Family members of 22 inmates detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) claimed that their next of kin are being brutally assaulted in the Jelebu Prison in Negeri Sembilan
The family members came together in a press conference yesterday, 2 May, to reveal how their loved ones are being pepper sprayed on their genitals, as well as being whipped with PVC pipes, canes, chairs, and sticks — among other objects — by prison officers, reported Malay Mail.
All 22 detainees are Malaysian-Indians who were arrested under SOSMA — a draconian law that allows detention without trial — in 2019 for allegedly being involved organised crimes. They are aged between 20 and 45.
Family members of the detainees said the reason they gathered on Sunday is due to the recent passing of milk trader A Ganapathy, whose death in police custody last month went on to grab attention nationwide.
They said they are afraid that their children and spouses will end up like Ganapathy.
"We don't know what offences these 22 detainees committed. If they are guilty, they should be sentenced. But don't torture them like this," said non-governmental organisation (NGO) leader Malaruvanan Devadass
Malaruvanan, who is the president of Pertubuhan Ilaya Thalaimurai Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor, said they do not want another case like Ganapathy's, reported Free Malaysia Today.
According to a police report by a victim's wife, R Lavaniyaa, the 22 detainees were originally from the Sungai Udang Prison in Melaka. She said they were sent to the Jelebu Prison for quarantine on 8 April following a court proceeding in Seremban.
Malaysiakini reported NGO Sebaran Kasih deputy president pastor Prince Jon as saying that only half of the detainees were transferred back to the Sungai Udang Prison, while the fate of the rest who are still in the Jelebu Prison is unknown.
Family members of 10 detainees have lodged police reports over the alleged abuse in the prison, while the remaining 12 have not done so because they have yet to meet their incarcerated relatives.
Meanwhile, a family member of one of the detainees, Elisha Teh, said that the prison authorities have lodged a counter-police report with a different narrative.
Teh added that the detainees are appealing their detention, but the next hearing will not take place until August.
Family members claimed that the abuse in the Jelebu Prison is so dreadful that some of the detainees are contemplating suicide
They claimed that their loved ones are traumatised by the abuse and fearful of their lives.
Lavaniyaa's incarcerated husband told her that, "If I stay inside, I will die in prison. I will either kill myself or be beaten to death."
According to Malay Mail, Teh alleged that when the detainees were ordered to sit, they were sprayed with pepper spray on their faces without any justification.
Teh said when they asked why they were sprayed, one of the officers beat them using a PVC pipe, adding that the handcuffed detainees tried to avoid the beatings, but could not escape from the terror which lasted for over an hour.
She said more officers joined in to assault the detainees using canes, chairs, and belts, after throwing 'powder' on them.
She also claimed that the detainees were ordered to enter a room to undress in order to expose their buttocks so that the officers could pepper spray them on their genitals.
"There are markings on his body. They sprayed [chili] on his penis. He said he cannot urinate and defaecate. When he takes his shower, his body burns," said a detainee's mother, V Muniammah.
Muniammah said she does not know why her son is being detained, adding that he did not have any prior police record.
Prince Jon said they are not against the government, but the abuse of power and the brutality of those in power
"Indians are in the minority in Malaysia and they are being abused and mistreated in prison. But even though we are in the minority, we are still Malaysian citizens," he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.
"We have our rights and we deserve to be treated the same as others. We don't want another death in custody to happen to anyone. We know about Ganapathy and we want to do something before it's too late."
Commenting on the matter in a statement, DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang also called on Malaysians to demand an inquiry into the case, while highlighting the need to implement the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
The Iskandar Puteri member of Parliament noted that none of the 22 detainees received treatment from the hospital after the alleged abuse other than one person who is hospitalised due to tuberculosis.
"It is shocking and completely unacceptable that prisoners are treated worse than animals, completely denied their human rights," Lim said.
Brutality in detention centres is not uncommon in Malaysia, especially involving Malaysian-Indians. Read more about past cases: