PUTRAJAYA — June 12, 2019: The cause of deaths of the victims kept at the temporary transit camps in Wang Kelian near the Perlis border with Thailand could have been determined if only post-mortems had been conducted much earlier.
Penang Hospital forensic senior consultant Datuk Dr. Zahari Noor said the delays in conducting DNA tests led to difficulty in determining the exact cause of death, as by then deterioration of the remains had set in.
He further did not rule the possibility that the handling of the bodies, including bone fragments, during excavation, led to the loss of more evidence.
“I am of the view that if the post-mortems were done in January, that is just after the graves were discovered, we would have obtained a clearer cause of death.
“The rotting of the bodies happened very fast, and in this case, if we had found more soft tissues from the bodies, we could have established more possibilities as to the cause of deaths,” said Zahari at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the discovery of temporary transit camps and graves in Wang Kelian.
According to Zahari, the grave excavation and body removal process done by the police forensics team should have included a forensics expert from a government hospital. He mentioned that someone like Dr. Mohamad Azaini Ibrahim from the Serdang Hospital, who specialises in grave excavations and the handling of bone fragments, should have been included in a large scale excavation such as the one in Wang Kelian.
“Before excavation starts, it is better to call in a forensic expert as all it takes is just one fly to cloud the process of determining age of the victims.
Zahari conducted the post-mortem on eight of the bodies which took place about four months after the graves were discovered. He and team members could only determine the victims’ gender and when they had died, and not the cause, as the tests only involved bone fragments.
Alor Setar Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital forensic senior consultant Dr. Mohd. Suhani Mohd. Noor confirmed that 104 of the 114 bodies examined were of Indian descent after factoring in the Caucasoid characteristics as revealed in the DNA results.
RCI deputy chairman Tan Sri Norian Mai, however, disagreed with the use of the term Indian ethnicity as it can raise perception that Indians formed the largest group of victims.
To this, Suhani said he was only using the term provided by the Chemistry Department but personally agreed that the term South Asians, which also includes Rohingyas, is more accurate.
The RCI continues tomorrow. — Bernama