KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Opposition MPs and activists are demanding that an investigation be held into the police shooting of five Indian crime suspects this week after the sister of one of the dead men tried to commit suicide.
The fatal shooting of the five members of the PCO Boy gang in Klang on Sunday triggered an outcry by Indian politicians including former Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders.
Police killings were among the reasons for Hindraf’s massive street protest in 2007, and helped swing Indian sentiment tremendously against the Barisan Nasional (BN) in last year’s general election.
It remains a volatile issue. Six days ago, police shot dead the five they said were responsible for at least 10 armed robberies around Klang Valley since last year.
Selangor Criminal Investigations Department chief Hasnan Hassan was quoted as saying that the men, aged between 24 and 30, had been known to injure their victims. Police also seized a semi-automatic Remington .45 pistol, five swords and a machete.
MIC vice-president S. Subramaniam yesterday urged police to review their procedures when dealing with suspects. “The incident of shooting suspects is damaging the image of the police force,” he told reporters.
But the opposition is going one step further — it wants an investigation. Opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP Gobind Singh Deo wants the government to make it mandatory for an inquest to be held in all cases of deaths caused by the police.
“I can see no reason for the police to be afraid of an open inquiry if they have nothing to hide in these incidents,” he said in a statement yesterday.
DAP MP for Klang Charles Santiago also said the police have come under fire one too many times for abusing their power. He said media reports had stated that at least 39 people were killed by police in shoot-outs last year.
P. Uthayakumar, recently released from detention for leading the Hindraf protest, also demanded action. He cited a 1999 government statistic that 1.3 persons are shot dead by police every week, and claimed that up to 90 per cent of the dead in the last two years were Indians.
The shooting stirred even greater controversy after the sister of one of the dead suspects tried to kill herself and her four children two days ago.
R. Seetha, 33, fed weedkiller to her children, aged between three and nine, and then drank it herself. Her family said she was distraught over the death of her brother Surenthiran, 24. Her husband Manimaran said his wife was extremely close to her brother. All five are still in hospital.
Police have defended the shooting, saying it did not have a “shoot to kill” policy. Federal Criminal Investigation Department director Bakri Zinin said in a statement four days ago that the shooting took place after a high-speed car chase and the suspects fired shots as they tried to force the police off the road.
“When police officers shoot, they do not shoot to kill; they shoot to stop the deadly threat,” he said.
The government has yet to respond. The controversy can be politically sensitive as the police force is a powerful organisation which gives most of its support to the BN.
But Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will also want to hold on to hard-won gains in support from the Indians.
From a low 30 per cent when he took office in April, it has risen to over 65 per cent, according to recent surveys. Last month, a public outcry forced the authorities to charge a police constable with causing grievous hurt to suspected car thief A. Kugan, who died in custody early this year. — Straits Times