Thursday, July 23, 2009

CCM Youth(21/7/2009) :- Death by Detention?

CCM Youth refers to the articles, commentaries, joint statements and various public responses recounting the shocking death of an MACC witness, Teoh Beng Hock, under dubious circumstances. CCM Youth is not only horrified and outraged, but deeply ashamed and bewildered.

This tragedy yet again adds another nauseating leaf to our country’s sheer lack of a credible and transparent value system of integrity against a painful track record of mistreatment of suspects and dubious deaths under detention. What makes this more disturbing is that this is the first case of a witness dying under questioning. The primary concern is the clear lack of oversight, which is a shameful symptom of the nation’s ingrained and persistent lack of political will to revamp clear violations of basic human rights by enforcers of the law and those in authority.

The critical issue is not one of “Who’s next?” but “Who’s before?” Teoh Beng Hock is but the latest of a growing list of deaths under detention or custody or police action – A Kugan, Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra, Francis Udayappan, Dr Tai Eng Teck (the police officer was eventually convicted), V Vikines, Tharma Rajan, M Ragupathy, Syed Fadzil Syed Ibrahim, Hasrizal Hamzah, Prakash Moses, Kannan Kanthan, Ahmad Salleh, Ulaganathan Muniandy, Vivashanu Pilai, Ho Kwai See, Ravichandran Ramayah, Veerasamy Gopal, L. Yoges Rao – just to name a few of the more celebrated deaths out of the untold numbers who died under police action, or inaction. Do we still remember these names? Or have they been neatly filed and forgotten?

This is only the tip of the iceberg - what of the deaths of undocumented migrants or detainees in rural police stations that we don’t hear about in the media? According to our previous Deputy Home Minister Wan Fairuz Wan Salleh, he reported in Parliament that a staggering 1,531 died in custody in 4 years from 2003 to 2007. According to Suhakam, 1,300 foreign migrants died in detention centres in the past 6 years. These statistics are damaging, and damning. How many more talented youth do we have to sacrifice before we finally pull the plug on the potential for blatant abuse by enforcers of the law?

We need to move beyond a call for yet another Royal Commission of Inquiry. We are jaded by the setting up of panels and commissions that are unable to bring about meaningful countermeasures. We are saddened that nothing concrete has been done despite countless recommendations by generations of “toothless tigers”.

We need a working public system to track such deaths. Witnesses and detainees should have the right to immediate legal representation. Standard operating procedures for the protection of witnesses should be made available to the public – remove the veil of secrecy. Violations by enforcers of the law, who are to protect, not harm, should be swiftly dealt with. So what if we have CCTVs? The tapes can be easily erased or tampered with unless a system of checks are in place to protect the integrity of evidence. Evidence collection and forensics intervention must be immediate and timely. We must remove any conflict of interest in investigations of public interest.

We are a grieving nation today. We are in pain. The government has failed repeatedly to enact meaningful and honest reform to the enforcement community, that is, the police, RELA and prison system - and the prospects are depressing to say the least.

We thank the public, NGOs and media for keeping such issues alive and urge politicians not to milk Teoh Beng Hock’s death for their own agenda.

We call upon Tan Sri Musa Hassan to ensure that he leaves no stone unturned in these investigations and to honestly reveal the findings, without conspiring to hide the truth from the Rakyat, to whom the Police are accountable.

We call upon our new Home Minister, Dato’ Seri Hishammudin Hussein to take leadership and act swiftly and courageously on this. The government urgently needs to bring the detention system up to basic standards of decency and fairness. We need to lift the veil on interrogation centres, migrant detention centres, police jails, and hold all heads of departments to full accountability for all misdemeanours by their officers. And that includes MACC. We demand automatic inquiries upon death whether by police action, or inaction. We need to implement and re-design an enforceable and just system with the highest standards of accountability and transparency. The Home Minister’s planned review of 33 Acts would not be meaningful to the Rakyat if there is no justice or if we are unable to trust the very authorities who are supposed to enforce them.

We believe that Teoh Beng Hock and the countless others who died before him, did not die in vain. We look to our Home Minister to restore the Rakyat’s faith in the authorities whose duties are to protect them.

In his efforts to bring about unity in his 1Malaysia concept, we call upon our Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak to make this a reality by leading the nation to repentance before the Almighty God for the deaths of our young Malaysians in custody, poor treatment of migrants, lack of honesty in the government system, and the lack of love and care for the vulnerable.

Our Prime Minister must honour God first, and since he is God’s chosen leader for this nation, he should call for a National Day of Prayer. We trust that our Prime Minister’s recent pilgrimage will give him new found strength to raise a God fearing nation that honours the Almighty, and a people not only of knowledge, but of wisdom, integrity and honesty. The first tenet of the Rukunegara – “Belief in God, or Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan” – bears no meaning if we do not come before God in national mourning and repentance. Failure to answer for wrongdoings puts us into condemnation from the Almighty God. The Rakyat is counting on our Prime Minister to ensure that justice will prevail in this nation for all communities. It is our hope and prayer that justice will prevail in this matter; that those who are responsible be identified, convicted and punished.

Our Prime Minister must be seen to exercise an even hand in his fight against corruption – if MACC is so short handed, then priority must be placed on catching the big sharks like political leaders with assets beyond their means or leaders who have misappropriated public funds in the name of welfare for their personal use or entertainment. To try to distract the Rakyat with investigations involving small amounts of a couple of thousand ringgit is insulting the Rakyat’s intelligence.

May our God Almighty deal justly and severely with those who do not fear Him, and on those who are intent on suppressing the truth.

Daniel Chai
Youth Secretary
CCM Youth
Mobile: +6012 237 6102

21 July 2009

* CCM - Council of Churches Malaysia

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