An NGO and some of the families of 22 inmates at the Jelebu prison in Negeri Sembilan today urged the government to take action against any officers at the jail involved in the alleged abuse of detainees following a police report lodged by the wife of one of the inmates.
Angelia Pranthaman, president of Sebaran Kasih which works with marginalised communities, also urged the government to pass the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) law as quickly as possible in light of the recent death in custody of another man, A Ganapathy.
At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, she said the Jelebu issue should be highlighted “before it’s too late”, adding that custodial deaths have been occurring for many years now, typically involving Indians.
She cited data from rights group Suaram which says that 55% of custodial deaths in Malaysia involve those from this community.
“We know Indians are a minority in Malaysia and they are pushing them even further by doing this,” she told MalaysiaNow on the sidelines of the press conference, adding that police and prison officers are supposed to follow procedures when conducting investigations.
“The police and prison officers must know the limits of their power. There are things they can do and things they cannot do.
“Spraying chilli powder and so on is not part of the investigation. That’s brutality.”
The families of the detainees had claimed that the inmates were physically abused under police custody, with chilli powder sprayed on their private parts, among others. They said all this took place while the inmates were handcuffed.
According to Sebaran Kasih, the inmates were all Indian men, aged 20 to 45, who were arrested in 2019 under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) on suspicion of involvement in organised crime.
Some of their families who were present at the press conference today reiterated their concerns and called for action to be taken against any officers involved.
Ten of the families said they had made police reports over the incident and are awaiting a response.
The mother of one of the inmates said she is still in the dark over why her son was arrested.
“This is the first time my son was caught by the police. He has been detained for one and a half years now but I don’t know why he was arrested.
“I haven’t seen him for months. I’m afraid my son’s condition will end up like A Ganapathy. I want my son back,” she added.
Another woman said her husband was arrested three months after their wedding.
“I haven’t met him until now,” she said. “I have been calling the Jelebu prison but they told me that they didn’t get any approval to allow visitors. I’m so worried because my husband is still in Jelebu.”
Pastor Prince Jon, vice-president of Sebaran Kasih, said human rights should be upheld even if the men are prisoners.
“We want their rights as humans and as Malaysian citizens to be taken care of. We are not going against the government but we are against brutality by the authorities.
“We know this has been happening to Indians all the time,” he said, adding that if the people don’t speak up, custodial deaths in Malaysia will increase.
“We are advocating for human rights. We do not want another death to happen,” he said, referring to Ganapathy’s case.
Ganapathy was detained on Feb 24 and remanded from Feb 25 to March 8 to assist in the investigation of two cases.
Police said Ganapathy had informed them that he had heart disease and diabetes, and that he was sent to hospital four times to receive treatment while in detention.
He was confirmed dead while being treated at the ICU of Selayang Hospital on April 18.