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News Reports

Just how did Dinesh die? Part 1


I wrote about Dinesh three times in (Thought I’d share here too)


You don’t get to hear much about what goes on inside our prison walls, unless there’s a death. And so it is with the death of inmate Dinesh Raman, 21, from “positional asphyxiation’’.

Now we know that there were 61 cases of assault in prison last year, 21 of which involved attacks on officers.

The G agencies bent over backwards to assure people that everything was done according to the book. After the court told a prison deputy superintendent to pay a $10,000 fine for what had happened, there were statements from Home Affairs ministry and the Singapore Prison Service.

Seems the whole machinery was geared up to respond quickly to any concern that Lim Kwo Jin had got off too lightly for not adequately supervising the process by which Dinesh was restrained in September 2010 and which led to his death.

The media too stressed that Dinesh had to be subdued after he made an unprovoked attack on a prison officer and seemed to be in a frenzy. The Prisons statement helpfully told of how a person will be restrained – a team of four or five officers deploying wrist and arm locks with someone supervising. No batons. No handcuffs either, according to ST, although Zaobao said it was “understood’’ that handcuffs were used.

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In Dinesh’s case, he struggled so hard that tired officers trying to subdue him had to be replaced. In total, eight officers, including Lim, were involved. Pepper spray was also used. ST headlined this as “Fierce struggle lasted about 30 minutes’’.

The Prisons statement said the techniques introduced in 1991 and adapted from the United Kingdom have been used “hundreds of times and there had been no death or injury of any significance caused’’.

Combing through the media reports on the case, what happened was this: He was put in an isolation cell, chest/belly down and his face turned to one side.

From there, however, the reports do not quite tally.

According to TODAY: “Lim taps Dinesh Raman’s face and his eyes are still open. Lim then turns on a tap in the cell to fill a pail with water to de-contaminate the prisoner, who had had pepper spray applied to his face during the restraint operation. Officers leave Dinesh Raman, unresponsive and in a prone position, in the cell.’’

According to ST: “In the cell, officers placed Dinesh in a prone position and washed away the pepper spray that one of them had used to help subdue the inmate. They then left, closing the cell’s steel door behind them.’’

Everything gets more muddled when compared with what Zaobao reported. While the English-language papers said Lim returned to check on the inmate after a “minute or two’’, “minutes’’ or “shortly after” Dinesh was put in the cell, Zaobao said he took 30 minutes.

It also reported Lim’s lawyer as saying that the officer was unable to pay attention to Dinesh’s condition because “according to protocol, he went to get water to clean Dinesh’’. Makes you wonder if all the reporters were in the same courtroom!

Muddled reporting aside, the picture emerges that Dinesh was already unresponsive (does this mean unconscious?) with eyes opened (!) even after he had pepper spray washed away from his face/eyes. How come? Was he knocked out so hard somehow that he didn’t even roll over when he found he couldn’t breathe?

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Or did he already “positionally asphyxiate’’ when the officers were struggling to restrain him by, for example, pushing him to the ground and weighing on him?

A committee of inquiry was convened and a report sent up to the Home Affairs ministry. Doubtless, the committee and the court have got to the root of the matter. What’s needed is a clear report on how exactly Dinesh died, leaving no room for pesky questions like the ones above.

This matters a lot more than exhortations that everything was done by the book by dedicated officers performing their jobs in a dangerous place.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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