KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — University Hospital (UH) has prohibited Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand from performing the second autopsy on C. Sugumaran despite the Health Ministry’s written approval yesterday, his family lawyers said today.
N. Surendran and Latheefa Koya told reporters yesterday that they had obtained approval for the Thai forensic pathologist’s post-mortem on the security guard, who allegedly died from a police beating, after meeting ministry officials.
“We refer to the statement by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, published in the media today, that the ministry has not approved or disapproved of the second autopsy upon C. Sugumaran, and that approval must come from the police,” said Surendran in a press statement today.
“Consistent with Liow’s position, the family has received a letter today, 7/2/13, from University Hospital, refusing the request for the second autopsy unless there is written instruction from the police. This is shocking and disappointing, and blatant sabotage of attempts to get the second autopsy done,” added the PKR lawyer.
Surendran stressed that the police have refused to give written instructions to the hospital for a second autopsy as the police have said that they had no objections to the procedure.
He also pointed out that there was no legal requirement for the police to instruct a second autopsy.
“It is entirely within the powers of the health minister to issue the order to any government hospital to carry out the second autopsy. Why is Minister Liow Tiong Lai still refusing to do so?” said Surendran.
“As such, there is now no certainty that Dr Pornthip will be allowed to carry out the second autopsy on Sugumar, despite the Health Ministry’s undertaking that they will facilitate the autopsy. This prevents us from making the necessary arrangements for Dr Pornthip to come to Malaysia and carry out the second autopsy,” added the PKR vice-president.
Dr Pornthip is the same forensic pathologist who observed Teoh Beng Hock’s second post-mortem and testified at a royal inquiry that foul play was likely involved in the DAP aide’s mysterious death at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s Selangor headquarters in Shah Alam in 2009.
Dr Pornthip, who is the director of Thailand’s Central Institute of Forensic Science, is well known in Thailand for clashing with the authorities, especially for alleging police killings during then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s anti-drug campaign in 2003.
Surendran said last Monday that Dr Pornthip had agreed to perform a second post-mortem on Sugumaran.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has ordered a forensic report on Sugumaran after the latter’s death was raised at a Cabinet meeting last week.
Liow was directed to oversee the forensic report after MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, who is also a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, had raised the security guard’s death during the Cabinet meeting.
Several witnesses, who saw Sugumaran collapse on a street near his home in Batu 12, Hulu Langat on January 23, have accused the policemen who arrested him of beating up the man, together with the help of a mob, after he was handcuffed.
The police have denied the allegations, pointing out that the initial post-mortem by Serdang Hospital showed that Sugumaran had died of a heart attack.
Sugumaran’s death joins a list of other alleged police killings like the custodial deaths of Chang Chin Te earlier this year as well as A. Kugan and R. Gunasegaran in 2009; the deadly police shooting of 14-year-old schoolboy Aminulrasyid Amzah in 2010; and various other fatal police shootings in the past two years.
A United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 2010 visit to Malaysian prisons and detention centres reported in 2011 that between 2003 and 2007, “over 1,500 people died while being held by authorities.”
The Bar Council, civil society groups and several politicians from both sides of the divide have called for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to reform the police force since 2006.
Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan also called yesterday for an independent body to oversee police conduct, although he preferred an alternative to the IPCMC.