PETALING JAYA, June 3 — Horrified and appalling are apt reactions from anti-crime crusaders over the death of cadet Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, 21.
Shocking how the Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia undergraduate was assaulted, tortured and taken out of the campus right under the nose of campus security authorities.
They opined Zulfarhan’s death was a failure of the officers on duty to ensure the welfare of the victim and highlighted the need to review safety procedures.
Malaysians Against Rape, Assault and Snatch Theft founder Dave Avran said it was strange that Zulfarhan could have been severely tortured without going unnoticed.
“I find it bizarre that the student had been severely bullied over a period of time without being noticed by those in charge,” he said.
“Even worse, the assailants had taken Zulfarhan out of the campus and were only detected much later, after the victim had succumbed to his injuries.”
Avran said the number of suspects involved was also shocking and questioned why the students had felt they could take the law into their own hands.
“If the victim had indeed stolen a laptop as alleged, it could have been dealt with according to the law.
“Beating and torturing the victim to the point of death suggests a confidence in the perpetrators who seem to have used the theft as an excuse and got carried away,” he said.
Avran also said the police had done right to investigate the incident as a murder as there seemed to be elements it was planned to a degree.
“It does not sound like an accident but let investigators determine what happened. The whole incident does not inspire confidence in student safety and management,” he said.
Zulfarhan was pronounced dead at Serdang Hospital on Thursday after succumbing to injuries which included burns to 80 per cent of his body.
Over 30 students from the university were picked up by police on suspicion of beating and using a steam iron to torture Zulfarhan over the alleged theft of a laptop.
Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the incident should serve as a warning to other institutes of higher learning.
“Violence against students must not be tolerated in any form and the attitude of ‘this is common’ or ‘this happens’ must be changed,” he said.
“Whether bullying, ragging or whatever it is called the ministry of higher education must review its handling of such activities to prevent a repeat of what has happened.”
Lee said the tragedy had shown that bullying was not an issue only affecting younger students and that young adults were equally at risk.
“Bullying does not just happen at primary and secondary schools. Even in colleges ragging and other harmful practices are present,” he said.
“It has been a long time since we have seen a case involving an older student and it is worrying to see such extreme violence resurfacing.”
Lee said the university needed to find out how this had occurred without the college authorities finding out, considering the severity of the victim’s injuries.
“Whoever was in charge of the student’s welfare has failed in the discharge of his duties.
“Further, this happened at a military college, a place where you would expect the highest standards in discipline and safety,” added Lee.