SHAH ALAM — January 18, 2019: It has been a month since he died but for the moment the only other certainty beyond the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd. Kassim after a Hindu temple riot is the inquest due to begin on February 11.
Lawyers spoken to but under the condition of anonymity argued that the inquest was redundant, given how Adib’s final post-mortem report is expected later this month. In fact, the inquest may end up as being useless unless the pathologists can pinpoint the cause of death.
“I think the government has jumped the gun on this one…. they should have waited until the post-mortem report is out,” pointed out one lawyer.
Another contended that the inquest seems to suggest that the police, despite arresting 106 suspects connected to the riot at and outside the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple near Putra Heights in late November, have failed to find substantial evidence that could take suspects to court.
“How else can you explain that they have yet to charge anyone despite the many suspects interrogated?” he asked.
The other contentious point is this: Recently, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said that the IP (investigation papers) had been submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers but today deputy public prosecutor Hamdan Hamzah said otherwise.
“It’s not an IP. It is just an SDR (sudden death report) which we used to fix the inquest date today,” explained Hamdan after proceedings at the Coroner’s Court here.
Adib died on December 17 in hospital due to injuries sustained during the rioting outside the temple.
Hamdan declined to comment if any charging of anyone connected to the case hinges upon the findings of the inquest, which the court set to be carried out within three months. There will be 30 witnesses, six of whom are doctors and forensic experts who treated Adib.
Why a sudden death report from the police?
The lawyers also questioned the SDR, arguing that the term sudden death essentially denotes a death that is not caused by foul play. In medical terminology, a sudden death is an abrupt unexpected death of pathological or idiopathic cause, in which death occurs within one to 12 hours of the onset of symptoms.
It cannot be determined immediately how many inquests Malaysia have but two of the three most notable inquests resulted in an open verdict, which basically means a coroner finds insufficient evidence to specify the cause of death.
There was also the high profile inquest in 1983 on the plane crash involving the late minister Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie. The coroner gave a verdict of accidental death for the two men who were with the former foreign minister in the crash in Bentong the previous year. The inquest did however blame Ghazali for his negligence in piloting the aircraft during poor visibility.
It is also interesting to note that the government did not initiate any trial following the conclusions of the three inquests and that in the case of Teoh and Gunasegaran, their families instead attempted to overturn the verdicts which the High Court upheld.
So despite calls and hopes for a quick closure on Adib’s case, it looks like Adib’s family and concerned Malaysians will have to wait a little longer for something more definite but this too may not be the conclusion they are hoping for.