Malaysian Indian youth laid to rest after custody death (Lead)

January 28th, 2009 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

HindrafPuchong (Malaysia), Jan 28 (IANS) Hundreds of Malaysian Indians Wednesday bade an emotional farewell to A. Kugan, a suspected car thief who died in police custody. The custodial death in the capital of Selangor state last week triggered protests by the community and political parties.

“Kugan laid to rest, questions remain,” Star Online said Wednesday.

He was buried in the presence of family members and hundreds of supporters and well-wishers. There was tight security.

Authorities detained five protesters, who sported on their T-shirt the logo of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), a banned outfit claiming to speak for the two million-plus ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamil Hindus.

One is believed to be former Hindraf coordinator R.S. Thanendran.

After the funeral, police chief Musa Hasan said that “a murder suspect”, also sporting Hindraf logo, was detained. He declined to give details.

“It was a day in which emotions were on edge,” the website of The Star newspaper said.

The Field Reserve Unit (FRU) and the Light Strike Force were deployed in anticipation of a large crowd for the procession at the hospital mortuary where Kugan’s body was kept.

√Čthnic Indian lawmakers Gobind Singh Deo, S. Manikavasagam, M. Manogaran, Penang Deputy Chief Minister (II) P. Ramasamy and the family’s lawyer N. Surendran arrived but were denied entry into the mortuary by a security officer.

A heated exchange ensued before they were allowed in together with Kugan’s parents and two other relatives.

Other relatives and friends were then allowed entry into the mortuary, but only in batches of five.

Manikavasagam denied rumours that the funeral procession was going to proceed to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre to hold a demonstration.

“We’re just here to show our support,” he said. “We’re just here to claim the body and allow Kugan’s funeral to proceed,” said Deo, who blamed the police for “blowing things out of the proportion”.

An ethnic Chinese lawmaker, Teresa Kok, also joined the Indian protesters.

Kugan, 22, a suspected car thief, collapsed and died at the Taipan police station in Subang Jaya last week.

An initial post-mortem examination said he died due to fluid in his lungs. But Kugan’s family entered the hospital mortuary that same day and took photographs of his body, which showed severe bruises.

They demanded a second post-mortem examination. That report is not out yet.

The death has triggered protests from Malaysian Indians. Leaders of various political parties, including constituents of the ruling Barisan Nasional, have joined the protests.

It has also led to a war of words between Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar and two deputy ministers who are ethnic Indians.

Kugan’s uncle Ravi Roy, 42, earlier told the media that the family wanted to know the truth behind the death but was not blaming the police for it.

“We are not blaming the entire police force, all we want is for the people who are responsible to be brought to justice,” he said.

While initially saying no foul play was involved, the police have now called it murder for the purpose of investigation — at the urging of the attorney general.

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