|Wong Choon Mei|
|KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4: Pakatan Rakyat leaders have called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry and the immediate suspension of all police personnel involved in handling sawmill worker P Babu, who was found dead in a police lockup after turning himself in to help in a robbery investigation.|
“The circumstances that surround his death are suspicious enough to warrant an immediate suspension of the officers involved in his case,” PKR supreme council member N Gobalakrishnan told Harakahdaily.
“We also urge for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry. The number of custodial deaths especially from the Indian community is not only alarming but it is growing by the day. When will it stop? This is what Malaysians want to know.”
Indeed, Malaysia’s record for police brutality and its disregard for the safety of inmates under detention is already on the radar of global watchdog bodies such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. There have been 109 deaths in police custody since 2004 and no one has been held responsible or brought to book so far.
Don't avoid Royal Commission of Inquiry anymore
On Monday, the 28-year old Babu was found dead in the Jempol police lockup at around 4am. According to the police, he hung himself and a post-mortem report indicated it was suicide.
“This is very difficult to accept. While I have personally been well treated during those times I was remanded for my public speeches, it is impossible that Babu can hang himself in a cell without other detainees or police personnel noticing,” said Gobala.
Indeed, his family has refused to collect his body and insist that a second post-mortem be conducted. Questions also abound about how Babu could hang himself with his shirt when he should have been wearing a police-issue T-shirt.
“We will wait until another post-mortem is conducted. We will not claim the body from the mortuary until this is done,” said Babu’s uncle M Mahadevan.
Until now, police have remained silent on why video footage of the cell - which is under CCTV surveillance - has not been released.
“This is the obvious question. If the CCTV shows him hanging himself, then there’s nothing more to say. But because they don’t make public what should be made public, that’s when the big question-mark comes in,” Gobala said.
“Given the police’s past track record, it is high time that a Royal Commission is set up to look into all the micro-details of what happens during police interrogation and in the cell. A thorough review of the conditions of their lock-ups and the safety of inmates - not just police versus inmate but also inmate versus inmate - must be conducted."