Where there is any wrong doing on the part of any government body, there has to be proper accountability to the individuals affected by such misdemeanours. To a larger extent, there has to be answerability to the public whose taxes have funded the relevant body.
In the case of the late Mr Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah, this need for the applicable state bodies to step up and take responsibility is even more pressing. This is not just a case of tenders gone wrong or monies misused. This is a case where a life has been wrongfully and needlessly lost! For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting that corruption and the like are not critical matters. All I am saying is that the loss of a life is infinitely of greater gravity than financial transgressions and the like.
As a result of the online news outlets, this issue has been given the air time that it so rightfully deserves. The public should be made aware of this incident and pressure should be placed on the relevant authorities for a satisfactory resolution of this unfortunate tragedy.
In response to a request to the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) by Madam Selvi, mother of the deceased, to direct the Coroner to reopen the inquiry into her son’s unlawful death, the AGC has turned down the family’s request on the basis that their letter “raised no new matters that require further investigations”.
Based on news reports (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/mother-dead-inmate-seeks-court-order-compel-coroner-060528018.html), I think that this is a grossly inadequate reaction. A life has been lost here and such life has been lost as a result of negligence on the part of a public officer. Does the family not deserve an explanation as to how such negligence came about in the first place? In order for them to find closure and move on, they need to at least know how the death came about. On a larger level, Singaporeans need to be reassured that the government takes the lives of its citizens seriously and that proper procedures are in place and followed stringently at all levels of government service. Where there is a failure in procedure, citizens need to know that through investigations will be undertaken and measures put in place to ensure that such glitches are not repeated.
Even though criminal proceedings have taken place and an individual prosecuted, the family are still none the wiser as to what happened on that fateful day. They may have a face to the crime but they still do not know how the crime occurred. Besides, only one person’s identity has been made public and only one person has been publicly punished. What about the other officers that are involved? Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran alluded to this when he said in Parliament that “MHA has initiated disciplinary action against the superintendent, supervisors and other officers involved in the incident.” (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/family-dead-inmate-asks-agc-direct-coroner-open-050745173.html)
There seems to be more questions than answers at this point. As a Singaporean, I find this state of affairs unsatisfying and frustrating. Given that a life has been lost due to the improper conduct of a public officer, the relevant bodies must make every effort to ensure that the public is adequately informed. As a start, Singaporeans need to know that their lives and their rights are not trivial to the government.
If as a general citizen, I am concerned, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish Dinesh’s family must feel. Not only must they come to terms with the loss of a son. They have to contend with the fact that it was loss at the hands of the state where answers are not readily forthcoming.