By Lim Jialiang / Photos by Chong Kai Xiong
“Really, I can’t take it.” These words echoed with the quiet dignity and strength of a mother who had lost her son suddenly, and without warning.
On behalf of the family, members of civil society organised a memorial for Dinesh Raman, the twenty-one year old who died in the custody of the Singapore Prison Service in September 2010.
In July, one of the eight prison officers alleged to have systematically assaulted Dinesh was convicted of negligence leading to Dinesh's death. The State Coroner aborted the Coroner's inquiry following the conviction.
The circumstances of Dinesh's death are still shrouded in confusion. The family disputes the cause “positional asphyxiation” and has applied to the High Court for the Coroner's inquiry to be reopened.
The memorial, attended by about fifty people, opened with a minute of silence followed by a few emotional words managed by Dinesh's mother and a memorial address by veteran civil society activist and founding member of AWARE, Constance Singam. Dinesh’s mother said simply, “I want to know what was done to my son in prison.”
Constance Singam, a veteran of thirty years' activism, noted the “senselessness and unfairness” that had surrounded the case. She called for citizens and activists to recognize the solidarity that exists between this case and its implications for the people of Singapore. “No society can call itself civilised, if even one of its citizens suffers an injustice."
A lack of transparency has become the key feature of the entire case. The account of Dinesh's death in the mainstream media (as well as numerous government press statements) has given largely contradictory messages leaving the family – and indeed the nation – in serious doubt as to the circumstances of Dinesh's death.
Those attending the Memorial Service joined the family in their call for a full and frank inquiry. Nina Mercury, who spoke to organisers, wanted to know what happened between the time Dinesh was subdued and when he died. “I am appalled, and I want to know the truth.”
Dinesh's 28-year old sister added, “What we want is not compensation; what we want is the truth. I want the guys who did this to my brother to be punished because they stole his life. A life that we loved.”