CELEBRATING “POLICE DAY” (2)
by Martin Jalleh
2010 was yet another year when the police were allowed to continue to operate in an environment of impunity when it came to their excessive methods in relation to arrest, detention and treatment of persons in custody.
Two tragic episodes in the year made the culture of police brutality increasingly obvious and gave further credence to the accusation that Bolehland has become a Police State.
The first was an “open verdict” delivered by a coroner’s court on 25 Oct. 2010 in an inquest to determine the cause of R Gunasegaran’s death in the Sentul police station on 16 July, 2009, a few hours after Teoh Beng Hock’s body was discovered.
In a press statement entitled: “End Police Brutality now” a “deeply concerned” Malaysian Bar commented on the “inability of the coroner to make a definitive finding in this case” in spite of “the strength of the evidence pointing to the culpability of the police”.
The second was the shocking story of K Selvach Santhiran, a key witness who implicated the police in the abovementioned inquest. His lawyer, N Surendran would describe his client’s nightmare as “the continuing descent of the police force into lawlessness”.
Police arrested Selvach on the very night of the inquest verdict. They hammered and humiliated him in front of his wife and children and hauled him off. For the next five days neither the IGP nor the Home Minister would confirm that Selvach had been arrested despite rising public misgivings.
On 30 Oct., pressured by the presence of more than 100 people in front of Bukit Aman and their refusal to disperse, police revealed that Selvach was remanded by the Dangerous Drugs Act. (Selvach, who was arrested together with Gunasegaran, was cleared of drug charges when his urine tested negative in 2008.)
After a very brief visit with Selvach, his wife S Saraswathy, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) revealed that Selvach was tortured during his one week’s detention and taken to a hospital. A habeas corpus application was prepared to get Selvach released from remand.
Police ‘sabotaged’ the habeas corpus hearing by obtaining a two-year detention order of Selvach by Home Minister Hishammudin Tun Hussein. Selvach was transferred to the Batu Gajah Detention Camp on 14 Dec. 2010 and was not given a chance to meet his family members.
The injustice done to Selvach was not an isolated incident. The “Memorandum of Protest” to the IGP submitted by LFL and Suaram on behalf of the Selvach’s family very accurately describes it as “…a continuation of a long standing series of acts by the police that showed their contempt for the rights of the people…”
The police were sending out a very strong message – think twice before you testify against us, we will teach you a lesson, you will be tortured, taken from your home and thrown into prison with the tacit approval of the higher authorities!
Further examples of the police’s culture of impunity in 2010 were the high-handed manner in which the police dealt with the participants of the peaceful assembly who gathered at Masjid Negara on 5 Dec. 2010 and the alleged beating and robbing of businessman Chia Buang Ting by several police officers.