by Peter Ajak, a reporter with Sudanese Australians Voices (SAV)
The mourning community of Sudanese and friends dressed in black crowded into the church to farewell 21-year-old Erjok Manyiel Nai who died in the presence of members of the Victorian Police on August 8, 2012.
Erjok’s funeral was held on September 1 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, opposite Federation Square. More than a thousand people, many of them from the Sudanese community, as well as Erjok’s friends from other nationalities, including his Australian friends, attended the funeral.
Family and mates are not satisfied with what they were told about the cause of Erjok’s death by the police on the day of his death, when they visited the building in which Erjok died. No one has been arrested over his death. Many community members are convinced Erjok’s death was not suicide and that he did not fall from level 12 to level 3 from a building on La Trobe Street.
The matter is still under investigation by the Coroner and it is not clear when the official report will be released to relatives and the community. Many people think that Erjok’s death needs to be thoroughly investigated, especially any possible involvement by the police.
‘Erjok was a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a friend, and a Christian’, said Reverend Michael Lazarus at the sermon. Members of the Sudanese community and Erjok friends filled up the Cathedral beyond its capacity, crowding the aisles and outside the Church. This was a sign that Erjok was loved by many people.
Erjok’s death left behind his siblings, his tearful mother and father, the community and his friends. At his funeral, there were tears soiling their black blouses and suits. ‘He was single, young, he was not sick, he was not suicidal, in fact he is full of life … he is dead and no one is jailed,’ said one of Erjok’s friends.
Members of the Sudanese community and friends attended Erjok’s funeral thinking there would be answers to how such a young life can end with no accountability. No answers and no-one knowing even when members of the Victorian police were with him, and why.
Erjok will never come back from the dead to tell his family and friends his side of the story, about how he died. Members of the Victorian Police who were present, refused to tell the family what happened. “The building Erjok died in is fitted with surveillance cameras. But we are told that these cameras did not record Erjok’s death’’, said one of Erjok’s relatives.
The Victorian Police will have to be more forthcoming about the circumstances of Erjok’s death and how the police deal with the African communities if the force wants to work with Sudanese people and the African community.