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COMMENT | 'Black Lives Matter' is a clarion call to correct injustice

COMMENT | In recent days, when the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ are being echoed throughout the world, a difference of opinion has developed within some parts of civil society in this country as to whether that slogan should have resonance in Malaysia.

On the one hand, some statistics have been relied upon to suggest that deaths in police custody among the ethnic Indian community in Malaysia are 23 percent of the total. Another view has it as high as 55 percent.

Given that the Indian Malaysian community makes up approximately seven percent of the population, one conclusion is that the deaths of Indian Malaysians in police custody are disproportionately high. On this view, ‘Black Lives Matter’ is clearly an issue in Malaysia.

The contrary opinion is that 23 percent may not be disproportionately high if Indian Malaysians make up 23 percent of all those arrested in Malaysia. In this case, the number of deaths in police custody is proportional to the percentage of Indian Malaysians that are arrested as a whole. In which case ‘Black Lives Matter’ should not resonate in Malaysia and that, if it does, it represents a misunderstanding of the actual situation of deaths in police custody in Malaysia.

Both arguments perhaps miss or gloss over two points. The first is, why is it that deaths in police custody occur in such high numbers in the first place? On average, approximately 18 people have died in police custody every year between 2000 and 2018...

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