Home Civil Society Voices 2010 Civil society voices Gunasegaran’s death: Outrage at open verdict

Gunasegaran’s death: Outrage at open verdict

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The death of R Gunasegaran at the Sentul Police Station is neither an isolated incident nor the case of a few rotten apples, says Sivarasa Rasiah.

Gunasegaran's funeral - Photo courtesy of harismibrahim.wordpress.com

I view with extreme outrage and concern the Coroner’s open verdict in R Gunasegaranan’s death in police custody inquest – the latest in a long list of inquests where the magistrates acting as coroners have failed to discharge their duties to impartially inquire into the cause of death and find the perpetrators involved.

Coroner Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin ,like so many other previous coroners, went out of her way to protect the policemen and the hospital personnel involved in covering up for the police in order to cast doubt into the cause of death so that an open verdict could be found. This effectively meant that the police are not to be blamed as the cause of death was not determined.

It is a scandal how she could arrive at an open verdict when there were four eyewitnesses to the deceased being assaulted by Lance Corporal Mohd Faizal
Mat Taib. She even pondered whether the injuries could have been caused by efforts to resuscitate the deceased even though the medical officer testified that no effort was made at resuscitation!

It is shocking indictment of the poor standard of the country’s criminal justice system and lawlessness of the PDRM when so many people, mostly young men in good health, can be detained by the police but end up dead. The situation is made worse when the medical authorities in charge of conducting post-mortems normally do a poor job as did the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, in this instance; it had even failed to store the body properly, causing it to rot.

The overwhelming majority of deaths in police custody cases are only investigated internally by the police themselves – which is obviously unsatisfactory. The few cases that are subjected to inquests have shown to be very slow and ineffective e.g. the inquest into the death of Ulaganathan Muniandy, then 19 years old in 2003, after numerous postponements, has yet to be completed.

According to the Royal Commission on the Police report in 2005, there have only been six inquests carried out for the deaths of 80 people while in police custody between 2000 and 2004.

This trend of hospitals colluding with the police in covering up crimes, and the coroners stamping open verdicts in inquests cannot be allowed to continue as I fear that the serious damage done to these key state institutions’ credibility may be irreversible and may lead the rakyat into cynicism or worse take matters into their own hands as the rakyat simply cannot get justice.

The death of R Gunasegaran, then only 31, at the Sentul Police Station, is neither an isolated incident nor the case of a few rotten apples but a wider and serious problem of the institutions’ lack of accountability, transparency and independence that allows such deaths to be covered up with no justice for the rakyat.

We must stop this rot before it is too late.

R Sivarasa is MP for Subang

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