In less than an hour of being taken into custody at Gombak district police headquarters (IPD), 42-year-old security guard, Sivabalan Subramaniam was pronounced dead at Selayang Hospital yesterday, making it the second custodial death of the same IPD with Ganapathy’s death being the first.
According to Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Malaysia Tamilar Munnetra Kalagam member Iswaree Subramaniam who was present at the police station said Sivabalan’s family was still processing the fact that he was taken by the police to the station to assist them for an ongoing investigation at 11.45am.
Speaking to FMT, Iswaree said, “The police incident report says he died at 12.25pm.”
“However, the police called Sivabalan’s sister at about 3pm to say her brother was in critical condition at the Selayang hospital,” she added.
Iswaree is now trying to connect the dots as the timing of the incident report and the claim that had said Sivabalan was still in critical condition “a few hours after his death” was questionable and confusing.
Iswaree revealed that police arrested Sivabalan over an extortion case that occurred sometime in 2016.
The police station had sparked controversy less than a month ago for the custodial death of cow milk trader, A Ganapathy, who died on April 18 at the same hospital after a month of being hospitalised.
Ganapathy’s death resulted in netizens voicing out their rage on social platforms with hashtags “#JusticeForGanapathy” and “#BrutalityinMalaysia”.
Sivabalan’s sister, Thanalechumy received a call at 2.58pm yesterday from an officer at Gombak IPD, informing her of Sivabalan’s critical condition. “Please send someone from your family to come see him,” she was told by the officer according to her.
At about 4pm, policeman told Sivabalan’s mother that he died due to breathing difficulties and was instructed to the forensics department.
Thanalechumy also revealed that the family did not get any further details except for the timing of Sivabalan’s death which they were only informed hours after it had allegedly happened.
“Up till now, we still do not know what happened to my brother except that the policeman told me that Sivabalan died at 12.25pm,” she said.
Gombak district police chief Arifai Tarawe said that he will investigate the matter.
The lawyer, K Ganesh who handled Ganapathy’s case was also present at the police station to carry out further investigation.
“Sivabalan’s body is now at Kuala Lumpur hospital mortuary and we will probe further what happened,” he said.
Sivabalan and Ganapathy’s deaths aren’t the first custodial deaths in Malaysia, as the deaths of Kugan Ananthan (2009), Sugumar Chelladury (2013), Karuna Nithi Palani Velu (2013), Dharmendran Narayanasamy (2013) and Balamurugan Suppiah (2017) were under questionable circumstances as well.
The matter has led to netizens and activists pleading with the government to address police brutality and set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
In a statement later, Arifai said they called in Selayang Hospital to attend to Sivabalan who had difficulty breathing.
He also added that the investigation showed that the suspect suffered from heart problems and the case has been classified as sudden death as they await for a full report from the Hospital Kuala Lumpur forensic department.