Thursday, July 15, 2010

The last day of the inquest into the death of Guna

Guna’s inquest has stood out from the many others for one reason.
In most death in custody inquests that we hear of, the usual witnesses to testify would be the police officers in attendance at the place of detention who  will give evidence of the circumstances leading up to death, a pathologist who will share his post-mortem finding as to probable cause of death and, sometimes, the next-of-kin who took delivery of the body, on the state of the same, that is, any visible bruises or wounds.
In Guna’s case, three individuals who were arrested together with him and were at the Sentul police station were able to give evidence of the events and circumstances leading up to Guna’s last moments before he died.
Those three individuals, Suresh Suppiah, Ravi Subramaniam, and Selvach Santhiran Krishnan were subpoenaed by counsel holding watching brief for the family of the deceased, to give their evidence in the inquest.
They had all previously each sworn out statutory declarations detailing what each had seen and heard on the evening of 16th July, 2009, at the time of their arrest together with Guna, and later at the Sentul police station.
Suresh and Ravi had previously attended court and rendered their testimony.
Yesterday, it was Selvach’s turn.
The proceedings were in Bahasa Malaysia. I produce below the English translation of Selvach’s evidence.
Visva : Awak kenal Gunaegaran?
Selvach : Saya kenal
Visva : Apa nama samarannya?
Selvach : Nama samarannya ‘Brake’
Visva : If shown a photograph of Gunasegaran, you would be able to recognise him?
Selvach : I can
Visva then requests the court that a photo of the deceased Guna, previously tendered in court and already marked as a court exhibit, be shown to Selvach so that he may confirm that this is the ‘Gunasegaran’ that he is referring to. The photo is shown to Selvach.
Visva : Who is the individual in the photo?
Selvach : Gunasegaran
Visva : Gunasegaran who is also known as ‘Brake’?
Selva : Yes
Visva : Can you remember the events of 16th July, 2009, approximately at 5.30pm, in the area of a toddy shop in Sentul?
Selvach : I can remember.
Visva : With whom were you with that evening?
Selvach : With friends
Visva : What happened?
Selvach : I went to urinate. The police then came and arrested me.
Visva : That evening, who were detained by the police, together with you?
Selvach : 5 of us. I, Guna, Suresh, Ravi and a Malay man whom I do not know.
Visva : Were you with Guna when he was arrested?
Selvach : I was with him
Visva : What was the process by which Guna was arrested?
Selvach : I watched Guna’s arrest from a distance. He was beaten and kicked, then handcuffed and placed in the police vehicle.
Visva : Were the arresting officers in uniform?
Selvach : No.
Visva : How many officers were there in the arresting team?
Selvach : 6 officers
Visva : What was Guna’s condition?
Selvach : Quite bad.
Visva : you and the others were placed in the same police van?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : Where we you all taken to?
Selvach : Sentul police station.
Visva : what happened at the Sentul police station?
Selvach : The police ordered us to give urine samples. I gave a sample. After that one of the police officers asked Guna for his urine sample but Guna could not. Then one of the police officers kicked Guna.
In front of me, the police officer kicked Guna in the chest.
Visva : At the Sentul police station, who was the first one to be asked to provide a urine sample?
Selvach : I was the first.
Visva : Who was the last?
Selvach : I am not sure.
Visva : You said earlier that, at the toddy shop, you saw a police officer kick and beat Guna. Can you still recognise this police officer?
Selvach : Yes.
Visva : You said you saw a police officer kick Guna in the chest. Can you still recognise him?
Selvach : Were these two different police officers o one an the same person?
Selvach : The same police officer.
Visva then requests that the police officers who were in the raiding and arresting team on 16th July, 2009 at the Sentul toddy shop be produced into court to enable Selvach to identify the alleged assailant.
5 police officers, all in civilian attire, neck tie and all, are lined up in court.
Visva asks Selvach to look in the direction of the assembled police officers.
Selvach looks in their direction.
Visva : Do you know these people?
Selvach : Yes.
Visva : Who are they?
Selvach : They are police officers from the Sentul Narcotics.
Visva : They were the officers involved in the arrest?
Selvach : Yes.
Visva : Look at the 5. You said one of them kicked and beat Guna. Look at them and tell us who is the one.
Selvach looks at the 5 officers and and indicates that the officer,  second from the left as viewed by Selvach, is the officer who assaulted Guna at the toddy shop and then later, at the Sentul police station, kicked Guna in the chest.
The officer is asked to identify himself.
He identifies himself as Lance Corporal Mohd Faisal.
The 5 officers are released.
Visva : What was the officer whom you just identified wearing at the time of arrest and beating of Guna?
Selvach : Green T-shirt and jeans.
Visva : You made a statutory declaration. Can you identify this as your statutory declaration?
Selvach is shown a statutory declaration which had previously been produced in court and marked for identification.
Selvach : Yes, this is my signature.
Visva asks that the statutory declaration be now marked as a court exhibit.
Visva : You are sure your evidence is correct and accurate?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : No further questions.
The Assistant Public Prosecutor now begins cross-examination.
APP : The kicking incident as you allege took place before or after you were released?
Selvach : After. I went back to get my I.C.
APP : How many police officers were around Guna then?
Selvach : None
APP : Guna was just lying on the floor?
Selvach : Yes
APP : Were the police not administering first aid and sprinkling water on Guna?
Selvach : When I was watching, no.
How long you observed Guna in front of the lock-up?
Selvach : About 15 minutes.
APP : Who dealt with you when returning your I.C?
Selvach : I do not remember the officer’s name
APP : Which part of the police station did you have to go to get your I.C. back?
Selvach : First Floor
APP : Same palce as where the lock- up is located?
Selvach : Yes
APP requests that Selvach be shown a photograph of the lock-up area and to indicate where he was relation to the loch-up area.
Selvach points out his position. I am unable to make out the precise location as pointed out by Selvach.
APP : Show where Guna was lying and where you were?
Selvach : Guna was lying in the lock-up area and I was on the outside.
APP : You were on the outside. Guna was on the inside. You could not have seen?
Selvach : I was outside near the door. I could see form there.
APP : You were outside. Yuo could not have seen the police officers around?
Selvach : Yes
APP : You were on the outside. You could not have seen Guna move?
Selvach : I would have been able to see Guna move.
APP : Take this court room. Say you are standing there ( points to a side door ). What would be the distance from there to the lock-up area?
Selvach indicates a point in the court room from that door which, to me, could not be more than 10 – 15 feet.
APP : After you were released and heard about the death of Guna, you met with Suresh and Ravi?
Selvach : I did not meet them.
APP : You met the family of Guna?
Selvach : No.
APP : You met the family of Guna and heard from them about how he died?
Selvach : No.
APP : If you saw him being beaten, why did you not make a police report?
Selvach : I am not the person involved in this matter.
APP : You made no report because you had only heard of this?
Selvach : I saw what happened
APP : Why did you make your statutory declaration? Who as you to do it?
Selvach : The lawyer
APP : Did you make it voluntarily?
Selvach : Yes
APP : No further questions.
Visva now re-examines Selvach.
Visva : Did you make your statutory declaration voluntarily?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : Are the contents true?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : You saw with your own eyes Guna being beaten?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : You identified the officer who beat Guna. Are you sure of his identity?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : you were asked many times about the distance between you and Guna at the Sentul police station. How far were you?
Selvach : Quite near
Visva : Was there anything impeding your vision?
Selvach : No
Visva : You are sure Guna did not move or say anything?
Selvach : I am sure
Visva : Is your evidence the truth?
Selvach : Yes
Visva : Why did you noe make a police report?
Selvach : i only knew Guna had died 3 days later.
Selvach’s testimony was consistent with that of Suresh and Ravi, given earlier.
The eye witness testimony of these three individuals violently contradicts the evidence of the police officers, and that of two pathologists.
Counsels will submit before the court on 10th August, 2010.
Mahkamah Majistret Jenayah No.7,
Level 2,
Kuala Lumpur Court Complex,
Jalan Duta.
Please make time to come to court and show solidarity with this effort to get at the truth of why our sons are dying in detention.
Come and listen to what I am sure will be some explosive submissions from counsel Visva.