Written by Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle
The family of C Sugumar have decided to fight on in their quest to get Prime Minister Najib Razak to lift the ban on Thai forensic specialist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan and allow her to come to Malaysia to conduct a second autopsy on their dead son who had died in suspicious circumstances while in police custody,.
"The entire family met to take a decision on the next course of action since Najib is not lifting the bar on Dr Pornthip bearing in mind the last day rites on Feb 22," N Surendran, a lawyer for the family told Malaysia Chronicle.
"They have decided to fight on until the government backs off and allows Pornthip to come in. It is a most painful decision as the 30th day rites are important in Hindu belief. The high profile of the case and Najib's involvement makes it impossible to get a fair second post-mortem at any government hospital in Malaysia."
DON'T ALLOW ANY HUMAN BEING TO DIE THIS WAY: Indian community, all M'sians please come & stand up for justice
The family plans to launch a 'Lift Ban On Pornthip' campaign with a nationwide candle-light vigil on Saturday, Feb 23, at 8pm. They have invited all activists, concerned Malaysians and members of the Indian community to join in and show support for their cause.
The candle-light vigils are timed to start simultaneously and will be held in Kuala Lumpur (Brickfields fountain), Selangor (Klang Little India), Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Ipoh, Penang, Kedah, Kulim and Padang Serai.
"It can happen to your son, to any of us. The killings must stop. And the only way to break through the government's denial syndrome and force them to do something to stop the custodial deaths is to show your support. So please come," another lawyer for the family Latheefa Koya told Malaysia Chronicle.
"Yes, we need Dr Pornthip to perform the second autopsy to get justice for Sugumar and we also need to show the authorities they cannot close an eye while suspects are being brutalized or even murdered with impunity by the very people who are supposed to protect our society."
Fairy tales? Then how come till now Najib has not lifted a finger to let Pornthip in
Sugumar, a security guard, had died last month after having allegedly suffered a fit and damaged some public property. According to eye-witnesses, he was chased down by the police, handcuffed, beaten and smeared with turmeric. One of the police officers had stepped on his neck while his colleague put on the handcuffs. Sugumar's body had still been moving at that point in time. His body later stopped moving but the police did not notice he had died until hours later.
However, the police insist Sugumar died of a heart attack, basing their conclusion on a post-mortem report released by the Serdang Hospital. The family is challenging these findings, arguing Sugumar was healthy and did not have any heart condition known to them. Hence their plea to Najib to intervene and to allow Dr Pornthip to do the second post-mortem.
Initially, Najib had shown sympathy for the family's quest and even publicly directed Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai to send for the Cabinet's perusal the Serdang Hospital report. However, last week, Najib was exposed as having gone behind the family's back and using his influence with Thai counterpart, Yingluck Shinawat, to bar Pornthip from coming to Malaysia.
Although Najib has denied doing so, he has not done anything at all so far to help the family or to ease their pain. "It is not true...these are all fairy tales. Don't listen to it. Not at all," Najib had told reporters.
"It is him who is telling fairy tales. He has not done anything to reach out to the family or to try to help them. Why is that? That alone tells who is lying and who is telling the truth," said Latheefa.
Like Xenophon, Pornthip banned from uncovering the truth
Indeed, it does appear that Najib may not have been as transparent in the matter as he has claimed. Just days after his denial, his administration blocked Australian Senator Nick Xenophon from entering Malaysia, deporting him on the grounds that he was a "troublemaker" out to interfere with Malaysian politics.
Xenophon was due to meet Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim as well Umno minister Nazri Aziz and Election Commission officials over the coming general election in Malaysia. Xenophon's deportation prompted fears of massive electoral fraud by Najib and his Umno party to stave off a strong challenge by Anwar's Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
The Australian government has condemned Najib for the move but he has refused to explain further.
There is little doubt in the minds of many Malaysians that Dr Pornthip has been banned for similar reasons - to not allow anything to upset Najib's political chances.
As the D-day to Malaysia's 13th general election nears, Najib has been accused of becoming more hardline and authoritarian so as to boost his Umno-BN coalition's chances of retaining the federal government, even if the steps he took went against the rights of the people or the law itself.
The 58-year-old Pornthip was voted Thailand's most trusted person. She is also very popular and trusted in Malaysia following her 2009 appearance in the post-mortem of an Opposition aide who had died in suspicious circumstances while in the custody of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Corruption. Pornthip impressed Malaysians with her principled stand and cool demeanor despite attempts by MACC lawyers to intimidate her during the inquest.
Blighting indictment on the Umno-BN
It is a blighting indictment on the Umno-BN's 55-year rule of Malaysia that Sugumar is merely the latest in an ever increasing list of Malaysian Indians who have suffered and died at the hands of the authorities while in custody.
In 2009, the death of 22-year-old car thief suspect Kugan Ananthan touched a chord nationwide. His autopsy was also conducted by the Serdang Hospital. Hence, the fear the police may have again "tampered" with the post-mortem on Sugumar so as to cover up the manner in which he had died.
The Serdang Hospital report had stated that Kugan died due to water in the lungs, but a second autopsy found his death was due to injuries from a severe and brutal beating while in police custody.
If allowed to come and perform the autopsy on Sugumar, the chances are certain Pornthip will tell all as it is without pulling punches even if it incriminated the Malaysian police and the authorities. Reputed to be a consummate professional, she is not known to lie in her work. This may be why Najib and his ministries have been accused of banning her from coming to Kuala Lumpur - to stop her from uncovering the truth!