"Jail's no home for the truth." - Carandiru

COMMENT Three years is not a long time. Here in Malaysia, it's just a year short of how long a regime can legitimately hold on to power before it needs to hold an election to get the endorsement of the voting public to remain in power.

Three years for ‘causing hurt' to A Kugan is what an officer of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) received.

The truth will never be known in this case or in the hundreds or perhaps even thousands of others who have suddenly died in police custody, immigrant detention camps, police shootouts and jails over the years. We will never know the anguish of families of those killed or who have died in custody due to negligence.

We may share their sense of outrage but our outrage is diluted with our disdain for the systemic corruption that permeates every level of government.

Our outrage in some cases is also dependent on the guilt of the parties involved. We are indifferent to the fates of convicted inmates and the unsanitary (and most often criminally negligent) conditions they are housed in when it is the responsibility of the state to administer their welfare.

bangladesh foreign workers migrants 030108Our parasitic relationship with ‘foreigners', legal or otherwise, does not leave much room for empathy when it comes to their welfare while in custody for whatever reasons.

And before anyone accuses me of conflating various issues of our penal and enforcement systems, let me remind you that to this system, everyone who died is guilty or at least that is the presumption.

And like many Malaysians of a certain class (and perhaps because of my previous professions) my interactions with the PDRM has been positive for the most part - so-called illegal rallies excluded - but personal anecdote has no place in the face of the historical and current corruption of the system.

The Kugan case like most flashpoints when it comes to the PDRM or any of the enforcement branches of the state reveals simmering race and class tensions that are so often glossed over in this country.

This case in particular is perhaps the most cogent example of the state's disdain for the rights of its citizens.

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