Friday, October 24, 2014

MADPET urges investigations into Malaysian prisons that leads to positive reforms

MADPET (MALAYSIANS AGAINST DEATH PENALTY AND TORTURE) also calls upon the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM)and for the Malaysian government to set up a Commission or maybe even a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into the conditions of Malaysian prisons, and the treatment of prisoners.

Uthaya recounts horrors of a Malaysian prison


INTERVIEW P Uthayakumar showed what is an end of a much worn toothbrush on his index finger and demonstrated how to brush his teeth. It was brown, soiled, and the bristles were almost gone.

“This is shared by almost five of the prisoners in a cell - usually there are more. When I asked the wardens, they said it is because there is no budget for toothbrushes,” said Uthayakumar, who is bent on telling all about his imprisonment in Kajang prison.

Uthayakumar was sentenced to prison for sedition, but little was he prepared for what was to come.

He had served time under the now defunct Internal Security Act and thought it might be similar.  

Now, after surviving his term in Kajang prison, he said it is something he would not even wish upon his worst enemy.

While in prison itself, Uthayakumar had written many complaints of his prison conditions in smuggled letters through his wife and lawyers.

The Hindraf leader was sentenced to 30 months’ jail by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on June 5, 2013, after accusing Putrajaya of genocide against ethnic Indians.

The Court of Appeal on Sept 17 upheld Uthayakumar’s sentence but commuted the punishment from 30 months to 24 months. He was released last Oct 3.

Uthayakumar, a lawyer famed for having galvanised the Hindraf movement which brought tens of thousands of Indian Malaysians to a rally in 2007 demanding for their rights, said it was all he could do to keep his sanity while in prison. 

He said the one thing that he did not leave behind when he entered prison was his activism - the only difference being that he spoke up for all races in prison, not only for Indian Malaysians, as he was wont to do outside.

“In prison, all are treated equally - equally badly. There’s really 1Malaysia in prison. There is equality for all.

“In prison, it doesn’t matter, you get equal treatment and you get the same food,” said the activist in an interview with Malaysiakini.

He admitted that this is contrary to deaths in police custody as well as deaths by police shooting, in which he had all the while claimed victims were mostly Indian Malaysians.

He explained that even during roll calls, which was several times a day and called ‘muster’, everybody got punished equally.

“There are no special privileges for anybody. And the natural reaction is that we are all in it together.”

‘Doctor checks from six feet away’

Uthayakumar said much is needed to better the conditions of the Kajang prison for men, especially when it came to medical care.  

“What I feared most while in prison was that I would fall ill.”

His eyes glistened with tears when he spoke about the predicament of a fellow inmate.

‘The inmate had hepatitis C but the prison wardens said there was nothing wrong with him. One night, I saw him sitting on his bed, with a helpless look on his face.

“The next morning, he died, and I saw a prison officer erasing his name from the white board.

“I told the prisoner next to me, with that erasing, all the records of him having died in prison, are gone,’ he said.

Uthayakumar said for every ailment, the medication is the ‘KK’ pills - plain paracetamol.  

“And the doctor checks you from six feet away, without touching you,” said Uthayakumar, who said he was usually appointed the spokesperson by his fellow inmates to speak to the wardens.  

He said he had to be very careful and be at his utmost politeness while choosing the least strict of the wardens to ask for sickly fellow inmates to be given medical care.  

He said his fellow inmates, before he left, lamented that in his absence, no one would speak up for them now.

Uthayakumar, however, said that he survived being sardine-packed in cells by keeping a journal, which at times was checked upon. They even took away his pencils and then he was moved on from one block to another.  

Despite the ordeal, he said other prisoners had it worse.  

He claimed that prisoners were persecuted on a daily basis and no one could answer the wardens, who struck fear with their violence and shouts.

He said inmates were treated like “mere slaves”; being beaten up, shouted at and ill-treated.

Despite that, the inmates stuck together for fear of the wardens.

He related how he witnessed inmates of different races helping each other - a Malay helping out a Chinese, or even of a Malay inmate cleaning up a paralysed Indian inmate every time the latter answered the call of nature, to the extent of using his fingers to ease the bowels of the latter.

Part 2: In prison, one dipper for all, says Uthaya

The interview was jointly conducted by Zakiah Koya, Alyaa Azhar, Ahmad Fadli KC and Prasadh Michael

Source: Malaysiakini, 22/10/2014, Uthaya recounts horrors of a Malaysian prison

In prison, one dipper for all, says Uthaya

INTERVIEW During his imprisonment, P Uthayakumar’s wife S Indra Devi had repeatedly raised the issue of her husband being in unhygienic conditions.

Uthayakumar, who was sentenced to an initial 30 months under the Sedition Act in 2013, said that he had highlighted it because it was not his case alone - it happened to everyone. 

Relating his experience with the ‘multipurpose dipper’ in Kajang prison, Uthayakumar said prisoners use the same dipper to wash their wounds and soak their underwear in.

The dipper refers to the “gayong” used to fill water to wash oneself with after using the toilet.  

“When there is a shortage of food trays, wardens dump food into the dipper, from which inmates will eat from with their bare hands, even those with scabs on their hands.
Uthayakumar said once, he even saw a prisoner vomit in the dipper.
As for the food, Uthayakumar said the menu is tasteless. He calls his prison term diet as complete detoxification of the human body.
“It is the first time I heard of sup air (water soup). If there is oil traces on any of the food, it is considered to be such a treat. There is almost no oil, which explains why most inmates have very dry skin,” said Uthayakumar.
He said one can either accept the food or go hungry for the rest of the day.
'In the dark room, Malaysiakini saved me'
Due to his often “smuggled” and written complaints, he was placed in the ‘dark room’ thrice.
“I will tell you how to smuggle only when you are inside,” said Uthayakumar when asked how he did it. 

Once, they put him in solitary confinement for repeatedly missing the roll call. 
“I had to sleep on the cement floor, with the longest experience for 14 days. I was in solitary confinement with no pillow, no blanket and no toiletries. There is a small window which opens up to the corridor and when they off the light, it is pitch black. The door is of hard steel.
“Despite being a hardened activist, I felt helpless that I could not even save myself.
“I kept myself busy by having a routine in the dark room. I would walk in circles, at times a thousand circles. Then I would go to the small tap and wash myself. Then the food comes. Then I walk circles again in the cell. Once it went on for five days.”
However, on the sixth day, an officer pulled him outside the cell and told him that they had read his complaints which were published in Malaysiakini
“At that moment I was thinking, if not for Malaysiakini it was during my worst times in prison, I was hitting rock-bottom…that in a way, Malaysiakini was my saviour.”
Uthayakumar has initiated contempt proceedings against those who were allegedly responsible for his conditions of imprisonment.

Yesterday: Uthaya recounts horrors of a Malaysian prison

The interview was jointly conducted by Zakiah Koya, Alyaa Azhar, Ahmad Fadli KC and Prasadh Michael

'Suhakam, probe Uthaya's prison horror stories'

"Proham recognises that the Suhakam Act empowers the Human Rights Commission not only to visit detention centres but also undertake public inquiries.

"We therefore urge Suhakam to undertake a comprehensive review so as to ensure the treatment of prisoners and prison conditions are in accordance with basic United Nations standards," Proham chairperson Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said in a statement today.

Kuthubul also called on the home minister and the director-general of prisons to engage with Suhakam for a review of current standard operating procedures (SOP) on treatment of prisoners and conditions in Malaysian prisons

Kuthubul reminded that with its recent acceptance as a UN Security Council member, Malaysia should adhere to the basic principles for the treatment of prisoners as adopted by the UN general assembly.

In a series of interviews with Malaysiakini this week, the Hindraf leader related his ordeal during his two years in Kajang Prison, after being convicted for sedition.

Prisoners have rights too

Meanwhile, Kuthubul urged for implementation of the basic principles for the treatment of prisoners which were adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution 45/111 in 1990.

The resolution states that all prisoners must be treated with respect as human beings and should not be discriminated on any grounds.

“Except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality,” Kuthubul said.

He also pointed out that there should be efforts to address the abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment.

“(Also), prisoners shall have access to health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.

“Favourable conditions shall be created for the reintegration of the ex-prisoner into society under the best possible conditions,” he added. - Malaysiakini, 24/10/2014,
'Suhakam, probe Uthaya's prison horror stories'

In letter from prison, Uthaya tells of 'Nazi-style' bullying the notorious Block K (AB), which is run by a group of young Malay gangsters with eight to 12 previous convictions... they shout and are rude at the smallest things, ill treat, bully, torture... punishing and 'disciplining' prisoners for even talking among themselves while forced to sit on the ground, head down and hands clutched to the knees for hours under the hot sun, like the Nazi-era war criminals and watched silently by the prison wardens.

The words above are penned by Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar from the very block where it all allegedly happened in the Kajang Prison, and released to the media yesterday, the 100th day of his incarceration there.

NONEThough Uthayakumar did not reveal if he had personally experienced such 'disciplining', it will nonetheless be humiliating for any person to undergo such treatment in prison.

Worse still, Uthayakumar claimed, the 'disciplining' appeared to be endorsed by the  wardens, who did nothing to stop the gangster inmates.

"The prison wardens' job is made easy by this 'outsourcing'. In return, these gangsters, called JL, camouflaged for 'Jurulatih' (trainer), get to reign supreme in prison.

"(They) 'extort' from prisoners some of the groceries their poor loved ones buy for (them) once a month from the prison canteen, right under the eyes of prison wardens," Uthayakumar wrote.

For turning a blind eye, the Hindraf leader alleged, the prison wardens were rewarded with "perks", such as free massage from the prisoners.

‘Humiliating life'

In his three-page letter filled with lengthy and sometimes fragmented sentences, the 52-year-old inmate details more humiliations suffered by the other prisoners.

"I was horrified when prisoners were made to strip naked, bend down, open up, and show their anus for the warden to see if they have hidden drugs in there... and then sit up and down repeatedly, and cough at the same time to see if any drugs fall off their anus," he said.

But humiliation was not the only concern, as death too, appeared much closer within the four walls.

"I almost witnessed my first death in custody, of a Chinese elderly man, brought in unconscious with a mere piece of paper with his name and body number written on it and stuck to his mouth.

"Only after eight hours and only after my insistence was he taken to the Kajang General Hospital. I never saw him again after that. I was told he had passed away," Uthayakumar said in the letter.

Uthayakumar, who is diabetic, also recounted the troubles with his prolapsed disc condition and a suspected fracture at his index finger, after slipping and falling in the bathroom because of the clogged drains.

"When I complained to the ASP on duty that what would happen if I had hit my head and something had happened to me, his reply was that if something happened there would be "no more problems after that" (as I would have died)," he wrote.

Signing off, Uthayakumar said he welcomed a mooted visit by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who had been  himself a former inmate after being jailed for sedition.

In light of the humiliating and precarious life of the inmates, Uthayakumar also called on the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), Bar Council and the opposition's human rights caucus to visit the prison. - Malaysiakini, 13/9/2013,In letter from prison, Uthaya tells of 'Nazi-style' bullying 

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