Haris Ibrahim, lawyer and leader of Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia party, claimed 1,805 lives perished in our remand cells, prisons and detention centres between 2003 and 16th July, last year. It was written as a statement of fact. He did not attribute it to anyone. Read what he wrote in his blog here and what he told The Malay Mail here.
All wild accusations, says HishammuddinKUALA LUMPUR: Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had lambasted certain quarters for exaggerating statistics related to custodial deaths in the country and for creating a perception many detainees had died in the hands of authorities.
“People have been quoting all kinds of figures (of custodial deaths). But, they're not true,” said Hishammuddin in Parliament last week.
A memorial service organised by non-governmental organisation, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia was held last Friday as a tribute to those who had died in custody. According to the movement’s blog site, 1,805 people died in detention from 2003 until 2009.
The figure was disputed by Hishammuddin but he did not say what the exact figure was. “I’m not so sure. But, from what I was told the other day, the figures being bandied about were for custodial deaths over a period of 10 years. So, it isn’t much.
“I was also informed by Chee Leong (Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong) the majority of the cases of deaths in custody were due to diseases such as AIDS.
“They are free to raise the issue all they want, but at the end of the day, the truth will prevail.”
Hishammuddin Hussein, Home Minister, is "not sure" of the exact figure but rubbished Haris Ibrahim and SABM's numbers.
If both Hs had checked with the police before speaking to the Malay Mail this morning, they would have discovered that there were 147 deaths in custody from May 2000 to date:
2000 - 7 deaths
2001 - 16
2002 - 15
2003 - 23
2004 - 21
2005 - 14
2006 - 15
2007 - 15
2008 - 12
2009 - 6
2010 - 3
Causees of death:
Heart attacks 9
Other illnesses 64
Fights with other detainees 3
Brain hemorrhage 3
Beaten up by police 1
In my column in The Malay Mail today, I wrote that the SABM's figure is questionable. Even Haris is not so sure of it now as he asked The MM:
“Let’s say the figures are wrong and it is only 15. Should we still not be concerned over 15 custodial deaths?”I happened to agree with him. But, really, we can't just throw any figure we like. One of the reasons why Haris does not trust the mainstream media and has called for a boycott (see his poster below) is because some of us can't count, he'd complain - The Start would report a turnout of 1000 people at an anti-government protest when it was actually 10,000 people, for example.
In the same spirit, Haris needs to get his numbers right.
In my article Doing A Number with Numbers, I wrote
On the other hand, according to official statistics provided by ouir Home Ministry, 147 people have died in police custoiry in the last 10 years since May 2000. For 2010, the number of deaths in police custory so far is three. The highest in a year is 23 (2003). It's not a sterling record but certainly nowhere near the claim by SABM of 1,805 deaths in half that period. Which makes one wonder: what kind of number are the people behind SABM trying to do, and on whom? Where did they get their statistics, anyway?I also drew a comparion with the US' global "war on terror", where "nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of US officials .... between August 2002 and 2006. At least a third of them were victims of homicide and torture. Others succumbed to accidents, illnesses and harsh conditions of the detention centres.
A couple of bloggers have beaten me to it, actually.
1. Shamsul Yunos
Prominent human rights lawyer, Haris Ibrahim caught dealing inimaginary numbers
2. Zakhir Mohamad
What is the color of the sky in Haris Ibrahim's world?