Are the police exempted from the law?

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Hardcore criminals are treated harshly, as they should be, according to the law. The full force of the law had landed on them mercilessly. This is not only to punish them as they deserve to be, but also as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

But why then the same law fails to act against hardcore police criminals who cause death in custody? Why doesn't the law land on them as determinedly as it does when it concerns citizens?

This selective action definitely demoralises the public and causes the loss of confidence in the police. Malaysians ask with justification whether the police are a law unto themselves? Why does the long arm of the law fail to haul them up and punish them without any reservation when the police are guilty of heinous crimes?

The mounting deaths under troubling circumstances are a concern of worry to all law-respecting Malaysians who are devastated that Indian detainees, according to their perception, are dying like flies in the lock-ups. This perception is not without justification when facts are viewed objectively.

Within 11 days, three Indians have died in police custody under circumstances requiring no less than a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to get to the bottom of these worrying deaths.

The death of N Dhamendran on May 21 - according to the autopsy report - suggests a wilful murder of a helpless, handcuffed detainee.

The torture of this man was atrocious and demeaning. Every inch of his body had been inflicted with beatings resulting in his horrible death. His thighs and ears had been stapled revealing extreme cruelty and inhuman conduct on the part of the police.

It is unbelievable that in the inner sanctum of the police premises, this abominable act of unlawful behaviour could be perpetrated with impunity.

The howling and screaming of pain must surely be heard by others on duty and those under detention - unless this torture was carried out in a specially constructed noise-proof chamber of torture. Is that the reason why no one intervened to stop this mad act of violence against a human being?

'The home minister's ignorance'

In a society that respects human rights and the rule of law, these criminal policemen would have been arrested and charged forthwith. But in this particular case, the policemen who were involved in causing Dhamendran's death have been given desk jobs instead of being suspended immediately!

And for the home minister to even suggest that if they were to be suspended from duty that it would demoralise the police force, only exposes his extreme ignorance and lack of respect for the human life.

It is tantamount to admitting that the entire police force condones this despicable conduct within the force. This surely cannot be true? The entire police force can never be that heartless and ruthless. It is the black sheep in the police force who are the exception. They must be weeded out and punished to safeguard the good name of the police force.

These criminals must not be protected, as doing so would only tarnish the image of the police force and cause the loss of confidence by the public in their ability to act honourably and with integrity.

This is all the more reason why we need to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) urgently, so that swift action can be taken against the wrong-doers in the police force. On an urgent basis we need a body that owes no allegiance to the powers-that-be to investigate the misdeeds of the police without any bias.

Aliran urges the prime minister to dismiss Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who seems to be an ill fit to head this important ministry. He doesn't seem to respect the sanctity of human life and is totally incapable of inspiring trust in his leadership.

Not only did Dhamendran die during his brief stewardship, but there were two more other deaths, thus bringing the total to three. On May 26, R James Ramesh died in police custody in Penang and on June 1, engineer P Karuna Nithi died in Tampin while under police custody. This is totally unacceptable.

Aliran also urges the PM to order the inspector-general of police to arrest and charge the four policemen who are implicated in the death of Dhamendran without any further delay. There should be no dragging of the feet because a life has been brutally taken away - rendering a young wife a widow, a two-year-old son without a father and his parents, the loss of a beloved son.

P RAMAKRISHNAN, a former president of Aliran, is now an Aliran executive committee member.


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