Several NGOs and the MIC have called for action against police officers who spread misinformation on the causes of deaths in custody, including against Kuala Lumpur CID chief Ku Chin Wah.

They are unhappy with the police for issuing conflicting statements on the causes, thus eroding public confidence in the police force.

In Ku’s (left) example, he said death-in-custody victim N Dhamendran died of breathing difficulties at the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.

However, a Kuala Lumpur Hospital pathologist found Dhamendran to have died of blunt force trauma, with staples attached to his body as well.

“Coming out and giving conflicting statements… you can’t say that,” said MIC strategy director S Vell Paari said today of the recent police statements on custodial deaths.

This issue was raised at a meeting this morning between eight NGOs and Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low, at which Vell Paari one of those attending.

Other groups represented at the 90-minute meeting on deaths in custody were Suaram, Malaysian Indian Progressive Association (Mipas), People’s Welfare and Rights Association (Power), Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch) and Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisations (Prima).

Vell Paari said he was happy with the progress in the discussions so far, and hoped to rope in other groups as well, particularly the Bar Council, because of its legal expertise.

He said Low has pledged at the meeting that more discussions and forums on the issue would be held, but the date for the next meeting would only be set after the necessary arrangements with the Bar Council are made.

Quoting Low, Vell Paari said the government was still looking for ways to curb deaths in custody through the existing Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), while admitting that “it is a watered-down version of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)”.

The groups had insisted the the IPCMC be established, and suggested that EAIC can be upgraded to the standard of the IPCMC as recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) that first mooted it in 2005.

“So the EAIC will become the IPCMC. It will also be (better compared with the IPCMC) because, apart from the police, it will also look into (complaints against) immigration and others (enforcement agencies),” Vell Paari said.

Meanwhile, the groups also welcomed the government’s suggestion to form a permanent coroner’s court.

The coroner’s court is now formed on an ad-hoc basis, with a magistrate presiding over the hearing.

“They (the coroners) are supposed to find the cause (of death), not  come out with an ‘open verdict’.

“They  are not trained. There must be a permanent coroner’s court that has expertise in the field,” said Power president S Gobikrishnan (left).

Gobikrishanan, who is also who is also Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch) adviser and PKR national policy and strategy bureau secretary, pointed out that the IPCMC was merely one out of 125 recommendations of the 2005 RCI.

Among its lesser known recommendations is that there should be an inquest for every death in custody, and he believes that a permanent coroner’s court would be suited for the task.

Otherwise, Gobikrishanan said, the IPCMC alone would not be able to curb deaths in custody because it would be powerless until an inquest could establish that foul play was involved in the death.