#Update* Sugumar's second post-mortem approval letter promised after sit-in

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PUTRAJAYA (Feb 6): The family of C Sugumar today succeeded in obtaining a letter from the Health Ministry to facilitate a second autopsy to be performed on the security guard who died in police custody two weeks ago.

The ministry issued the letter, which would enable the autopsy to be carried out at any government hospital, after family members and their lawyers staged a sit-in at the ministry

Lawyers representing the family said Thai forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand  - who conducted former DAP aide Teoh Beng Hock's second post-mortem and subsequently testified that there could be possible foul play involved in his death - has agreed to conduct the autopsy.

One of the lawyers, N Surendran, said that although the police consented to a second autopsy, they had not issued an approval letter without which hospitals would not conduct the post-mortem.

"There is a lack of pity and compassion from the authorities as the family goes to the hospital only to be pushed to the police and vice-versa," he told reporters outside the ministry

The lawyers then decided to obtain the approval letter from the Health Ministry by invoking Section 16 of the Medical Act, which allows the granting of temporary permission to foreign experts to conduct post-mortems in Malaysia.

According to the provision, only doctors certified with the Malaysian Medical Board can carry out the procedure.

A letter requesting this permission was sent a few days ago to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

However, in its reply, the Health Ministry said that the permission needed to be obtained from the Inspector-General of Police.

A baffled Surendran, who is also PKR vice-president, asked what the IGP had to do with the approval under the Heath Ministry's jurisdiction.

A group of 30 people including lawyer Latheefa Koya, Kapar MP S Manikavasagam and PKR member S Jayathas then staged a 30-minute sit-in protest at the ministry's lobby as they could not meet with the minister or any of the director-generals.

After talking with the ministry's corporate communications personnel, five representatives, including two family members, were allowed to meet ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Dr Azhar Yahya and medical development director Datuk Dr Azmi Shafie.

After waiting another 90 minutes, a letter facilitating the second post-mortem was issued by the ministry.

The first post-mortem, conducted at Serdang Hospital, showed Sugumar died from clogged arteries. But the family, suspecting a cover-up, then called for the second autopsy by a neutral doctor.

Police say Sugumar, who was believed to have experienced mental disturbance and allegedly damaged public property with a steel pole on Jan 23, died after they had calmed him down.

But according to eye-witnesses, Sugumar was chased down by the police, handcuffed, beaten and smeared with turmeric.

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