Press Statement: 5th March 2013
Death of Krishnanantham – An Asylum Seeker from Sri Lanka
On 1/3/2013, Jesumalar, a Sri Lankan, received a phone call from the Immigration Department that her husband Krishnanantham had died at about 2:00AM on 28/2/2013 at Seremban Hospital. Krishnanantham was earlier detained in Lenggeng Detention Center on 28/9/2012 for not having legal documents.
The deceased was admitted to Seremban hospital on 27/2/2013 and died at about 2:00AM on 28/2/2013. At all times, Jesumalar was not informed of the condition and the status of her husband’s detention. When contacted, Sargeant Shahril of Lenggeng Police Station, the officer in charge of the case informed the family that a post mortem was performed on the deceased on 28/2/2013 and the doctors had suspected that the deceased had died of poison from rat urine and that they would conduct further tests.
On 1/3/2013, lawyer Viswanathan together with Jesumalar and SUARAM went to Seremban Hospital to identify Krishnanantham’s body. However, they were not allowed to do so. The Forensic Department claimed that the police and Magistrate had not viewed the body and that a postmortem had not been performed, a stark contrast to what Sargeant Sharil had told the family earlier. The family was also told that the police and Magistrate had to be present in order for the family to view the body. In contradiction, the questionable post mortem was later performed without the presence of the Magistrate and the police, as confirmed by the Forensic Department.
The deceased, Jesumalar and son, Abishek had previously made an application to be registered as refugees to the UNHCR, however, the applications were rejected. SUARAM urges the UNHCR to reassess Jesumalar and Abishek’ application to an expedited determination of their refugee status. The family had faced imminent threat to their lives in Sri Lanka and were forced seek refuge in Malaysia. Now their sole breadwinner is dead and his body will not be released until a letter of release is obtained from the High Commission of Sri Lanka, the Immigration Department and the police.
SUARAM condemns the negligence of the forensic team. The procedural irregularities were apparent even in the presence family and their lawyer. SUARAM is gravely concerned for those who are not legally represented who had, or will face similar fate.
SUARAM demands the government to immediately conduct an inquest on the death of Krishnanantham. Ultimately, SUARAM urges the government to immediately to ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to protect and uphold the rights of asylum-seekers to life, safety and livelihood.
Coordinator for the Refugees