Will Project 1805 be stillborn?

Posted on August 7, 2010

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I first made mention of this intended civil society initiative HERE.

Some of you may recall that, on 28th July, last year, 12 days after Guna died in police custody, I had, in a post entitled ‘Why is Gunasegaran dead? Do you care?’ appealed for funds to defray the costs of a second post mortem that we had hoped might shed some light on why and how Guna died.

In all, RM10,500 was collected.

Well in excess of the RM3,000 which it was anticipated would be the costs of the second post mortem which, as it turned out, we finally did not have to pay for.

I got the sanction from most, if not all who contributed, to give the sum of RM2,000 to the family of Guna towards the funeral expenses, and that I apply the balance sum in the matter of the death in custody cases as I thought best.

I had hoped that through Project 1805, we might begin to redeem ourselves for our past apathy in allowing so many deaths in custody to have occurred without calling the authorities to account for the same.

Let me illustrate with Guna’s case, death in custody No. 1805.

Visva is due to submit in the inquest proceedings on 10th August, 2010.

Visva was in attendance throughout the inquest.

Visva prosecuted the application that culminated in the court order for the second post mortem and the holding of the inquest.

And Visva was on hand to make sure that the second post mortem was carried out.

Another individual, who has requested anonymity, has constantly attended to make sure that the eye-witnesses to Guna’s assault whilst in custody would not be intimidated or coerced into changing their story.

We do not yet know what the verdict of the coroner is going to be.

What we do know today is that some truth emerged in the course of the inquest proceedings as to the circumstances leading up to Guna’s death.

Yet, it must be asked why Visva and the other individual have been left to shoulder this responsibility all on their own?

When the legal team was first put together to look into getting at the truth as to the cause or causes of Guna’s death, there were at least 7 lawyers, as I recall who had agreed to help on the team.

I understand that in the course of the inquest proceedings, one other lawyer would, from time to time, appear to assist Visva in court.

What became of the others?

Project 1805 envisages members of civil society coming forward to work as team to begin the process of trying to get to the bottom of these deaths in custody.

1804, Teoh Beng Hock, is being looked into presently.

Gnana Pragasam, 1803?

The post mortem report suggests that there may have been an element of negligence on the part of the police in failing to get him immediate medical attention.

A suit in negligence?

As for Kugan, case No. 1802, criminal proceedings against one police officer are ongoing.

A civil claim against the authorities on behalf of the family?

There is much that we can do if we are all prepared to chip in with our time and with our respective expertise.

Doctors to look at post mortem reports and advise.

Lawyers to consider whether an application for an inquest is warranted, or whether there is any basis for a claim in negligence.

And many more volunteers to do all that might be needed to do to get at records maintained by the authorities, if any, relating to deaths in custody.

So why have I not launched Project 1805?

I fear that it will go the way of Guna’s case.

That the work will fall on the shoulders of just a few.

So tell me, should I just forget about the other deaths in custody?

Posted in: Bangsa Malaysia