IPOH: Officers at the Lumut naval base bullied cadet officer J. Soosaimanicckam, picking on him and even beating him, a Coroner’s Court here heard.
Former cadet and Soosaimanicckam’s batchmate, Christian Bernard Unto, 29, broke down when testifying about the young cadet’s death.
“I was the one who helped him shower on the day before his death. His nose was bleeding profusely; he was foaming at the mouth, urinating and having diarrhoea.
“I panicked, asked for help from other cadets, took him to the room, and helped him put on his clothes. While I was doing all that, I already knew he had died because he was not responsive.
“A higher-ranking officer also told cadets: ‘Don’t tell the whole truth; only say what needs to be said’. Since I was close to Soosaimanicckam, I was subtly threatened as well,” he claimed.
Christian said he first met the deceased during the ice-breaking session of their training at the KD Sultan Idris 1 (KDSI 1) camp in Lumut in 2018.
He said Soosaimanicckam was a positive, confident and high-spirited person, whose death did not seem to matter to the officers.
Christian, a Sabahan, who is now a sales manager, left the training a few weeks after Soosaimanicckam’s death when he suffered rhabdomyolysis (a serious muscle injury).
“Due to his body size, which was on the heavier side, Soosaimanicckam was slower than the rest of us during training. He was isolated most times and given extra punishment in the first week of training compared to other cadets.
“The officers picked on him often, punched him in his abdomen, pulled his T-shirt until it tore, and did not allow him time to recover, although he was gasping for breath.
“He asked to see a doctor but was denied, although another cadet and I told officers in charge of his worsening condition,” he told Sessions Court judge Ainul Shahrin Mohamad, who sat as coroner.
Five former cadets who testified had either been discharged from duty or withdrew from training, all due to health reasons.
The Coroner’s Court is probing the cause of Soosaimanicckam’s death during his training at the naval base on May 19, 2018, a week after reporting for duty on May 12.
Soosaimanicckam was pronounced dead at the Lumut Armed Forces Hospital.
Mahajoth Singh and Zaid Abd Malek of Lawyers for Liberty are representing Soosaimanicckam’s family, while Evangelin Simon Silvaraj is acting for the Malaysian government.
Lawyer Cheang Lek Choy is holding a watching brief for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
Christian also said other cadets who were punished got a recovery period, but Soosaimanicckam was always targeted by the officers, who laughed while punishing him.
He claimed the officers also once ordered Soosaimanicckam to do push-ups until he ‘’mampus” (died).
Evangelin told Christian that the version of the story given by other cadet officers who had testified earlier was totally different and asked if that was because they were still in service.
Christian replied: “They are possibly scared because it can be easy to get into the navy, but it is very difficult to get out.”
Christian also claimed that someone had called him with an offer that he declined before he went to Suhakam.
Another batchmate, Sammy Danielle anak Sitibun, 28, from Sarawak, also broke down in tears while testifying.
He said that a day before Soosaimanicckam’s death, he had rubbed ointment on his back, which had been bruised.
Sammy, who now works in a bookstore, said Soosaimanicckam told him that he was beaten. The next day, he saw an officer punching him.
“He was almost in tears, but he held them back, and while going to get his body mass index checked, he was having difficulty breathing. Yet, officers were laughing at him,” he said.
Another witness, Anas Hakimi Mat, 29, a lawyer, said that before Soosaimanicckam’s death, one officer sat on top of the deceased during training and kept beating him for at least 10 minutes before another officer came to his rescue.
“Soosaimanicckam was marked constantly; his every single move was monitored, and he would be punished for the slightest mistake.
“I did bring up the matter (of the beatings) to the higher-ups, but I told them I wished to remain anonymous. I did not want to get the extra punishment,” he added.
Another batchmate, Abdul Muiz Ramli, 29, an engineer, said his request for an exit slip to see a doctor was granted, but it was rejected for Soosaimanicckam.
“When a few of us made the request, the officer, upon seeing Soosaimanicckam, said: ‘kau lagi’ (you again).”
The inquest continues on Jan 18.