong and criminal.
The UN Human Rights Committee has defined "Extralegal, arbitrary or summary executions as deprivation of life without full judicial process, and with the involvement, complicity, tolerance or acquiescence of the government or its agents.

This includes death through the use of excessive force by police or security forces."Torture is further defined by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and its Committee against Torture (CAT) as: "Any act committed with intent to cause severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical, for purposes such as:

(a) obtaining information or a confession;
(b) punishing, intimidating or coercing.

"Therefore, torture of any one suspect or detainee or prisoner is never condoned, whether this leads on to death is immaterial (but which only adds to the grievousness of the crime), and is liable for prosecution in any international court of law.Kugan's custodial death and other possible past custodial deaths should be given a truly independent investigation by a publicly open Royal Commission or Inquiry or even by Suhakam.

It is time that we adhere to humanitarian principles as we grapple with our modernisation to become a developed people and nation. Our human development index as a civilised nation must necessarily rise proportionately.We call on the police and law enforcement agencies to respect these tenets of modern life and human rights and urge them to abide by these nondiscriminatory rules as a norm. Only then, can we believe and respect their true and usual professionalism again.

DR DAVID KL QUEK is past editor-in-chief of the MMA (Malaysian Medical Association) News for 11 years and currently president-elect of the MMA.


Kugan’s family rejects panel’s findings, wants justice to be served

KUALA LUMPUR: The father of A. Kugan says he does not accept the findings of the independent committee which investigated the two conflicting post-mortem reports on his son’s death.

G. Ananthan said he was willing to exhume Kugan’s body, if need be.
“If you want a third post-mortem, I will dig up his body,” he said, adding that he and his wife N. Indra were at their wit’s end and just wanted justice.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, they questioned what else was needed for the authorities to arrest those responsible for Kugan’s death.

Teluk Intan MP M. Manogaran said the family had not cremated Kugan’s body for fear that the matter would not be resolved.

Kugan, 22, died five days after he was detained on Jan 15 and an autopsy by the Serdang Hospital on Jan 21 gave the cause of death as ‘’acute pulmonary oedema’’.
The family sought a second post-mortem, which was conducted by Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) pathologist Dr Prashant Samberkar on Jan 25. He gave the provisional cause of death (pending toxicology report) as ‘’acute renal failure due to rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle fibres resulting in the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream) due to blunt trauma to skeletal muscles’’.

The conflicting reports led the Health Ministry to set up the independent committee, which on Tuesday concluded a third cause of death – acute congestion of the lungs due to acute inflammation of the heart muscles, compounded by blunt force trauma.

The family’s counsel N. Surendran called the findings a “whitewash” and pointed out that the 10-man committee made their findings without conducting a post-mortem on the body.
Surendran also said police were unethical when they confiscated samples, documents and pictures related to the UMMC post-mortem on Monday. He said a letter of demand had been sent for the return of the items.

Prayers for Hindraf Leaders

Hi all,

There are many prayers and special poojai been arrange nationwide for the Hindraf leaders.

Though the happiness mood cherish and seen in faces of Hindraf Makkal Sakthi supporters with the release of Hindraf lawyers, Mr Kengadaran and Mr. Ganapathi Rao yet they are still worried about other Hindraf leaders condition whom are still detained and suffering from illness.

Mr Uthayakumar been detained under ISA along with other Hindraf lawyers been suffering badly due to his leg swallen and diabetic illness. No much of action taken neither by the KEMTA nor the Health Ministery though many reports were made by P.Uthayakumar, his family and his lawyers.

Like adding salt in the wound, our Hindraf Chairman, Mr P. Waythamoorthy been admitted and went thru several operation on his heart due to some rare heart illness with can endanger his life.

Locally here, the National Coordinator, Mr Thanenthiran was also admitted in a private hospital in Penang due to a heart attack about 2 weeks ago. His condition is still recovery and just been discharge from hospital 2 days ago. He was told to take complete rest for few weeks.

Many supporters and well wishes conducted prayers to thank the Lord for the release of 2 Hindraf lawyers and pray for the other lawyers to be released soon and for their recovery.

Do join or conduct prayers to these leaders whom faught the life for the betterment of Malaysian Indians.

Several location where the prayers been held are ;-

1. On 9th April at 7.30 pm
Paurnami Poojai
at Kuil Sri Maha Mariamman Midlands,
Seksyen 7, Shah Alam

2. On 8th April at 7.30 pm
Special poojai
at Kuil Thiru Murugan
Mambau, Seremban

Pls do contact the local coordinator and conduct the thank you prayers and seek the bless from Almighty for the speedy recovery of others.

Vaalge Hindraf Makkal Sakthi
Vaalge Hindraf Makkal Sakthi
Vaalge Hindraf Makkal Sakthi.

from Admin


Waythamoorthy just completed his heart abalation operation

Hi all,

Hindraf Chairman, Mr Waythamoorthy whom been suffering with rare heart illness have just completed his heart's abalation operation which lasted for more than 8 hours yesterday (Wed).
His condition is still under observation.
His wife sent thanks note to all the well wishers and those whom conducted special prayers for his recovery.

Pls do join or conduct prayers for the speed recovery for the leaders.
We hope he would recover fast with the grace from Almighty God and support from his supporters and family.

Vaalge Waythamoothy
Vaalge Hindraf Makkal Sakthi

from Admin.