No end to state-sanctioned killings in prisons - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, June 11, 2018
Malaysiakini : "We are unanimous, we are not with you." - Justice Md Raus Shariff
COMMENT | The quote
that begins this piece is courtesy of the Federal Court which rejected
the appeal of P Uthayakumar who sought to compel the federal government
under the Najib regime to establish a royal commission of inquiry into
prison reforms. In an interview with Uthayakumar last year, I opined
that such a move was a 'Hail Mary' but this did not deter him. If you ever wonder why criminals never reform in this country, all you have to do is read my interviewwith
Uthayakumar and understand that the system is predicated on turning
flawed people into damaged ones - “I look around and see so many people
who go back to crime because this atmosphere encourages them to embrace
the life they left behind outside prison instead of channelling their
energies to something useful.”
Kudos to PKR’s Women vice-chief Sivamalar Genapathy and (as usual)
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen for
highlighting the Mariappan Manivannan case,
which is merely a continuation of state-sanctioned murder in prison,
detention camps and sometimes even “drug rehabilitation centres” in
Malaysia. The Mariappan case is harrowing in its banality. Just last year, G
Ganeshwaran died while in custody and as usual his symptoms were as
familiar as Mariappan's as with most deaths in custody.
In Ganeshwaran’s case, his slow death
happened after he was interrogated by the state security apparatus, and
as told by Klang MP Charles Santiago, the victim's mother related to
him that, "During a brief chat, Ganeshwaran told her he was kicked in
the throat... and refrained from eating for two days as he could not
swallow food. She told me Ganeshwaran had blood in his mouth and lost
consciousness while talking to her."
We often talk of how the political elites get away with murder. How
many people care what happens to inmates in prisons? How many people pay
attention to the way the state operates against people who are deemed
by society as criminals or suspected as criminals? Make no mistake. As usual, in this country, race, religion and other
economic and social dynamics play into this whole sordid mess. Sometimes
in my darker moods, I wish those fat cat politicians who allegedly
steal billions of ringgit from our coffers are exposed to the same
treatment as the countless nobodies who are killed, tortured and abused
in our jails.
You want to witness real corruption? Look no further than our prison
system, where with the right connections and money, you could lead a
life which is half way decent or more. You want to understand real abuse
of power? Look at our prison system, where sadistic men and women
exercise power over those they think that society has abandoned. You want to see a petri dish of diseases and how a person can slowly
waste away and all the while uncaring officers do not bother looking
away but sometimes take gleeful pride in this misery, look at our prison
system. Is it any wonder that there is very little reforming, but
rather the hardening of the human soul that eventually makes any
inhumane act permissible, so long as you get away with it? This is what
prisoners learn in prison.
These 'murderers' understand that their crimes will never get the
attention like those crimes the political elite get. They understand
that they can commit the most debased of acts, torture people who
sometimes are not even acknowledged by the state, take out their
frustrations on inmates with impunity, and then they can go home and
pretend to have a normal life. They know this because, unless some nosy civil society groups make
some noise, nobody cares what happens behind the wall of our prisons.
Nobody cares about the drugs, money and the profiteers of human
debasement that is our prison system.
RCI on prison reforms
I interviewed one drug dealer who made more money in prison than he
did when he was on the outside. I know of one prisoner guard who was
obviously suffering from some sort of mental disorder, who delighted in
the punishment he meted out to prisoners all under the guise of
And what kills me is that this is the kind of reforms that could be
easily done. Of course, digging into the situation in our prison system
will reveal how corrupt the system is in a way the 1MDB issue could
never do. We are talking about the intersection between political power,
criminal enterprise and a public who really do not care that criminals
are mass produced in our penal system.
Remember the former Court of Appeal judge, Mohd Noor Abdullah, who
said that conditions in prison should be made worse, “making it infested
with rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes as a form of deterrence.” I bet
that when you think of rapists and child molesters, you would not
disagree with this judge, right?
Nobody really thinks that what the corrupt wardens and their officers
are doing is what contributes to crime in Malaysia. Nobody ever
considers that when we treat prisoners, who are already paying for their
crimes in an inhumane way, we are merely creating more monsters who
roam our green and pleasant land.
Every time a state security personnel gets away with murder, it tells
every other corrupt personnel that what they are doing is acceptable.
Indeed, one cop told me that compared to some others, he is an angel.
What does this tell you about the society we are living in? Some people
do not waste much time and energy on prisoners because they believe
these people deserve what they get.
What does this kind of thinking tell the state security personnel who
are there to reform prisoners, but instead commit crimes? What does it
say about politicians who go on about reforming the system but who turn a
blind eye to this subject because they feel it brings them no political
News flash - most times, the issue that bring no political capital
are the ones which are the most damaging to society. When the state
security personnel think they can get away with murder because those
killed are rejected by society, they will continue destroying the
apparatus from within.
Murder and corruption is endemic in our prison system. Criminal
enterprises and allegiances are made in our prison system, all under the
watchful gaze of corrupt men and women. You may not care about the
people who are killed or tortured, but you better care that our prison
system is creating people who are a danger to society. You better care
that because nobody holds murderers and sadists accountable for their
actions, sooner or later their actions will be visited on the general
The Pakatan Harapan government should convene a royal commission on
prison reforms and soon, because if they do not they are complicit for
further deaths in custody, not to mention a system of corruption that is
far more damaging than the one they are obsessed with now.