On the night of 2 July, a 35-year-old man died while under remand at the Sungai Buloh Prison in Selangor. The time of death is not known.
New Straits Times' Kalbana Perimbanayagam reported the man's family as claiming that the prison authorities did not immediately inform them of his death. They say they were only notified at 11pm.
He is said to have collapsed in his prison cell after complaining of chest pains at around 6pm.
Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin of Malay Mail reported that the victim, identified as V. Mugilarasu was awaiting a court hearing, scheduled for 12 August 2020. The machine operator has been under remand for a drug offence since March 2019, according to lawyers representing the man's family.
While a report in Malaysiakini stated that he died inside the prison, the New Straits Time report said that the 35-year-old died while being transported to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, which is about 14 to 28km away.
Following the incident, cops have been accused of hiding or not informing the Selangor state coroner of the death of Mugilarasu
In a statement issued at around 10pm Friday, 3 July, a non-government organisation (NGO) called Eliminating Deaths And Abuse In Custody Together (EDICT) demanded answers from the prison authorities, asking them to explain why they didn't report his death to the coroner.
"We are shocked to learn that as of 8pm today, 3 July, the police had not informed the Selangor state coroner of the death of Mugilarasu," the NGO said, adding that despite the fact that the police had informed Mugilarasu's brother, Karunakaran Pillai, about his death at 11:15pm on 2 July.
The Criminal Procedure Code, under Section 329(5), requires the police to report the death of a person immediately to the coroner, it's common, under Section 330, for coroners to view the body in-situ (on-site), and, under Section 334, a coroner must conduct an inquest into the death of a person who dies in custody.
"EDICT calls upon Selangor police chief, Commissioner Noor Azam Jamaludin, to explain why the coroner has yet to be informed and whether he considers this a non-compliance with the law," the statement read.
The Selangor police chief, however, has rejected the accusation
According to Commissioner Noor Azam, prison officials were following a standard operating procedure (SOP) that has been set by the Ministry of Health (MOH) which requires that any death has to first be sent to the hospital for COVID-19 test before a post-mortem can be carried out.
"Before the post-mortem is carried out, nobody is allowed to visit the deceased, that is the SOP from MOH," he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini in a report published after the NGO's statement.
The Commissioner said that the accusation by EDICT "was categorically untrue".
Meanwhile, the family is now seeking answers.
They have urged the police to conduct a thorough investigation.
According to the lawyers representing the family, Sheelan Arjunan and John Das, they plan to seek an inquest into the death "as soon as possible", reported Malay Mail.
Mugilarasu's brother Karunakaran, who claims to have had a phone conversation with the victim a few hours prior to when he was said to have collapsed, suspects foul play in the death.
The 40-year-old brother said that during their call the victim had not mentioned being unwell.
The New Straits Times report quoted Karunakaran saying that his suspicion grew after he noticed bruises on the victim's face, swellings on the arms, and bloodstains in his mouth.
"My client did not suffer from medical problems or chronic diseases. His brother is convinced that Mugilarasu was fine when they spoke on the phone and had even joked about a thing or two during the call," one of the lawyers, Sheelan, was quoted as saying in the report.
However, according to Sungai Buloh district police chief superintendent Shafa'aton Abu Bakar, the family's stand may have been due to regulations that barred them from viewing Mugilarasu's body.
While speaking to Malay Mail, she explained as precautionary measure amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, family members are not allowed to view the body until a negative test result was returned.
"His family might not have been happy because they were not allowed to see his body, I was told as such that the deceased's brother was unhappy that he was not allowed to see the body," she said.
"There is nothing being concealed, maybe there was a misunderstanding, but I think the hospital has explained the situation to them, but maybe they don't want to accept it," Shafa'aton added.
In a report published in three years ago, it was revealed that 1,654 people have died in Malaysian police custody from 2010 till 2017: