Another BN cop-out: Acquittal for "hurting" Kugan sparks outrage

Written by Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

UPDATED In what is being slammed as another cop-out by the BN government, a police constable was acquitted of having caused grievous hurt to 22-year old car theft suspect Kugan Ananthan, whose death in police custody had sparked a nationwide protest.

According to a post-mortem, Kugan died from torture. His death had occurred a few months before Selangor political aide Teoh Beng Hock's, but apparently it was not enough to galvanize the Malaysian authorities or prompt them into decisive action to clean up the rot in their system.

"By and large, the police force and the MACC staff are good people who work hard for their living. Then there are the bad apples. Why doesn't the Umno-BN government do something? Is it because they fear angering the police and the MACC bosses who might instigate their staff to turn against Umno," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

"There is also a racial factor involved. It cannot be denied that the majority of staff are from the Malay community and even if they also feel that there should be stern disciplinary action so that the innocent will not be tarnished by the bad apples, Umno wants to show that it is the defender of the community. It wants to show that right or wrong, Umno will cover up for them."

Family demands RCI

Kugan's mother (pic), who had to juggle with keeping her job and fighting for justice for her son, is bound to demand an explanation from Prime Minister Najib Razak. And pundits say she deserves an answer, but today she could only weep in silence for young Kugan.

"We as Malaysians do not feel safe as we can still die under police custody. We have been mourning the loss of our son for over two years and today his mother wants to know what has happened him. What we can tell her?” Malaysian Insider reported Kugan's aunt Renuka Subramaniam as saying.

On Friday, the Sessions Court acquitted police constable Navindran Vivekanandan, 30, of two counts of causing grievous hurt. Judge Aslam Zainuddin ruled that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against the accused and did not call for Navindran's defence.

His decision is bound to spark another country-wide uproar. Already, Malaysians - not just the Indian community - were upset when the government only pressed charges against Navindran. He was the only cop to be charged in this case although nearly a dozen were suspended when news of the incident broke out.

"As the lawyer for the Kugan family, I say that this is an outrageous failure of the system. From the very beginning, the police tried to cover up the case. When the verdict was announced, Kugan's mom broke down and was only able to say she wants her son back," N Surendran told Malaysia Chronicle.

"We hold the police, Attorney-General and Home Minister responsible. The family has called for the establishment of a Royal Commission on f Inquiry."

Killing with impunity

Kugan had died from injuries while under remand in a police lock-up in Subang Jaya. A second post-mortem said he was beaten to death.

More than 40 wounds were found on his body including burn-marks that indicated severe torture. Yet, the police denied any wrongdoing. Initially, they even attributed his death to fluids in the lung, as corroborated by the first post-mortem report they commissioned.

But acting on a tip-off, Kugan's family charged the hospital where his body was being kept. They took extensive photographs and video footage. Two deputy ministers were at the scene. Yet, the police top brass and other Umno politicians accused the family of trespassing and both ministers were reprimanded for abetting rowdy behaviour.

It was only due to extensive and unabated clamoring by a Malaysian public that refused to allow the BN government sweep Kugan's death under the carpet that finally, the Attorney-General relented and allowed a second autopsy.

Despite the contrasting post-mortem results, no action has been taken against the hospital authorities nor any inquiry raised against the forensic team that performed the first autopsy. The police too were spared the tough questions that should have been asked immediate, was there collusion between police officers and hospital staff?

"Until there is real political will to change and a sense of urgency for reforms, the danger is high the police may kill and maim with impunity because no one is checking them or is able to stop them," Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah told Malaysia Chronicle.

No one killed Kugan. Same as Beng Hock, no one is responsible

Meanwhile, Navindran (right in pic) expressed thankfulness at the verdict. The Star reported him as saying he was looking forward to returning to the police force where he has served for 10 years.

He was accused of hurting Kugan at the interrogation room of the Taipan police station in USJ, Subang Jaya, between 7am and 4pm on January 16 last year. He had also pleaded not guilty to two alternative charges under Section 330 of the Penal Code. The trial had gone on for 25 days, with the prosecution offering 24 witnesses.

Eleven rank-and-file policemen have been transferred to desk duty at the Selangor police headquarters over this case. Yet only Navindran was charged. And not for the murder that the evidence had pointed to or as Kugan's family and the Malaysian public had demanded.

"This latest verdict will be taken by the Indian community as real slap in the face. When only Navindran was charged, there were already accusations that he was the sacrificial lamb for the others. Then they reduced the charge from murder - which is what Kugan died from - to grievous hurt. Now even that is being erased. So, no one is responsible for Kugan's death. Just like Teoh Beng Hock," said Tian Chua.

After an 18-month inquest, the Coroner delivered an "open verdict", ruling that Teoh did not die from suicide as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has claimed nor from homicide as his family and colleagues have insisted.

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