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Saturday, 15 July 2017


Side Event @ the 2017
High Level Political Forum- UN New York

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017
9:30am to 11am
Baha'i International Community, United Nations Plaza : 866 New York,
NY 10017 Suite 120 (1st Ave and 48th St.) New York Map

Brief write up of the discussion

Malaysia is one of the 44 countries participating in the 2017 National Voluntary Review at the SDG High Level Political Forum in New York in July 17-19, 2017. Malaysia has had an impressive track record in poverty eradication and socio-economic development since independence in August 31, 1957 
At this side event hosted by the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance who is a member of the Asian Development Alliance (ADA), we aim to provide a CSO perspective in the implementation of SDGs in Malaysia. Malaysian CSOs have formed an Alliance bringing together CSOs involved in development work, human rights activism and environmental concerns. We have had public discussions and networking since Oct 2015 on SDG related matters. We have networked with the Malaysian government and participated in the two national SDG symposiums in 2016 and have been appointed as members on the National SDG Steering Committee hosted by the Economic Planning Unit, Government of Malaysia. We have been active in providing feedback and inputs to the preparation of the National Voluntary Report as well as in the preparation of the Malaysian SDG National Roadmap.
In this New York side event we will review the Malaysian National Voluntary Review Report and discuss the achievements, challenges and way forward for the SDG implementation in Malaysia. We will note the current gaps and also highlight the role civil society is playing to complement the government as well as holding the government accountable to the SDG goals, targets and indicators.

Malaysian NVR                                                        -

Opening Comments

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Co Chair of the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance)  who will also moderate the Panel.

Dato Yogesvaran Deputy Director General, Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department, Government of Malaysia
Dr Katinka Weinberger (UN ESCAP)

Comments from Malaysian CSOs

Mr Rizal Rozhan (Empower Malaysia)
Ms Chee Yoke Lin (Third World Network)
Ms Lakshmi Lavanya Rama Iyer (WWF Malaysia)
Mr Atama Katama (PACOS Malaysia)
Mr Alizan Mahadi (Global Environmental System Leaders Research Assistant, Keio University, Japan)

Comments from UN & Regional Organisations

Ms Hannie Meesters (UNDP)
Ms Wardarina, Co Chair Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM)
Dr Jyotsna Mohan, Regional Coordinator, Asia Development Alliance (ADA)


Participation by registration. Security at the venue building require full name submission as per ID two days before. You must register by July 15 please. Limited spaces available so please register early.For registration & further details contact: Mobile (Malaysian) for text or whatsapp +6019 381 0914. USA mobile number 562-682-8838 (from July 5 to 20, 2017) 


Press Release

By Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria Co Chair, Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance

The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2017 is currently ongoing at the United National in New York since July 10, 2017. From Monday July 17 to Wednesday 19, 2017 is the Ministerial session. Malaysia is one among 44 countries that is presenting a country report on the progress made in the implementation of the SDGs and future plans.

The presentation of Voluntary National Reviews was agreed upon by all the governments when the General Assembly in September 2015 collectively agreed to the 2030 SDG Global transformational agenda. They all agreed to share their best practices.

For 2017 the UN is undertaking the reviews based on the theme "Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world" and a focus is on SDG 1,2,3,5,9,14 and 17 of the seventeen SDGs.

Dato' Haji Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the EPU Minister is representing the Malaysian government at the 2017 HLPF and two senior EPU officials are already here in New York namely Dato Yogeswaran and Mr Abdul Halim Abdul Aziz.

The Malaysian report is an 82 page document. It provides a comprehensive overview of the Malaysian achievements in poverty eradication, the aligning of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan and the SDGs as well as noting some of the challenges and the way forward over the next few years till 2030.
This report will be presented and discussed on July 17, 2017 at 5.30pm (New York time) which is 5.30am Malaysian time on July 18, 2017. Malaysian CSOs will have an opportunity to make a statement and ask a question.

Malaysia CSO Side event

Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance is organising a discussion on the Malaysian VNR on July 18, 2017 at 9.30am (Malaysian time at 9.30pm on July 18, 2017 at the Baha'i International Community, United Nations Plaza, New York. 

We have confirmation that the EPU, UN ESCAP and UNDP will participate in this program. From the CSO community there are six representatives here attending the 2017 HLPF and they have all agreed to be on the panel. They are Mr Rizal Rozhan (Empower Malaysia), Ms Chee Yoke Lin (Third World Network), Ms Lakshmi Lavanya Rama Iyer (WWF Malaysia), Mr Atama Katama (PACOS Malaysia), Mr Alizan Mahadi (Global Environmental System Leaders Research Assistant, Keio University, Japan) & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Alliance). They will share their reviews on the Malaysian VNR report.

Among those who have registered to participate are Ms Christina Chelliah the former Miss Malaysia Universe 2002 (1st Runner Up) and Miss Malaysia Tourism World 2002 who now lives in New York with her husband Chris Murphy. Another Malaysian New Yorker who is attending is Mr Ray Tan, the Founder & President of the New York Malaysian Association.

For the Alliance this is a very significant event as our CSO review is also being done at the UN stage in New York. This provide a global review and in the spirt of the SDGs civil society is a key partner in the full realisation of the SDGs. While Malaysian CSOs are appreciative of the networking with the government on SDGs but they have some major concerns with the report which they feel need to be highlighted so as to address the gaps and challenges effectively over the next few years.

Useful web linkages:-
The Malaysian VNR report is posted on the UN website.

You can watch the Malaysian country report presentation, live on the UN website on July 18, 2017 at 5.30am.

We are trying to organise a skype casting of the CSO discussion too and Rizal of Empower is seeking to make some arrangements on this.

July 15, 2017 from New York

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Recent Abductions of five activists

PROHAM is concerned and shocked with regards to the sudden disappearance of the five activists since 5th November 2016; namely Amri Che Mat, Pastor Raymond Koh, Pastor Joshua Hilmi, his wife, Ruth, and most recently Peter Chong. Peter Chong, in a recent public post on Facebook before his disappearance, disclosed an incident where a motorcyclist warned him to be on the alert due to the recent incidents of disappearances.

The ‘Di Mana Mereka?’ Gathering and Candle-Light Vigil held at Dataran Merdeka attended by hundreds of Malaysians last Saturday is testament to the worries and concerns of the Malaysian people by this unnerving development. People are living in a climate of fear; uncertain as to their own safety and that of their family members.

PROHAM urges the Police to put a stop to this dangerous trend. The Police needs to address the decline in public confidence and to ensure public order is maintained. PROHAM therefore urges the police to expedite their investigation, to bring those responsible for these criminal acts to justice. PROHAM urges the Police to uphold their duties to protect the freedom and the liberties of all Malaysians.

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari
PROHAM ( Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia) 
April 11, 2017

Thursday, 23 March 2017


By Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, PROHAM Chairman

PROHAM was registered with the Registrar of Societies on 10th March 2011, making us 6 years old. The question to be asked I suppose is; over the 6 year period what has PROHAM achieved? Have we achieved what we set out to do those six years ago? When we first started, we were always aware of our shortcomings in being a small society with limited resources. However, powered by our ideals of a Malaysia as a rights-respecting democracy, we, along with our compatriots; Hakam, Suaram, the Malaysian Bar, Bersih, Suhakam and the many other NGOs have worked diligently at the promotion of Human Rights in Malaysia. It is therefore very disheartening that despite all the work put in, human rights in Malaysia is regressing instead of progressing.

So where have we gone wrong? Could we have done better? Could we have done more? To answer these questions, our very conscientious outgoing Secretary General, Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria decided to document all the work done by PROHAM over the last 6 years in book form entitled ‘Championing Human Rights in Malaysia: PROHAM through the years 2011 – 20116’. It is a tasked well carried out, despite the short period of less than 30 days. Both Tan Sri Simon Sipaun and I were merely given a few days to give our overview as the book needed to go to the printers as soon as possible.

Finally, today you can see for yourself the printed copy of the book ready to be launched. You will see from the contents all the work that we have all done in the name of promoting Human Rights in Malaysia. This includes no less than 62 Roundtable discussions, a total of 134 press statements released on various human rights issues and concerns. Despite our membership of only 18 full members and four Hon members, this book is testimony to the small legacy that PROHAM has already left behind and to the tireless efforts of all of us in realising our ideals.

With that glimpse to the past and with renewed vigour for the next term, I hereby officially launch ‘Human Rights in Malaysia: PROHAM through the years 2011 – 2016’! May the coming terms prove to be just as fruitful. Thank you.

March 23, 2017 at the PROHAM’s 7th AGM


By Datuk Kuthubul Zaman

I must admit that there are a lot more human rights issues which we need to address. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the fundamental right of access to justice. Mauro Cappellatti, an Italian jurist said
“The right of effective access to justice has emerged with the new social rights. Indeed it is of paramount importance... effective access to justice can be seen as the most basic requirement, the most basic human right, of a system which purports to guarantee legal rights”
Are Malaysians and those residing in this country guaranteed that basic human right? If one were to go on a random day to a Criminal Magistrates Court, it is disheartening to see that a large number of accused are not legally represented, mostly because they do not have the means to engage a lawyer.

The Malaysian Bar Council in 1983 passed a resolution to set up a Legal Aid Scheme whereby every lawyer is required to contribute RM 100 to the scheme every year. To run the scheme, every lawyer is encouraged to take up at least one legal aid case per year. Chambering pupils must be at the Legal Aid Centre at least for 2 weeks to assist in running the Centre. This Scheme is the first in the world and no other Bars have such a scheme. The Government of Malaysia also had set up the Biro Bantuan Guaman to assist those who cannot afford a lawyer in areas of divorce and limited civil cases.

However, these steps are insufficient. Despite these legal aid schemes, about 80% of accused persons are unrepresented in court. The Bar Council then mooted the idea of the Government setting up the Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (YBGK). After much persuasion, the Government set up the YBGK on 25/1/2011. The YBGK scheme has been running smoothly but of late, there has been considerable delay in payments to lawyers doing YBGK work. This unfortunately resulted in some lawyers declining YBGK work. Thankfully, the new President of the Bar, George Varughese has identified the source of the delay being administrative delays in the checking of claims.

However, PROHAM would urge the Board of the YBGK to resolve these issues immediately to enable every accused person to have legal representation in Court. PROHAM would also urge the government to increase the budget allocation so that the work of YBGK will not only be to provide legal representation to the accused person in a Criminal case but to include those who need legal representation in civil cases.

Additionally, access to justice is not just limited to access to lawyers and courts. It means access to various tribunals, advice agencies and the police law. In cases of death in police custody, the family of the victims must also have access to justice. The number of deaths in custody is alarming. The Deputy Prime Minister revealed in Parliament recently that there are 1654 deaths in custody cases since 2010 until February 2017. Even one death in custody is one too many.

The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police 2005 in its report recommended the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). If such a body has been set up, the victims of death in Police Custody can lodge a complaint to IPCMC to enable the independent oversight body to investigate. Currently, it is the police who investigate such issues. Clearly this is not acceptable.

Once again, PROHAM urges the government to set up the IPCMC immediately. On this issue, PROHAM will consider organising a roundtable discussion on access to justice in the near future.


Delivered by Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, PROHAM Chairman (2014 -2017) who was re-elected for a second term on March 23, 2017 at the PROHAM AGM for another term from 2017 – 2020. March 24, 2017 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

National SDG Roadmap - CSO Reflections

ASLI-CCPS together with the CSO-SDG Alliance hosted a discussion on the National SDG Roadmap- CSO Reflections entitled ‘Leaving no one behind’ on March 14, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur

We had a lively discussion yesterday and inputs from Civil Society Organisation (CSO) experts on the panel was very refreshing. The thoughts centred on themes such as environment & sustainability by Lavanya Rama Iyer (WWF); human rights and the Universal periodical review by Rizal Rozhan (EMPOWER); poverty & inequality  by Dr Lin Mui Kiang (PROHAM); gender mainstreaming by Sunitha Bisan (NCWO) and access to justice by Andrew Khoo (Bar Council). From the presentations and feedback from the participants we can recognise ten key pointers as inputs into the preparation of the National SDG Roadmap.

First, it is recognised that Malaysia has seriously taken the SDGs goals for public policy planning. We noted that we can recognise the synergies between the SDGs and the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. This is especially so in the chapters addressing the educational, heath & human wellbeing, Bottom 40%, the multidimensional poverty indicators and in the green growth for sustainability. It was noted that this was a very good start but the challenge is in the implementation.

Second it was also acknowledged that the Economic Planning Unit has created the spaces for CSO participation at the national discussions in 2016 and also in the National SDG Steering Committee, thematic cluster groups and also the in the specific taskforces.  CSOs appreciate the spaces and hope for ongoing participation in planning, deliver, monitoring and implementation recognising that this is a fifteen year agenda incorporating three Malaysia plans (Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth).

Third, it was recognised that much of the focus in national policy discussions have been on the 17 SDG goals along with the 169 targets and 230 indicators. While this is necessary and important it is necessary to draw on the UN Transformational document – Agenda 2030 which has the substantive background, ethos and ideology undergirding the goals, targets and indicators. Without the framing documents and themes the exercise will just become a technical process losing the substance and depth. It will miss the focus on paradigm of sustainability development.

Fourth, some thematic and cross cutting concerns were highlights. It was noted that the National SDG Roadmap discussions lacked the discussion on the philology of sustainability and development such as the balance between people, profits and planet in a sustainable way. It is not enough just to use these terms as slogans but it must be ingrained as the conflicts and contestation comes in the implementation and often economic and business value and considerations are placed on higher priority than people and the environment.

Fifth, of utmost importance is to strengthen our understanding and commitment in three area namely towards a sustainability agenda and framework, then on gender mainstreaming or gender lenses not just SDG 5 but the whole agenda for change, as well as human rights as a cross cutting theme of not just economic, social, cultural rights but also civil and political rights namely that people have right to voice their concerns and participation in holding the State actors accountable. Access to information becomes a central right for participation and holding the State actors accountable.

Sixth, we also noted that there were some mismatches between the targets and indicators set at the global level. There is a need to have national indicator setting forums to formulate what are specific indicators which will capture the aspirations of Malaysians at the national context. In this context alternative indicators could be developed such as indicators for natural capital and its value, well-being or quality of life index and multidimensional poverty index for B40 and urban poor which capture their aspirations for social mobility and well-being.

Seventh, it was noted that local government including the district office at the grassroots play should play a major role in SDG implementation. There must be more work done in creating greater awareness and enhancing their ‘buy-in’ in this process especially from agency officers at the district level as well as the local authorities. They must adopt a sustainability agenda for local governance. The Local agenda 21 was mentioned as a good example but its full potential was not tapped at the local governance level.

Eight, it was also expressed that there should be a review undertaken on the specific issues and recommendations raised in the UPR process on human rights compliance alongside the SDG goals and targets. The common areas and concerns should be tabulated and discussed. This will enable the National SDG Roadmap to also take note of the UPR obligations.

Ninth that the role of CSO and nature of engagement need to be more clearly defined. CSOs do not want ad hoc participation. They want to be equal partners with the public sector at planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. They like to ensure that there are adequate structures and resources that can enable effective participation. It was strongly expressed that public funds should be made available to CSOs in implementing the SDGs especially in undertaking awareness programs, coordination, capacity building and enhancing the richness, quality and diversity of CSO engagement in this process.

Finally it was also noted that CSOs like how we engage with the public sector should strengthen alliances with private sector as there are many good CSR initiatives by businesses. It is hoped that more public sector companies especially the public listed ones will also adopt the sustainability ethos and framework for the total operations in additions to undertaking CSR projects. The call is to move beyond CSR to frame it in SDG terms.

Jointly issued by Tan Sri Michael Yeoh (ASLI-CPPS) & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (CSO-SDG Alliance). March 15, 2017

Monday, 6 March 2017

PROHAM calls on the Police for effective action in finding Pastor Raymond Koh

PROHAM expresses concern over the rise of people’s feeling of insecurity and public safety due to the different crime incidences in the Klang valley.

We are shocked to read in the media of the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh on Feb 13, 2017 and the concerns raised by the family. The video clipping of that alleged abduction widely circulated in the social media has further shocked the general public on how well organised and managed was this abduction.

PROHAM urges the Police to thoroughly investigate this matter and maintain good communication with the family and the general public. Effective Police action and timely clarifications are of utmost importance to dispel any rumours concerning this abduction and the perception of rising crime and violence in Malaysian cities.

PROHAM is absolutely disappointed with the nature of Police action, roadblocks and the large number of Police personal not allowing entrance to anywhere near the Police HQ in Shah Alam. This was a peaceful prayer vigil by concerned citizens along with the family members including the wife of Pastor Raymond Koh. A pray vigil for the abducted Pastor and also for the Police officials who are investigating the incident.

PROHAM is of the opinion that the Police could have used this occasion to extend friendship and support to the family and concerned citizens. This would have been a good gesture in line with community policing rather than the tough Police action taken last night.

Statement issued by Datuk Kuthbul Zaman (Proham Chairman) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General) March 6, 2017


Friday, 3 March 2017

Global Human Rights

Bar Council's Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo fears that Malaysia will use US President Donald Trump's anti-human right policies in justifying similar approaches taken by Putrajaya.
Malaysians who speak about the importance of human rights and uphold fundamental rights would be disregarded, he said.
"This is the worrying part, (they would say,) 'If the US can do it, why can't we continue to do it?'," he said.
"When Trump said US first, he basically said everybody else is not a priority, that has a trickle down effect on the rest of the world, too," he said.
Trump, the controversial US president who took office on Jan 20, was widely criticised as a threat to human rights, anti-globalisation and labelled sexist and racist.
Amnesty International had claimed the divisive and "poisonous" language used by Trump is putting vulnerable populations at risk and making the whole world a more dangerous place
Rise of right-wing Christians in M'sia?
Beside worrying about the spillover effect on the human rights movement in Malaysia and other parts of the world, Khoo also claimed Trump's white supremacy has affected Malaysia.
"Since the day US did not vote against the resolution of the (United Nation) Security Council in December (2016) which criticised Israel for building settlements, I have received (messages on how) the resurgence of right-wing Christians have taken control.
"Even though I am a Christian, this is frightening to me because there are so many people in Malaysia who seem to support the right-wing Christian agenda coming from the US," he added.
"I wonder why? If you are talking about role models, definitely Trump is not a role model," he told the room packed with more than 150 people.
The pro-Israel and anti-Arab approaches taken by US on this matter and the putting aside of human rights was rather dangerous, he said.
He also expressed concern on the phenomenon in the country where non-Muslim are being labelled as anti-Islam while those who are not mainstream Muslim being deemed as deviant and terrorist when they speak on religious issues.
US would not attend to help foreign countries
Khoo offered his personal views at the forum titled 'Global Human Rights In the Era of President Trump' held by Penang Institute in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur last night.
Other speakers were former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia (Proham) secretary-general Denison Jayasooria and Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson.
Describing Trump as having brought "unmitigated disaster" to human rights, Robertson expected things were likely to get worse before they got better.
Robertson said he wasn't sure how US would react when civil society from the rest of the world, including Malaysia, seek help on human rights issues.
Citing activist Lena Hendry's prosecution, he said the then-US ambassador was persuaded to talk to the Sri Lanka high commissioner in Malaysia, to urge the government to drop the prosecution against her.
"We are not going to have that any more," he said.
Denison feared that Trump's rhetoric would have an impact on the minorities if the ethno-religious nationalist take centre stage, as had happened in India and Myanmar.
While noting the narrowing space for the civil society who uphold equal rights, he remained optimistic with the future of US and the rest of the world.
"I think the US society will rise (against Trump) because the institutions and media are strong, they are holding him accountable and it will help the US to rediscover its soul," he said.
He urged Malaysians to show solidarity with Americans who were impacted by Trump's policies.
He wanted the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) which was advocated by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for some years, to be implemented by the government.
Muslim countries urged to examine 'discriminatory policies'
Pillay, who is also a former judge of the International Criminal Court, expressed her disappointment with the absence of Suhakam chairperson Razali Ismail at the forum.
"I am surprised and a little disappointed that the chair of Suhakam did not attend the discussion. The national human rights institution is the watchdog and guardian in ensuring the government implements its undertaking internationally," she said. 
Pillay pointed out that the US courts had placed a stay on Trump's travel ban against seven Muslim countries on the grounds the discrimination on religious ground was unconstitutional and violated international laws.

"Now, it's time that Muslim-majority countries need to also take a deep look on whether their policies on religious grounds are something that Trump vouches for.
"When you exclude and discriminate minorities of other religious and ethnic groups in favour of one sect of a particular religion, then you are doing exactly what Trump is doing now," she said.
This is the appropriate moment for this to be examined by countries that discriminate on religious grounds, she said.
Read more:

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Global Human Rights in the Era of President Trump

Penang Institute in KL is proud to invite Navi Pillay (Former United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights, 2008-2014) as our speaker for a forum entitled "Global Human Rights in the Era of President Trump". You are cordially invited to attend this lecture as scheduled below:-
Date     : 3 March 2017 (Friday)
Time    : 8.00pm - 10.30 (Registration start at 7.30pm)
Venue  : Bookmark, APW, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur


2017 will likely be a very grim year for human rights advocates around the globe, with looming challenges including the continued backlash against the flow of refugees from the Middle East, the continued anti- globalisation and anti-free trade backlash and the uncertainty generated by the policies of the Trump administration.

While it may seem like too big of a ‘fish’ to swallow in Malaysia, society should be encouraged to have open discussions on the different challenges confronted by human rights on a national, regional and global perspective. Doing so will not only help create an educated, well-informed and contextualized discourse but also enable the formation of strategies in response to these global challenges.

Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur will be organizing a forum entitled “Global Human Rights in the era of President Trump” as a platform to debate these issues.

The forum will be held on Friday, 3rd of March, 2017 at Bookmark, APW, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur from 8p.m. to 10.30 p.m.

The panel will feature distinguished speakers including Ms Navi Pillay, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Secretary General of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (PROHAM), Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia and Andrew Khoo from Bar Council, with Dr Ong Kian Ming, General Manager of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur, moderating the discussion.

It is inevitable that any discussion of global human rights so early in 2017 will be somewhat speculative. Nevertheless, certain actions taken by the U.S. government have already raised disturbance, to say the least. This forum is but a small step towards a larger discussion that is ongoing in Malaysia and around the world.

FREE ADMISSION! Due to limited seats, registration is encouraged. Kindly register your interest at this link.
Steven Sim
Penang Institute
Penang Institute is a non-profit Penang-based think tank and research institute set up in 1997, with a focus on facilitating dynamic and sustainable development for Penang.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Murder in Custody?

By Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, President 
National Human Rights Society [HAKAM]
Balamurugan, aged 44, from Kapar, died in police custody at the North Klang police headquarters.  He was arrested on the 6th of February and brought before a Magistrate for his remand hearing on the 7th. It was reported that his mouth was bleeding and he vomited blood in court. The Magistrate quite correctly rejected the remand and ordered that he be released immediately and taken to the hospital. Both Balamurugan’s family and his lawyer Gerard Lazarus filed police reports after seeing bruises on his body.
In apparent defiance of the court order, the police took him back to the police station. Reports state that at about 11.30pm on the 7th, police noticed that he was unconscious while in a room and called for an ambulance. Paramedics pronounced him dead when they arrived. Police then classified the case as sudden death. In his affidavit, the brother of the deceased stated that the family received a phone call only at 6 am the next day from the police, asking them to go to the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah where they were informed that Balamurugan had died.
The first post mortem reportedly found that Balamurugan died of a heart attack. The family of the deceased then applied to the High Court for, and the Judge ordered, a second post mortem. The second post mortem concluded on the 18th of February that the cause of death was “coronary artery disease with multiple blunt force injuries.” (emphasis mine). I confirm sighting a copy of  the document entitled “Perakuan Pegawai Perubatan Mengenai Sebab-Sebab Kematian (Post Mortem) that contain these findings.
The police response
On the 11th of February, it was reported that the North Klang police chief ACP Mohd Yusoff Mamat said that more than 10 policemen at the North Klang district police headquarters were under investigation following Balamurugan’s death. However, not a single policeman was suspended pending investigation despite the seriousness of the possible offences committed. Further, the investigations appear to be headed or conducted by the police chief of the very station where the incident had occurred.

After the disclosure of the second post mortem by the deceased’s lawyers, the police chief ACP Mohd Yusoff Mamat was reported to have said that once the results of the second post mortem were reviewed, police would question the pathologists involved.
The problem of deaths in custody
The problem of deaths in custody has been with us for far too long. The 2015 Suaram Human Rights report shows that there have been 250 deaths in police custody in the last decade. That is 250 too many.
In the yet unsolved case of Teoh Beng Hock, the Court of Appeal found that his death was caused by multiple injuries from a fall from the 14th Floor due to or accelerated by the unlawful act or acts of those including the relevant MACC officers.
In his judgment Justice Datuk Mah Weng Kwai said :
“The MACC owed Teoh Beng Hock a strict duty of care to ensure that he was kept safe at all times while under their custody and that he did not come into harm’s way such as from beatings and assault by anyone.  The Court must deal with such cases in a realistic manner and with the sensitivity which they deserve, otherwise the common man may lose faith not only in the police force but in the judiciary itself (see State of Madya Pradesh v Shyamsunder Trivedi & Ors [Appeal (crl) 217 of 1993].”                                                                                                                                                                                         (emphasis mine)
Justice Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan in his judgment said :-
“As the deceased was in the custody of the ‘MACC’ officers followed by the evidence of injury in his neck, and the fact that he was subsequently found dead will prima facie attach culpability to the relevant officers of ‘MACC’……..”                                            
                                                                                                            (emphasis mine)
There is therefore a strict duty of care upon any enforcement agency to ensure the safety of the person in their custody. Once an arrest is made and a person is in custody and injuries are found where death follows, there is prima facie evidence of the culpability of the relevant officers concerned.
In the case of Balamurugan, given the visual evidence, the vomiting of blood by the deceased, and the pathologists’ report in the second post mortem, I would argue that there is indeed a prima facie case to pursue a prosecution against the officers concerned. This is the legal basis for immediate action to be taken against the perpetrators of what is clearly a heinous crime. But there is a moral dimension that we must not lose sight of. Balamurugan was a powerless man at the mercy of those who have sworn to protect us.  And he is not the only victim.  His family must now struggle with his death in the hope that they will get closure when the culprits are brought to book.  Sadly there are many, including Teoh Beng Hock’s family, who have not had closure yet.
The pathologists concerned must also be allowed to carry out their tasks without fear or favour. At the time of the death in custody of Kugan, the then president of the Malaysian Medical Association, Datuk Khoo Kah Lin decried deaths in custody, and reminded doctors to always be objective when conducting examinations and not be influenced by any authority. 
No Accountability
The concern of the family is that no one will be held accountable for the death of Balamurugan.  We must (as stated by Justice Mah Weng Kwai), ensure that the common man does not lose faith in the criminal justice system.  Recent events however may not inspire such confidence.
In the Teoh Beng Hock case, no one has to date been held accountable although it was reported that Bukit Aman was reopening investigations. When questioned in Parliament, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said in a written reply that the Attorney General’s Chambers found no criminal element involved. This is despite the strong findings in the Court of Appeal judgment!
On 28th April 2016, The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission
[EAIC] made damning findings in respect of the death of N. Dharmendran in police custody and found that physical force had caused the injuries and the death of the deceased. Nevertheless, the four police officers charged were acquitted by the High Court. Similar findings were made by the EAIC on 30 October 2015 in the case of Syed Mohd Azlan Bin Syed Nur who died in police custody on the 3rd November 2014. Prosecution of three police personnel is on going.
In the N.Dharmendran case, the EAIC had also recommended that all cases involving death in custody should be investigated by an independent and experienced investigating officer who is not from the state police contingent where the death occurred; but this is not happening in the Balamurugan case.
To date, it does not appear as if any of EAIC’s recommendations or findings  have been implemented or acted upon. Even the suggestion by the Home Minister in 2014 to install CCTV’s in lock-ups, has not been implemented.
There is clearly a lack of urgency and seriousness in holding any police officer to account in cases of deaths in custody. It effectively amounts to a condoning of murders and it is this that undermines the faith of the public in the criminal justice system.
It is time for real solutions to this intolerable situation.  I wish to offer the following :-
In the case of Balamurugan
1.            That there be an immediate suspension of all the officers implicated pending full investigations.
2.            That the case be investigated as a matter of urgency by an independent, experienced investigating officer who is holding office in a different state from where the death occurred and that charges be preferred against the perpetrators as soon as possible.
3.            That the Attorney General’s Chambers take immediate steps to ascertain if and why the order of the learned Magistrate to send Balamurugan to hospital was not complied with and take appropriate action in respect of those who defied the court order.
4.            That the Ministry of Health, and the MMA, step in to ensure protection of the pathologists concerned and to ensure that they are not intimidated and are free to act independently and without fear or favour.

General recommendations
1.            That the recommendations of the EAIC in the Dharmendran case be implemented immediately.
2.            That CCTVs be installed in all police lock ups with immediate effect.
3.            That there is urgent disclosure of steps taken by the police to bring to justice all those found culpable by the Courts (for example Teoh Beng Hock case) and the EAIC (for example the case of Dharmendran).
4.            That the recommendations of the Police Commission for the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct (IPCMC) be implemented with immediate effect.
If the authorities concerned are not yet convinced of the dire need for the IPCMC, then what will it take? A few policemen who break the law must not be allowed to tarnish the name of all the other professional policemen who work hard to keep us safe. How many more must die in custody before we take the necessary steps to address this problem? We are talking of possible murder and yet we treat every case as just another statistic of death in custody. All lives matter. Until we establish this as our primary truth, we are far from being a civilized society.
Foot Note : As I was writing this article, I have read the very recent reports of the case of Chandran Muniandy who was hospitalized in the ICU with visible injuries after 1 month in prison; and the case of the three teenagers who were allegedly beaten up while being hung upside down in the Klang police headquarters.  There was also the case of Soh Kai Chook who was found unconscious and then pronounced dead while in the Bera district headquarters in Kuantan in January 2017 (And we have not even come to the end of February!).  These cases underscore the urgent need for the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission [IPCMC].