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Press Statement by Karpal Singh in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 30th January 2009:

Police brutality is a reality

Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, says criminals should not be made heroes and the police demonized.

There is no doubt that there are dedicated and responsible police officers. However, it cannot either be denied that there are black sheep in the police force.

Police brutality is a reality. Police officers have the stamp of authority in their hands. That this authority has been abused in the past cannot be denied.

The death of A. Kugan while in police custody brings to surface the stark on-goings on suspects at the hands of police officers during interrogation. Police officers should solve crime through their ingenuity, and not through perpetration of violence, but through volition on the part of suspects in the course of interrogation.

Courts in the country have had occasion in the past to deal with deaths in police custody. On 16th May, 1996 Justice KC Vohrah enhanced the eighteen month imprisonment imposed by the Sessions Court, Kuala Lumpur on two police personnel for voluntarily causing the death of one Lee Quat Leong for the purpose of extorting from him information which might have led to the detection for the offence of the housebreaking of Mayban Finance, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

In the course of his judgment Justice KC Vohrah had occasion to say,

‘Police officers are custodians of the law and, they have to uphold, not breach, the law. By subjecting members of the public, to acts of violence, they in fact infract the very law the prohibits the inflicting of violence by any person on another person and they incalculably undermine and subvert the confidence and trust placed in the public by the police force. Overzealousness which involves such blatant breaching of the law with the use of violence can never be a mitigating factor. Clearly, the courts are under a duty, and in the larger interest of substantial justice, to show their abhorrence of this type of crime.’

As far back as May 15, 1980 in a case involving six police officers, including a Chief Inspector, who were convicted of an offence of voluntarily causing hurt to extort a confession during the course of which a suspect died and were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 3 years to 12 months, Lord President Suffian, in delivering the judgment of the Federal Court after vividly narrating the following facts,

‘During the interrogation at Cheras Police Station beginning at 9.20 p.m. on June 19, 1977 the suspect (Nordin) arrested for alleged housebreaking, was hung from a window facing outwards a handcuffed to the window grill in the manner of a crucifixion; he was completely naked; he was beaten with a rubber hose by a succession of police officers, including, the learned judge found, the four appellants. He struggled and screamed in pain and shortly after midnight of June 19/20, he became lifeless. When his body arrived at the General Hospital at 2.50 a.m. the doctor who examined it pronounced it dead, death having occurred an hour or so earlier. A post-mortem examination the following afternoon revealed over 24 linear abrasions all over his body, caused by blows with a rubber hose, and by falls, punches and kicks. The doctor said that the cause of death was the cumulative effect of multiple blows, testicular reflex and lower resistance due to disease and possible due to starvation also. There was no trace of drug inside his body. During the 40 hours he spent in custody, he was given no food; and there was positive evidence that during the interrogation he asked for water, and was ordered not to be given any. Such was the brutal treatment that the accused – and others unknown in the Force – saw fit to give this young boy who all along maintained his innocence and from whom they wanted to extort a confession or information.’


‘Members of the police force who do their duty in accordance with the law will receive our and public support and encouragement; but those who treat suspects in a cruel manner can expect to receive only very severe punishments from the courts. Parliament and the public will not allow a Savak (National Intelligence And Security Organisation – a domestic security and intelligence service of Iran from 1957 to 1979) to be established here, bringing disrepute to those responsible for the government and for the administration of justice.’

It would appear from the injuries inflicted on Kugan, while in the custody of the police, what has been condemned by the courts in the country have fallen on deaf ears. Those responsible for the events leading to the death of Kugan should not be spared as they are clearly in contempt of the observations made by Lord President Suffian and Justice KC Vohrah.

I call upon the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, to make every effort to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. In the meanwhile, Kugan’s family should be adequately compensated by the government which is vicariously responsible for the cruelty inflicted upon Kugan by police officers during the time he was in their custody.

* Karpal Singh, DAP National Chairman & MP for Bukit Gelugor



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