Convention demands that Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar should immediately resign for the actions of those under his direct authority, said senior lawyer Gopal RajKumar.
Gopal, who is currently based in Australia, was responding to the case of 22-year-old car theft suspect Kugan Ananthan who died in police custody last week.
“It’s becoming more and more apparent that there exists within the Malaysian society, a culture of abject and unmitigated fear and ignorance of what is esoterically termed the law,” he said in an email to Malaysiakini.
“The many varied responses, excuses and attempts at justifying Kugan’s death, while in police custody, are a manifestation of the breakdown of law and order at the very highest level of the state.
“The injuries resulted in his death. Even if it did not, it points to something more sinister than merely attempting to elicit information under interrogation,” he added.
According to Gopal, the minister’s culpability in the ‘sordid affair’ is implied by his and the police department’s own ‘misconduct’ and where it cannot be immediately proven, he must accept inference as punishment based on ‘his own standards and that of his charges’.
The police, he said, had applied their own collective ideas of what constitutes guilt and punishment outside of the Federal Constitution and legislative directions.
“Further, he (Syed Hamid) should quit because of the enormity of the crime perpetrated against Kugan, the ultimate sanction against a life without lawful authority. Kugan is not merely an individual but each and everyone of us who identifies with being human,” he added.
Not an isolated case
Gopal also pointed out that the youth’s death, which has been classified as murder, was not an isolated case.
The lawyer cited estimates from undisclosed sources to show that the authority of the home minister has been tainted with the deaths of more than 1,000 people in custody over a period of time ‘with no plausible excuse or reason available’.
He asked if ministers are “competent, capable or civilised enough to hold office when they demonstrably lack any quality for human values, respect or dignity by their deafening silence in the face of murder.”
“There has to be also a changing of the guard from the incumbent prime minister – who suffers from the arrogance of ignorance in the highest office, to one who is more pragmatic and deft in dealing with such issues with less equanimity.
“What could otherwise have been an administrative wrong-doing has, by default, now taken on racial, international and illegal dimensions of such a magnitude for which all Malaysians will eventually pay heavily for failing to act on time,” he added.
Gopal expressed hope that Malaysians would stand together for the preservation of a principle and the maintenance of their laws.
“If even one precedent is allowed to depart from the Federal Constitution and the laws, then no one is safe,” he said.