Remembering Ulaganathan in the midst of custodial deaths

Press Statement: 29 May 2013

Remembering Ulaganathan in the midst of custodial deaths

The name Ulaganathan does not ring a bell anymore. His name might have been a household name in 2003 like other custodial death victims like Dharmendran and Kugan.

Ulaganathan s/o Muniandy was a 19 years old young man when he died while under police custody. With no previous criminal records, he was detained on 12 May 2003 as a murder suspect in Balakong, Selangor. At the time of his arrest, he was helping his mother, Mdm Tamil Selwee at a food stall.

On the 13 May 2003, Tamil Selwee tried to visit Ulaganathan at the Kajang Police Station, but she was denied from doing so. She was subsequently allowed to meet her son on the 16 May 2003. She saw Ulaganathan’s swollen eyes. Her second visit was on 23 May 2003, where she noticed that this time, Ulaganathan was walking with a limp because the sole of his foot was swollen. The swell on his eyes were still visible.

The mother’s third visit was on the 30 May 2003. No improvements to his eyes and leg. She noticed Ulaganathan had lost tremendous amount of weight and he complained to her that his body was aching and he could not sleep well at night. His foot and eyes were still visibly swollen. Mdm Tamil Selwee’s last visit was on the 11 July 2003. Ulaganathan’s condition had worsened to the state where he was unable to sit down and have his meal.

Finally, on 20 July 2003, Ulaganathan was rushed to Kajang Hospital after he had difficulties in breathing and vomiting. He was sent back to lockup after released by the hospital. The next day, 21July 2003, at or about 3:00AM, Mdm Tamil Selwee received the news that her only son in the family had left them for good. A police officer who spoke to her informed that Ulaganathan had died of asthma. To further make thing worst, the cause of death was classified as “Undetermined” in the death certificate.

SUARAM reiterates that Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that a Magistrate shall in the case of a death in the custody of the police; hold an inquiry into the cause of death. In the case of Ulaganathan, an inquest was only held in 2007, 4 years after his death. Furthermore the inquest came about after continuous effort to seek justice for Ulaganathan by the family and lawyers. In August 2011, the findings of the inquest returned an “Open Verdict”. The Magistrate was unable to determine the cause of death of Ulaganathan.

SUARAM with the help of Malaysian Bar Council filed a civil suit against the police in July 2006. Two years later, the judge granted the following;-

a. A declaration that the death of Ulaganathan, deceased on 21 July 2003 in the custody of the PDRM was caused by the unlawful acts of the PDRM; and
b. A declaration that the death of Ulaganathan was caused by the breach of statutory duties of the PDRM.

Currently, the hearing of assessment of damages is taking place. Lawyer, Roger Chan Weng Keng has been assisting the family on getting a reasonable sum to support the family financially. Today, 29 May 2013, the case management of Tamil Selwee’s suit is still ongoing. The DPP requested proof of Ulaganathan’s income way back before he died. It was produced today by Tamil Selwee’s lawyer.

The cries on death in custody seem to be falling on deaf ears. The value of a suspect’s life is not important to the police. The horrible death of Dharmendran on the 21 May 2013 in IPK KL proves our police force has zero humanity.

Released by,
Thevarajan R
SUARAM Coordinator

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