Thursday, December 29, 2011
PASSING OF THE HANGMAN
RETIRED prisons superintendent Rajendran Kuppusamy who hanged Aussies Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers for drug trafficking in one of the most sensationalised cases in Malaysian history and supervised the flogging of more than 1,000 prisoners during his career has died at age 78.
The near six-footer who was respected and feared by both friends and foes drew his last breath at the Taiping Hospital, Perak where he was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer last month..
According to immediate family members, Rajendran was diagnosed with advance stage cancer several months ago.
He was admitted to the Selayang Medical Centre in Selangor after being diagnose and was referred back to the Taiping Hospital for follow-up treatment.
His health deteriorated the last few months and Nov 15 he breathed his last at his home in Bukit Mas, Taiping. He was cremated.
He leaves behind wife, two daughters, a son and grandchildren..
Besides minor complaints he never really had any major medical complaints, said a close relative, S. Gopalakrishan, a leading law lecturer.
The nation’s sole hangman to be listed in the world hangman’s list on Wikelpedia, Rajendran who also executed the notorious criminal Botak Chin, joined the prisons department in the 60s after a short stint with the Singapore Harbour Police.
A stickler for details and procedures, Rajendran rose through rank and file to become the one of the most respected prison officers.
Even today, after more than two decades following his retirement, his name off and on comes up in discussions among prison circles.
Not only prisoners feared him but subordinates who shirked their duties were given no quarter by Rajendran who himself was a shining example of a true civil servant, who put duty above self in discharging his responsibilities.
That included ensuring prisons were run properly and prisoners accorded humane treatment.
Though prisoners feared him but they respected him for his fair and straight talking attitude.
Just prior to his retirement some prisoners got together and presented him a portrait of himself in uniform which they quietly did during their extramural activities.
Rajendran was an expert in putting down crisis and this skill was from time to time put to the test throughout his career and he emerged, always unscathed..
Among the noteworthy ones were the rioting by detainees at the Pulau Jerejak Rehabilitation Centre in 1981 and the hostage taking of a doctor and a hospital assistant at the Pudu Prison in 1986.
According to Gopalakrishnan who frequently joined Rajendran for beers at the latter’s bungalow behind the former Pudu Prison said he often related interesting and horrifying prison stories.
“But his favourite was the Barlow and Chambers’ and behind the scene events involving the condemned’s family members and influential Aussies trying to free them.
According to Gopalakrishnan who is related to Rajendren through marriage the later was fond of his son as he grew up him.
“The only picture he keeps in his wallet is not even his wife’s or children’s but my son’s. He was my son’s godfather and he wanted a small fellow around the house as his children then were all grown up.
“One day when I returned to fetch him after work I found him clowning around with my baby running around the stroller in his sarung doing the lion dance,” recalled Gopal.
But he had another kind of humour for peers and professionals – acid!
Prison officials recalled a famous exchange between Rahendran and the then leading criminal lawyer during his time, the late Karam Singh when the later came to visit his clients in prison,
“Here comes the man with a gun in his pocket,” he used to throw at Karam, referring to his bulging pocket where he keeps his “good morning” towel instead of a handkerchief.
His other skills known to only family members were his passion for woodcarving.
According to Gopal, his house is filled with wood figurines of animals. “After his retirement he spent hours on his woodcarving and he has a collection enough to do a solo exhibition.”
Though his reputation precedes him, even today for what he stood for –fair play, duty above self and humane treatment for his care, when he died there was only family members around his deathbed,