Update 11.32am: Do read statement by Lawyers for Liberty & Suaram. The Saturday event will be to handover a memo.
Friends, I have not felt this strongly about a case in a long time.
I know it’s a long article (I’ve bolded important bits), but the summary is this.
Gunasegaran is a man who died in police detention the same day as Teoh Beng Hock.
Selvachandran, Ravi and Suresh were also detained that day, and in an unprecedented, brave move, they testified against the cops – identifying one policeman as having assaulted Gunasegaran.
Ravi & Suresh have been in detention prior to this. On Monday, the court delivered an open verdict, stating the cause of death was unknown.
That same night, Selvachandran was arrested and beaten in front of his wife and kids.
Please, please come this Saturday morning to show that this is truly unacceptable.
I’ve been feeling a bit down about these things, and seeing you there, standing together with the victim’s families, would really, really help lift my flagging spirits, and help us know we are not alone.
Time: Saturday, 30th Oct, 10.00am
Place: Bukit Aman Police HQ, Lake Gardens Entrance
Thanks to TMI for printing:
I try not to hate cops, I really do.
I remember the ones who made an effort to get me better food than what lock-up inmates usually get. I think of those who risk life and limb to protect us every single day on the job.
Very little is to be gained, after all, from hating anyone. Or from trying to lump every member of a group as one monolithic being.
While we avoid hating people, I’m not sure it’s wrong to hate acts.
Some say hate is only one side of a coin away from love; that those who hate at least still care, and that the true attitude to worry about is indifference.
Gunasegaran and Teoh Beng Hock — Two deaths, one day
On July 16, 2009, Teoh Beng Hock died. This is an incident I hope we will never, ever forget.
Across town in a Sentul police station on that very same day, another man died as well. His name was R. Gunasegaran, and I believe he was beaten to death.
Today, 15 months later, I fear that the chain of events that started on that July 16 may endanger the well-being or even lives of another three men.
Gunasegaran was arrested in a narcotics sweep in Sentul. Two hours later, he was dead.
His sister R. Ganga Gowri, who I met for the first time this Tuesday, was understandably shocked and traumatised. She did not believe that Gunasegaran died from a “drug overdose” as reported.
She did not let her malcontent sit idle however; this lady bravely made an effort to locate other individuals who were picked up in the raid along with Gunasegaran, to find the truth about what happened on that July 16.
As you can imagine, it’s not easy to find people who are willing to talk about witnessing any criminal acts by the police (we will soon see why). It took Ganga Gowri a month of tracking down individuals and slowly getting them to talk.
One can only imagine how much work it must have taken to persuade three men, already in trouble with the law, to speak out against the police in open court. This, though, is exactly what Ganga Gowri did.
As a result of her persistence, and in what may have been a first for an inquest into a death in custody, three men finally plucked up the courage to step forward and, in a court of law, openly testified that a policeman beat a suspect.
Witnesses: Gunasegaran kicked unconscious
According to documents provided by M. Visvanathan, the lawyer who represented Gunasegaran’s family, the three men who testified are Ravi Subramaniam, Suresh M Subbaiah and K Selvachandran.
All three men testified that Gunasegaran was beaten and kicked while detained.
Ravi was made by the police to help Gunasegaran take his fingerprints and urine sample, because the latter was in too bad shape to do so himself.
Ravi then helped Gunasegaran to a room with a chair, and was sent back to the lock-up. He then heard a chair fall. When he next saw Gunasegaran, he could not ascertain whether he was alive or dead.
Ravi also testified that a policeman promised him an early release if he would testify that Gunasegaran fell down of his own accord and was not beaten by the police.
All witnesses corroborated this account, and identified one Lance Corporal Mohd Faizal Mat Taib as the policeman who kicked Gunasegaran in the chest and back. There were also accusations of beatings with a rubber hose and wooden stick.
Cops walk free
On Monday, October 25, 2010, coroner Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin gave an open verdict as to the death of Gunasegaran — stating that there was insufficient evidence to prove any cause of death; saying basically that the state had no idea how he died.
This judgment was delivered despite the eyewitness testimonies. According to a lawyer, at one point in the judgment, the coroner speculated that “the injuries could have been caused by efforts to resuscitate the deceased, even though the medical officer testified that no effort was made at resuscitation.”
Unsettled and in tears a press conference on Tuesday (I really hope you’ll take the time to watch the short video), Ganga Gowri said: “Why has there been no action taken, despite there being witnesses who saw the beatings? I have been crying since yesterday, I still cannot understand. I cannot accept what is going on.”
The last time I saw someone look so lost, numb and distraught was when I attended a similar press conference with A. Kugan’s mother.
One cannot help but marvel at the irony of Manmohan Singh’s visit. Let’s hope he’s aware.
Selvachandran beaten in front of wife and kids
Ganga Gowri was joined at this press conference by one S. Saraswathy (I have a cousin by that name), wife of Selvachandran.
Selvachandran was one of the men who placed the truth above a fear of the authorities, and decided to do his duty to the late Gunasegaran and his family by testifying in court about what he saw happen to Gunasegaran.
On Monday night, the very same day that the “open verdict” was delivered, Selvachandran would pay the price for his decision to stand up for what was right.
Saraswathy explained that at around 10pm, a group of unidentified men came banging at their door. While Selvachandran was looking for the keys, they became increasingly aggressive and broke the door down.
These men handcuffed Selvachandran, made his wife remove his sarung and replace it with a pair of pants, and then bizarrely asked her to give him a kiss (goodbye?).
They then took him outside and beat him severely in front of his wife and children.
When his poor, confused children tried to ask these men why they were taking their father, the men hurled verbal abuse at both mother and children, and continued beating Selvachandran.
They only then briefly flashed some cards showing that they were police and took off with Selvachandran in tow.
Nobody knows for sure where he is or what he is charged with — early indications suggest that one of the many laws allowing for indefinite detention without trial will or have been used.
The very first episode of the critically acclaimed HBO series “The Wire” features a character called William Gant. In the opening scenes of the episode, we see him nervously giving testimony in court during the murder trial positively identifying the accused — a cousin of a drug lord.
In the courtroom are men dressed in sharp suits, looking quietly intimidating. It turns out these men have bribed another witness in the same case to reverse her testimony, and the murderer walks free.
By the end of the episode, William Gant has earned himself a bullet in the head, courtesy of the drug dealers.
“The Wire” features a world where the cops can do very little to stop criminals from doing whatever they please. In Malaysia, it seems there is very little anybody can do to stop the cops from behaving like criminals whenever they please.
What kind of police force is so sure of their impunity that they would assault someone who just testified against them the very same night a verdict is delivered exonerating them?
Their fear of justice is so non-existent that it appears never to have crossed their minds that their actions on Monday night might appear fishy. Or even if it did, there was clearly a belief that there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it. With no verdict ever having found a policeman guilty of abuse or death in custody, can you blame them for thinking so?
In fact, by law, the only thing you can do in the circumstances that face both Ganga Gowri and Saraswathy — where you feel you have been wronged by the police — is to file a police report.
Is their only recourse to justice based on some hope that other cops will turn on their colleagues, brothers and sisters? The same men and women they look to watch their back in the field?
I am entirely hard pressed to see how anyone of any intelligence could possibly fail to see the inherent, mind-blowing stupidity in this blatant conflict of interest.
Lighting the darkness
There are good cops, and there are bad cops. In Malaysia, there are some very bad cops indeed.
I feel the culture of beating and torturing people in police lock-ups is widespread and deeply ingrained. I shudder to think of the degree to which these men and women have become desensitised to violence.
Most readers of this article would never experience this, and some of us (who I don’t blame) might subconsciously hope that ignoring a problem like this is the same as making it not exist. Or, worse yet, think that it is somehow a necessity in “fighting crime.”
Some, however, have actually had some seriously bad experiences. Among the middle class, a “popular” case is the nightclub drug raid (read: extortion). This one very unfortunate young man is but the latest in a string of victims in similarly traumatic cases, the type of which we have all heard about for years. Are we ever really the same after?
While the scale differs, the underlying reasons are the same — a culture of impunity breeds bullies.
The willingness and ability to inflict harm on other human beings thrives in the dark. It thrives in places where eyes refuse to look, and light refuses to shine.
The other two witnesses in Gunasegaran’s case have long been in police custody. No one seems to know how they are or what they might be going through — they live in that dark world, one that so few of us can peer into. Thinking about this fills me with dread.
This far, no further
I am not exaggerating or trying to play dramatic hero when I say that we (kita, not kami) could be all that separates Selvachandran, Ravi and Suresh from Gunasegaran’s fate.
I have seen first hand how public pressure stays the hand of excess on the part of the cops — how it saved me from meeting the fate of Mr Tung Ket Ming.
I know there’s a lot competing for our attention right now — by-elections, mega towers, natural disasters, and even the death of Paul the octopus. It is our heavy-hearted plea that you’ll still manage to spare just a bit of your time to write about this, tell your friends and family about what is happening and join our gathering in two days.
On Saturday morning, October 30 at 10am, some concerned citizens will be gathering at the Bukit Aman police headquarters at the Lake Gardens entrance to stand with Mrs Saraswathy, Mrs Ganga Gowry, and many others.
We stand with them not to incite blind hatred against the men and women tasked to protect us, but simply because we can no longer stand idly by as our brothers and sisters are beaten and dying.
I know it’s a lot to ask of your Saturday morning, but I really do hope you’ll come and show them they are not alone. Come early, enjoy a fresh morning walk, and help make sure a few less fortunate Malaysians may one day be able to enjoy that same walk, free from any violation of their most basic human rights.
Saraswathy and her children were forced to see something no human should ever have to see. If we do not take enough effort to show we care and that we will not suffer such evil in our midst, they — or others like them who we have not met yet — may have to feel what Ganga Gowry, Teoh Beng Hock’s family, Aminulrasyid’s parents, and so many more have felt.