Why there should be a coroner's inquiry

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By Elias Tan 

 

The swiftness with which the government has dealt with those allegedly involved in the Little India riot pales in comparison with the fate of the bus driver who is believed to have caused the death of the worker that triggered the night of  violence.

All that we know is that the 55-year-old man will be charged with causing death by a negligent act.

Why is it taking taking the authorities such a long time to bring him to court?

Will there be a coroner’s inquiry to determine how the 33-year-old construction worker, Sakthivel Kumarvelu, died?

Will the government do a Dinesh by bypassing the inquiry route?

Dinesh Raman was the prisoner who died in prison after he was subdued by officers because he had attacked one officer. The state coroner called off the inquiry after one of the officers involved pleaded guilty in court and after “the facts had been ascertained in the criminal proceedings”.

There are compelling reasons to hold an inquiry. How Kumarvelu died is a matter of much speculation. A Yahoo!  report said the worker was drunk and causing trouble when he boarded the bus which knocked him down.

Another report, in India’s Sun TV Network, claimed that the worker was pushed out of the private bus by the driver.

The police had a different spin. They said that Kumarvelu chased after the bus in an unsteady manner. He stumbled, tripped and fell onto the tracks of the rear tyre of the bus and was run over.

The Singapore Government, on its official webpage, said that it is not true that the man died as a result of being pushed out from the private bus and the Singapore High Commissioner to India has written to India’s Sun TV Network to request for an immediate correction of the report.

Evidence

With such contradictory reports floating around, it is only prudent that an inquiry be held on the circumstances of  Kumarvelu’s death. The family needs a closure, too.

Says lawyer and former Nominated Member of Parliament Mr Siew Kum Hong: “In the case of an unnatural death, yes, there’ll be a coroner’s inquiry; however, there could also be a possibility that the inquiry would be called off like in the Dinesh Raman case.

“For now, there hasn’t been an official statement as to when/if the coroner’s inquiry will be held.”

The Attorney General Chambers’ website is clear on what happens when there is an unnatural death. It says there should be an inquiry to establish the cause and circumstances that are connected with the death.

There are enough reasons to suggest that this was an unnatural death. Even if a case can be made that it was not, for the sake of clarity and closure, an inquiry is in order.