The Malaysian Bar is dismayed and saddened by the news of the death of A Ganapathy who recently died after being held in police custody.
It was reported that A Ganapathy had spent 12 days in police custody before being released and was admitted to Selayang hospital.
While the police have issued a statement that A Ganapathy’s cause of death was necrotising fasciitis of the right lower limb complicated with sepsis, it was reported that, according to A Ganapathy’s lawyer, his autopsy report found that he had succumbed to injuries inflicted on his shoulders and legs.
In a separate statement, the police have indicated that there is no evidence that he had been beaten while in custody.
We urge for an immediate and independent investigation and inquest into the death of A Ganapathy, as this is a matter of great public concern and warrants the highest priority. A thorough and transparent investigation must be conducted to uncover the facts surrounding his death.
In times like these, the need for the formation of the independent police complaints and misconduct commission (IPCMC), to act as an external and independent civilian oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to clothe it with disciplinary authority, cannot be overstated. The current Independent Police Conduct Commission Bill proposed by the government lacks the bite to ensure genuine and independent transparency and accountability in the force.
The Malaysian Bar has also pushed for the introduction of an independent Coroners Act in relation to deaths under suspicious circumstances. Such an act would serve to strengthen the role of coroners through fundamental structural reforms, including the ability to supervise and direct comprehensive investigations to determine the cause of death and to provide greater clarity in its inquiry processes. There should be no further delay in the enactment of such a Coroners Act.
The questions surrounding A Ganapathy’s death make the need for the IPCMC and the independent Coroners Act all the more dire.
Unabated deaths in custody have led to an erosion of confidence in law enforcement authorities. It is therefore incumbent on such authorities – including the police – to ensure that the confidence instilled in them by those they are tasked to protect is safeguarded and deserved.
The formation of the IPCMC and the enactment of an independent Coroners Act will not only ensure a transparent and accountable police force in our country, which is essential, but will also strengthen public confidence in our police force.
Custodial deaths and prison practices require root and branch reform of key aspects of our criminal justice system. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to act decisively in this matter.
AG Kalidas is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.