The case of an 11-year-old boy who died Wednesday after his legs were amputated following an alleged beating by an official at a religious school is being investigated as a homicide, Malaysia’s police chief said.
Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi died at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday (local time). Doctors at the Hospital Sultan Ismail had considered amputating his right arm on Wednesday but his condition had deteriorated, according to reports.
They had amputated his legs on Friday in a futile attempt to save him.
The case has angered and shocked Malaysians from all walks, with politicians and other leaders calling on authorities to investigate it and punish the alleged perpetrator.
“The case has been reclassified under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder,” Malaysian Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said on his twitter account Wednesday. “Police are waiting for the full medical report and will complete the investigation as soon as possible.”
Thaqif was allegedly beaten with a water hose by an assistant warden at the “Tahfiz” Islamic school, who was arrested on Saturday.
Images showing the boy’s bruised and legs have circulated on social media. The avid football player was admitted to the hospital in Johor on April 19 and underwent amputation surgery on Friday.
The suspect, a 29-year-old convicted thief, allegedly used the hose to whip the boy and several other students as punishment at the religious school in Johor’s Kota Tinggi district. He had served 30 months for theft and was working at the private school for about a year, according to police.
On Wednesday, a district court extended the suspect’s remand through Saturday, after a four-day remand following his arrest over the weekend expired. Police are investigating the incident under Section 31 of the Child Protection Act.
Mohamad Thaqif’s body was returned to his family’s village late night Wednesday after undergoing a post-mortem exam at the hospital. Family members had not decided if they would bury him late Wednesday or Thursday, reports said.
In Malaysia, private religious schools are not regulated by the Education Ministry, which has strict guidelines for bodily punishment of students.
Hafiz Abdul, a citizen, said the government must improve monitoring of privately run Islamic schools.
“These tahfiz schools need good governance. Now it has become a place where parents place their kids in the hands of dubious staff or teachers who were not properly monitored,” Hafiz Abdul told BenarNews.
Nation expresses condolences
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Razak and opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), both expressed shock over the boy’s death.
“I am sad to receive news of Mohd Thaqif Amin’s death at the Hospital Sultan Ismail, Johor Baru. Condolences to the family,” Najib said on his Facebook page Wednesday.
“I want the investigations to be accelerated so that we know the cause of his death and for legal actions to be taken if there was an offense.”
Wan Azizah, wife of jailed de-facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, also offered condolences to Thaqif’s family.
“Please be strong and persevere. God willing, there is already a place for him in heaven,” she said.
Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar posted a photo of the boy on his official social media pages.
“May his soul be blessed and be placed among the righteous and pious,” the official Facebook and Instagram post read.
Others took to social media as well.
“I’m a parent and this is heart breaking. No parents should ever bury their child,” Michelle Teh wrote on Facebook. “He suffered so much and his passing is a way of God showing that he need not suffer anymore but be at peace. RIP.”
Some expressed anger over the beating.
“Everyone feels the painful loss of such an innocent bright-looking boy being robbed of life for no fault of his own. Real sad. RIP boy,” Chow Ship Kuan wrote on Facebook.