Karpal Singh: A Political Man of his times


April 23, 2014

Karpal Singh: A Political Man of his Times

Bridget Welsh@http://www.malaysiakini.com

TRIBUTE: Much has been written about the recently deceased Karpal Singh.

His skills as a lawyer, his fight for basic rights and contributions to the law, his commitment to his family and his struggle for ordinary people as a humanitarian are just some of the themes raised in the many eulogies and reflections in the past few days since he and his friend and assistant Michael Cornelius lost their lives.

Karpal had never insulted hudud. He had only said that it was against the Constitution.

Karpal had never insulted hudud. He had only said that it was against the Constitution.

The reactions from ordinary Malaysians have reaffirmed the spirit of dignity and humanity that are an integral part of the national character and stand in stark contrast to the uncouth provocative remarks of a handful of individuals who, blinded by insecurity and hubris, revealed how far they have deviated from common decency.

I knew Karpal Singh as a politician, and the remarks that follow are some of my observations on his important role in Malaysian political life and his political legacy.

A true Malaysian nationalist

Karpal’s entry into politics in 1969 coincided with a tumultuous time in Malaysian politics. He had been socialised in the exciting decade of the 1960s, when student politics was active and universities were centres to discuss and debate ideas – sadly an era now long gone.

He was among a generation of early Malaysian nationalists deeply committed to the country and the very principles that were the bedrock of the nation at independence, particularly the Federal Constitution.

His staunch defence of the legal foundation of Malaysia throughout his lifetime was an extension of his deep love for Malaysia and the ideals (and idealism) of a decade where rights were fought for and protected.

The 1960s was an era where a son of a watchman from any race could become a lawyer with hard work and skill. Karpal Singh emerged in public life to embody the promise of a new nation in a time of high social mobility and opportunities across ethnicity.

The other side

In making the decision to join and stay with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) after the wake of the May 1969 riots, Karpal chose a difficult path. Many leaders of his generation (and some parties at that time, including PAS and Gerakan) opted to join the Barisan Nasional, to work from inside the system to address the challenges of country, particularly ethnic tensions and development.

Karpal opted for the brave road of opposition, the political margins. He once shared with me the reasons for doing so, highlighting the importance of a loyal opposition for effective national governance. As a lawyer, he explained, it was necessary to have the other side, someone to offer a different point of view and to safeguard the system from potential abuses. I recall that he laughed when he stated that he also loved a good battle, even as the underdog.

Karpal Singh embraced his role as an opposition Member of Parliament, and used his knowledge of the law to shape debates. The Hansard of parliamentary debates of the 1970s reveal his rich contributions, where he questioned laws from the Universities and University Colleges Act to the Internal Security Act.

He avidly opposed many of the Bills that curtailed human rights at a time when legislation was introduced to limit political activism and freedom, and although many of these efforts were not successful, some amendments were adopted and importantly, issues of concern were put into the public arena.

His political statements in Parliament were not popular among some, but the contribution to the national debate in building Malaysia cannot be understated. An opposition has an important role to play in any political system, and Karpal was an integral leader in this effort.

Grudgingly, this consistency and commitment won him the respect of many in the system, many of whom he befriended. When the parliamentary debate was over, he often left those battles for the legislature behind and put aside differences to share a joke or banter.

This pattern of shared comradeship across the political aisle was shaped by his practice as a lawyer, where the legal fraternity focused their differences for the courtroom.

This practice of a quiet coffee became more difficult after Karpal’s tragic accident of 2005, but many across the political divide, in his generation in particular, recognised his practice of agreeing to disagree and appreciation of a shared fraternity of leaders working for Malaysia.

This was a time in Malaysian history where statesmanship in leadership was expected, sadly another era also gone.

A Defender of Democracy

It’s Dr Mahathir, not Karpal, who belittled hudud.

It’s Dr Mahathir, not Karpal, who belittled hudud.

Karpal’s role in political life expanded in the 1980s during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure as prime minister, when Karpal took on battles to protect democratic governance. As the former prime minister weakened institutions and corruption became entrenched, Karpal took to the courtroom to challenge these practices.

One of the ironies of Karpal Singh’s role in politics is that he fought so hard to defend and strengthen an independent judiciary and was on the receiving end of its weaknesses and political co-option.

In this decade, his role in the 1988 North-South Expressway case was a landmark for public interest litigation.His challenges to corruption, abuse and the use of the ISA pitted him directly against Mahathir, who centralised political power and emphatically responded against opponents.

Among those Karpal challenged was also Anwar Ibrahim, then in Mahathir’s government, all on the grounds of checking the excesses of increasing executive centralisation.

The price to pay for challenging those in power is high in Malaysia, particularly so in the Mahathir (right) (and Najib Abdul Razak) years. Karpal spent years in prison, separated from his family after his arrest in Operation Lallang and his second passion in life, his work.

This opposition warrior was demonised, as another pattern in Malaysian politics set in – the more you challenge those in power, the tougher the response.

Mahathir’s era was the beginning of a nastiness of Malaysian political life, where mutual respect was not practised and the bounds of decency crossed. Personal attacks became commonplace – even among the opposition – as politics became deeply personalised and polarised.

The highest costs were absorbed by the individuals on the opposition frontline who challenged the system.

This was clearly evident in the 1999 trial of Anwar Ibrahim, where Karpal Singh played a role as part of the legal team. To stand in opposition was portrayed as the enemy of the state when in fact the opposite was true, as the efforts to insure justice was carried out were to protect the country’s integrity and fabric.

The Anwar trials have split Malaysia, as injustices have been carried out for the incumbent’s political survival. The prices that have been paid for taking Malaysia down this road of polarisation are blatantly evident in the loss of faith of the country’s institutions, the heightened use of racism and deep-seated anger that is an acid of pain among many in the country today.

Karpal fought the good fight in the courtroom and legislature, throughout hoping for justice with the knowledge of the difficult odds in the process. He remained committed to protecting the rule of law, even as many in the general public were losing their own faith.

His belief in the law as a means of protection for rights and justice never wavered, even as those in office and position failed in their responsibilities to act as the national guardian.

A secular constitutional champion

From the 1990s onwards two important themes emerged from Karpal Singh’s political activism. The first was a steadfast commitment to a secular Malaysia. This was tied to his deep-seated belief in religious freedom across the faiths.

He believed in the right of all citizens, including Muslims, to choose how they practised their religion and deeply worried about government regulation of these choices. As a member of a minority race, he was acutely aware of the effect of religious regulation, and worried about the constraints placed on the choices of ordinary citizens.

As a lawyer, he witnessed first-hand how the courtroom has become the battleground for religious rights, with the Constitution caught in the war. As I understood his explanation to me, his opposition to hudud was not against any faith but against giving the government authority to control and regulate faith.

A similar argument was made when he offered to defend the Singaporean Muslim girls in 2002, who were denied the right to wear the tudung (head scarf).

Karpal was one of the few in the political landscape who were willing to openly oppose the use of religion for political ends, and, as indicative of the viciousness of some of the responses when he passed on, he paid a price for it.

He was mistakenly portrayed as the main obstacle in Pakatan Rakyat to the implementation of Islamic law, but in reality, he was only one of those who was brave enough to voice his concerns publicly, as the debate over religion has become so politically poisonous and devoid of real, shared religious principles.

He believed in practising faith in his everyday life, and opposed the power of the government to take away the choice of citizens on how to practice their faith.

Another area where Karpal Singh was on the forefront was in calling for a responsible constitutional royalty, a call that led to his most recent conviction for sedition – for effectively stating a legal opinion. His political ally in this area was ironically initially Mahathir, who checked the powers of the royalty.

Since Mahathir’s formal departure from politics in 2003, the powers of the royalty have grown and it has become intertwined in political battles, from Perak to Selangor. While the royalty is the political institution that receives the highest respect among ordinary Malaysians in polling, it is also facing a battering among some in the general public who differ with the political positions and positioning in a highly polarised polity.

The 2014 sedition conviction of Karpal does not strengthen the royalty as an institution, and in the longer term, will open it to greater discord as it undermines the important role the royalty plays in representing the nation as a whole.

A loyal Opposition Voice

Some differ with the political positions Karpal took over the decades. Even among those sympathetic there were those critical of the timing and approach of his engagement. Yet, others were in full support of his steadfastness and defence of Malaysia’s national constitutional roots, and this admiration has been evident in the last few days.

He was the voice for the views that many in Malaysia’s silent majority, across the races, are afraid to state publicly. No one can question the pivotal role he has played in shaping Malaysian politics over the last four-and-a-half decades.

After 2008, it became harder for an opposition lawmaker to be purely an opponent, given the compromises needed for being in government at the state level and the challenges of an ideologically divided opposition coalition.

The current decade of Malaysian politics offers new obstacles in much muddier and murkier waters. The Najib government has not led in the areas of fairness and statesmanship, as shown in the examples of the efforts by the prosecution to put Karpal in jail.

Karpal stayed consistently principle-rooted in the muck that Malaysian politics has become today, and his role in fighting against injustice came to the fore again in his resistance to the political manipulation of institutions and violation of rights that have become part of Najib’s era.

Whether in the courtroom or in Parliament, Karpal’s contributions were a valuable national service that made the country stronger. He embodied the term loyal opposition in the interest of Malaysia.

B. Welsh

DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

 

Honour Sdr. Karpal Singh by realising his aspirations for Justice, Integrity and Freedom


April 20, 2014

Let us therefore mourn Karpal Singh, and at the same time, honour him by celebrating his accomplishments and realising his aspirations for justice, integrity and freedom.–Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang

Let us honour Sdr. Karpal Singh by realising his aspirations for Justice, Integrity and Freedom

http://www.malaysiakini.com

EULOGY by Lim Guan Eng : We mourn the untimely and unexpected passing of DAP national chairperson and Member of Parliament for Bukit Gelugor, Saudara Karpal Singh.Karpal is an eight-term MP, for Bukit Gelugor and Jelutong, as well as a three- term state assemblyman in Penang, first elected in 1978.For 40 years, Karpal dedicated his life to the legal profession, fighting for justice, upholding our constitutional rights to freedom and human rights. His landmark cases are textbook references for lawyers.
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A devoted father and husband to his wife Gurmit Kaur, both of them brought up five children who are all successful practising lawyers, except for the youngest who is an accountant. The eldest, Jagdeep is at present a Penang state executive councillor, while the second eldest Gobind is the Member of Parliament for Puchong.

Karpal Singh was known as a man with principles and this was the very value that he imparted to his children and grandchildren.

Karpal Singh was known as a man with principles and this was the very value that he imparted to his children and grandchildren.

With his life suddenly cut short at 74 years, following the tragic accident on the highway on April 17, Penang has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader and lawyer. The rakyat lost a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak, defenceless and dispossessed.

Karpal’s fighting spirit stands out

But it his fighting spirit that stands out. You can detain Karpal physically, but you can never detain his spirit. I saw this myself, when we were both detained without trial under the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1988, at the Kamunting Detention Camp. He suffered from severe spinal back pains, but refused to yield.

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This refusal to yield was evident even after Karpal suffered an unfortunate accident in 2005, which paralysed him waist-down. Not only did he overcome this paralysis, but he continued his brilliant legal and political career. Karpal became the first disabled person in Malaysia to be elected twice to Parliament, both times with huge majorities.

In seeking both rule of law and a better Malaysia, Karpal practised what he preached – refusing to take fees for cases of gross injustices, even from the famous VIPs like parliamentary Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang, and even from the poor Malay, Indian or Chinese.

His departure will leave an immense void, not only in his family’s lives, but also in those of all Malaysians whose lives have been inspired by his principled cause. To Karpal’s family, we share your grief in this time of bereavement with deepest sympathies and condolences.

Thomas Jefferson said that when the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Throughout his life, Karpal showed us how not to fear the government. Let us therefore mourn Karpal Singh, and at the same time, honour him by celebrating his accomplishments and realising his aspirations for justice, integrity and freedom.

Thank you, Karpal. Rest in Peace.

This is the State Eulogy presented by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during the public funeral conducted by the Penang State Government for Karpal Singh at Dewan Sri Pinang at 10.15am on April 20.


LIM GUAN ENG is Chief Minister of Penang and DAP Secretary-General.

 

Islam and the fate of others


By Rusman

Given the lack of faith placed in the scholarship of any official Islamic religious body in Malaysia people may find it a better use of their time to educate themselves and spend more time on self-reflection rather than pointing fingers at people during a moment of grief and mourning.  It would be the Ghazzalian thing to do.

From the Ph.D. dissertation of Mohammad Hassan Khalil entitled “MUSLIM SCHOLARLY DISCUSSIONS ON SALVATION AND THE FATE OF ‘OTHERS” also published as a book on Amazon here and PDF of dissertation available here.

In sum, by examining the works of certain highly influential medieval and modern Muslim scholars of various theological backgrounds [al-Ghazali, ibn Arabi,  Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah, Rashid Rida], we find that the discourse on salvation and the fate of ‘Others’ involves a limited array of recurring themes, particularly the two themes of Divine mercy (rahmah), which is often associated with God’s unlimited volition, and the significance of Muhammad’s Message, which is often associated with human submission and Divine justice. Even so, the conclusions put forth by these scholars are radically different in certain regards. All are utilizing most of the same texts (the exceptions being a handful of hadiths which usually function to supplement a particular argument), emphasizing the same themes, and yet, because of variations in hermeneutic strategies and motivations, we find that these texts allow for the kind of variation that makes the often monolithic characterizations put forth by numerous scholars a demonstration of apologetic reassessment, polemical over-simplification, or intellectual laziness. Indeed, a recognition of this discourse is necessary for those of us who seek to be conscious of the spectrum of scholarly readings of Islamic scripture. Indeed, we would do well to avoid simply echoing a single side of a particular debate,
even if that side represents the majority.

I will conclude as I began, by asking the question, “What does Islam say about the fate of ‘Others’?” Whatever the answer may be, I hope that the present study demonstrates, at the very least, that we should avoid the very trap many scholars have fallen into, and that is providing one-dimensional responses, whether it be with regard to the issue of salvation on the Day of Judgment, the issue of eternal punishment, or both. Indeed, a deeper appreciation of the rich diversity of possibilities is in order.”

 

 

Penang to give Karpal official send-off


The Penang government will provide veteran lawmaker Karpal Singh an official send off.
The Penang government will provide veteran lawmaker Karpal Singh an official send off.

April 17, 2014

A Tribute to The Tiger of Jelutong:

Legacy of the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’ will endure

by Aimee Gulliver @www.malaysiakini.com

  • Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.

    • Julius Caesar Act II, scene 2, line 33.

Karpal Singh’s story may have come to an abrupt end this morning, but the author of his biography says the legacy of the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’ will endure in Malaysia, where he was a warrior in the fight for equality and justice.

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New Zealand journalist Tim Donoghue first met Karpal in Penang in 1987 and spent nearly 30 years researching the biography he wrote on the fearless lawyer and advocate, titled “Karpal Singh – Tiger of Jelutong”, which was published in 2013.

“I’ve done a few things in journalism, but I’m particularly proud of that because this man was the ultimate scrapper, but he had a sense of humour,” Donoghue said.

“The things he had to deal with, the life and death issues that he had to deal with, he smiled his way through them all, and he helped a lot of people out along the way. There was always that great twinkle in his eyes, and you just knew that no matter what anyone was ever going to throw at that guy, he was never going to kow-tow to any man.”

Karpal and his aide Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, were killed in a road accident about 1.10 this morning near Kampar in Perak. The former DAP chairperson’s sudden departure has shocked the nation, and elicated a flood of eulogies from both sides of the political divide.

His death comes as the 74-year-old was gearing up to appeal his recent conviction for sedition that was cross-appealed by the government, which is seeking have the wheelchair-bound politician jailed.

Karpal

“I don’t think the legal system has brought any great credit upon itself by convicting this man of sedition.“I think that is something that those in the ruling political and legal establishment of Malaysia do need to think about.”, Donoghue said.

The government’s persecution of the man who stood up and fought for human rights in Malaysia had made a martyr out of him, Donoghue said.

“Now that Karpal has gone to his death under threat of imprisonment for this sedition charge, I think he will be a great rallying point come the next election – there will be a huge groundswell of support among the opposition parties in the country.”

A long line of challenges

Karpal’s conviction for sedition was just the latest in a long line of challenges for the “Sikh warrior in legal attire”. “Back when he was 65, after the car accident, most people said he was gone. Even his best friends, with the best intentions in the world, were saying it would have been a far more merciful end if he had died at that time.”

“But the Tiger of Jelutong had a message for those who doubted him.

“He suffered a huge amount of pain as a result of that accident, but he vowed, with the help of his family, to get back out there into the realm of both politics and the law in Malaysia and to keep challenging those in power.”

“Karpal continued his work, and some of his most notable achievements came in the years following his debilitating accident”, Donoghue said.

“After his car accident, his life was totally shattered. But I do think he did his best work, both in the law and in politics, in the seven or eight years that he had after his accident. He did some amazing things in his life. “He would say to me, ‘retirement is not a word in my dictionary’. And the reason I think he hung on was as a result of the pain he suffered because of that accident.”

Donoghue said the manner of Karpal’s death could be considered a merciful release in some ways, but his family would not agree.

Backed by family, every step of the way

“Every step of the way they backed him, they fought with him, and they lifted and laid him. They fought to keep him going.” It was with the support of his family, and his devoted assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, who was also killed in this morning’s accident, that Karpal was able to continue his work after the 2005 accident.

“Michael gave his life for this man. He worked around the clock, 24 hours a day, just to support Karpal, and the whole family is very, very, grateful for the job he has done.

“Everything Karpal has done in the last few years has been with the support of (his wife) Gurmit Kaur and Michael. They’ve kept him going, really.”

When he came to Malaysia to launch Karpal’s biography in 2013, Donoghue said he could tell Karpal was extremely proud of what he had achieved in his life.

“Basically, his legacy is one of uncompromising challenge to human rights on a number of fronts throughout his 40-plus years in legal practice.

“I suppose what endeared him to me was he challenged, he challenged, he challenged – and he did it in such a way that everybody enjoyed the trip.”

Although he was an eminently patient man, Donoghue said, Karpal would occasionally get frustrated with him, and ask when the book would be completed.

“I would tell him we would finish when he gave me an ending. We had the final ending this morning, and I think Karpal Singh will go down as one of the great warriors of the Malaysian legal and political fraternities.”

“He was a man who, as long as he had breath going into his lungs, was always going to fight. And in the wake of this man’s life, the fight will go on in Malaysia.”


AIMEE GULLIVER is a New Zealand journalist interning with Malaysiakini for six weeks, courtesy of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

RIP Karpal Singh


Karpal killed in accident near Kampar
By Radzi Razak and Susan Loone

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Veteran opposition MP and lawyer Karpal Singh was killed in an accident near Kampar in Perak this morning.

His long-time personal assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, was also killed.

Karpal’s son Ram Karpal and the driver were believed to be injured in the accident which occurred at 1.10am near 301.6km northbound marker along the the North-South Highway.

Malaysiakini learnt that Karpal and his son, who is also a lawyer, were heading north for a court case later today.

Contacted later, an Ipoh police spokesperson told Malaysiakini that it is believed the MPV collided with a lorry which switched lanes without indication.

Karpal’s other son and Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo (left) told The Star that his father had died on the spot.

“My brother Ram is slightly injured but we are trying to get through to him,” he added when the daily contacted him at 3.30am.

According to a police statement later, Ram and driver of the ill-fated car, C Selvam, were not injured. However, Karpal’s Indonesian maid suffered severe injuries and she is warded at Ipoh’s Hospital Permaisuri Bainun.

The driver of the lorry involved in the road accident that killed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh this morning has tested positive for drugs.

The driver of the lorry involved in the road accident that killed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh this morning has tested positive for drugs.

The driver of the lorry, which was hit behind by Karpal’s car, and its three passengers escaped without injury.

The police said the MPV carrying Karpal and four others hit the slow moving lorry at a hilly stretch of the highway.

The five-tonne lorry was carrying a load of cement, steel and mosaic tiles.

Karpal, 74, was involved in a previous car accident in 2005 where he was paralysed and wheelchair-bound.

The vocal politician graduated from University of Singapore and started his law practice before running for Parliament in 1978.

His long tenure as Jelutong MP and fiery speeches in the Dewan Rakyat earned him the moniker “Tiger of Jelutong”.

Karpal had recently relinquished his post as DAP chairperson pending the disposal of his appeal against a sedition charge.

Last month, the High Court found him guilty of uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at the height of the constitutional crisis in 2009.

PM offers condolences

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak conveyed his condolences via Twitter.

“I have just landed at Ankara when I heard the news that YB Karpal Singh died in a road accident. My condolences to the family,” read the premier’s tweet.

May his family be brave and steadfast in this trying times. Malaysia has lost another fighter for the people.

May his family be brave and steadfast in this trying times. Malaysia has lost another fighter for the people.

Other netizens also expressed condolences and shock over Karpal’s passing.

“Shocked and sad news! DAP chairman Karpal Singh passed away in accident tonight. Malaysia has lost a truly patriotic son,” wrote Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming.

“Our dear Mr Karpal is no longer with us… I just can’t accept it…,” said Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching.

The bodies of the two deceased, Karpal and Michael, arrived at the Ipoh general hospital at 7.20am.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (right) and his deputy Mohd Rashid Hasnon, and former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin were there.

They conveyed their condolences to Karpal’s sons Gobind and Jagdeep. Karpal’s wife was seen crying, while a relative tried to prevent photos from being taken. The bodies were sent for post-mortem.

BN's Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad and also the Chairman of KTMB posted an insensitive collage which he made light of the death of Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, claiming that it was “not serious”. He however deleted the posting after it became viral.

BN’s Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad and also the Chairman of KTMB posted an insensitive collage which he made light of the death of Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, claiming that it was “not serious”. He however deleted the posting after it became viral.

Gobind said that the family expects the post-mortem to finish at 10.30am, after which they will bring the body back to their family home in Penang by 1pm.

He added that he was informed about the accident at 2.15am, and together with his wife, rushed to the scene. Gobind and his mother, Gurmit Kaur, managed to see Karpal’s body.

The funeral for the veteran politician is expected to be either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, he added.

“Mr Karpal has family and friends overseas and we are waiting for them to return for his funeral,” he said.

“His body will be kept in our ‎family home along Jalan Utama (Penang),” he added.

Gobind said Ram, who sustained slight bruises, is well.

He also thanked all well-wishers for their support and requested the public to give the grieving family some privacy.

“We will be keeping everyone informed with regular updates,” he added.

At about 8.30am, a man believed to be Karpal’s driver, Selvam, was seen approaching the forensic department in the hospital. He was sobbing but was taken away by several people from the scene.

It is learnt that Karpal’s body will be cremated at the Sikh cremation hall at 11am on Sunday.

The DAP has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader, the nation lost a brilliant legal mind and the rakyat a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak defenceless and dispossesed.

The DAP has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader, the nation lost a brilliant legal mind and the rakyat a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak defenceless and dispossesed.

Raja Zalim Raja Disanggah


February 23, 2014

Raja Zalim Raja Disanggah

imageby Din Merican

Karpal Singh has been convicted under s.4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 for saying that “the Sultan of Perak can be sued” for causing the removal of the PAS Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaludin, which  led to the BN seizing control of the state assembly through the back door by bringing in an unelected person to be Speaker,  thus giving majority to BN in the Perak State Assembly to install Zambry Kadir as Menteri Besar.

Sedition is an antiquated and undemocratic offence and most modern states have repealed or put it into disuse. It certainly has no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia that we aspire to be.

Sedition is an antiquated and undemocratic offence and most modern states have repealed or put it into disuse. It certainly has no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia that we aspire to be.

The story of the sneaking in of a new Speaker into the Perak state parliament; the story of how Regent Raja Nazrin waited from morning in the Royal Chambers to deliver his opening speech, only to get to do it in the late evening as if nothing had happened at all are all well documented.

Sivakumar is half pushed, half pulled out of the chambers. He was forcibly removed from the speaker's chair .

Sivakumar was half pushed, half pulled out of the chambers. He was forcibly removed from the speaker’s chair .

The Constitutional Crisis of Perak was unprecedented not only in Malaysian history but also in the history of any country in the world. Even the assassination of Julius Caesar could be justified because Julius Caesar wanted to be Emperor of Rome and Brutus and gang wanted to prevent him from getting that approval from the Roman Senate. Brutus justified the murder by saying “It is not that I love Caesar less but I love Rome more.” So, Julius was disposed in the Senate just before he became Caesar to protect democracy against dictatorship. In Perak, democracy was assassinated  right in the very house of a state parliament.

The Ruler asked Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to resign together with the executive council members. Sultan Azlan Shah also ominously declared - if they refuse to resign the post (of Menteri Besar and State Executive Councilors) would be considered vacant.

The Ruler asked Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to resign together with the executive council members.
Sultan Azlan Shah also ominously declared – if they refuse to resign the post (of Menteri Besar and State Executive Councilors) would be considered vacant.

And by whom?

By none other than the constitutional head of the state. This was democracy in modern times being crucified by the very person who is to be the umbrella and protector of democracy and the people’s rights to its elected government. And democracy died.

It is totally unjust and un-democratic for MPs to switch parties and claim that they still represent what the people voted them in for.

It is totally unjust and un-democratic for MPs to switch parties and claim that they still represent what the people voted them in for.

Given that dramatic event, is it beyond the reasonable man’s mind that the people would speak out? Is it beyond expectation that the Rakyat would rise and object? Even if those reposed with trust to advise the rulers on such matters abdicate their duty because of fear as in this proverb “Tohok Raja Tiada Dapat Dielakkan”, the history of mankind has shown that there will always be A Few Good Men who would speak out for the truth. Karpal Singh would not be called the Tiger of Jelutong if he did not roared out his views over something so manifestly wrong. At least Karpal did not throw stones at the royalty of Perak as some people did to express their disgust over what was seen as the palace complicity in the assassination of democracy.

I recall video footages and pictures of the people of Perak throwing stones at the Regent’s car. That was how disgusted the Rakyat felt towards the Perak royalty. As a Malay, I felt very sad to see the consequences when the royalty and monarchy are dragged to descend into the arena of gutter politics. That would be unthinkable in Thailand where the monarch has always remain impartial to party politics. And that impartiality ensures not only the monarchy’s survival in a modern democracy like Queen Elizabeth of England but also remain revered by the people like King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand. The monarchy must learn to read the Rakyat’s pulse and be a unifying force like how Winston Churchill encouraged the stuttering King George VI to deliver that famous speech unfiying Britons as Britain went to war in the  movie The King’s Speech.

A vehicle with a yellow (royal) registration plate, said to be ferrying Perak crown prince Raja Nazrin Shah, was pelted with stones by angry supporters of the PRU12, which has shown PR won the State of Perak.

A vehicle with a yellow (royal) registration plate, said to be ferrying Perak crown prince Raja Nazrin Shah, was pelted with stones by angry supporters of the PRU12, which has shown PR won the State of Perak.

Yet, in Perak the Rakyat’s expressed its utter disgust. Why?

HRH Sultan of Perak is Raja Azlan Shah who before becoming Sultan was the Lord President of Malaysia, the chief judge of the country. There were much hopes when Raja Azlan Shah became Sultan.

HRH Sultan of Perak is Raja Azlan Shah who before becoming Sultan was the Lord President of Malaysia, the chief judge of the country. There were much hopes when Raja Azlan Shah became Sultan.

HRH Sultan of Perak is Raja Azlan Shah who before becoming Sultan was the Lord President of Malaysia, the Chief judge of the country. There was much hope when Raja Azlan Shah became Sultan. There was hope that His Majesty would put some semblance of Rule of Law in the governance of his own state of Perak and in the country when Raja Azlan Shah became Yang DiPertuan Agong of Malaysia. The Perak Royalty was regarded as one of the more educated royalties of this country. So, when Raja Nazrin became regent and espoused all the ideals of good governance, the people became hopeful. The people agreed with everything Raja Nazrin said. He became a symbol of an enlightened royalty of Malaysia like the big white hope of boxing. But all hopes dissipated. That disappointment culminated in the manner that MB Nizar was deposed. And the Perak Royalty lost all credibility. I am saying this because people tell me so and it is my duty to convey this so that our royalty can reflect on their relevance and survival in a new world.

The prosecution and conviction of Karpal Singh who is a parliamentarian and a senior lawyer does nothing to instil respect, love and reverence for our royalty and monarchy. It will do the exact opposite as can be seen in the extinction of other monarchies in the world. If that happens, the Malays will have to blame UMNO, our Malay politicians and our Malay holders of public offices including the Judiciary for being less than wise in managing such issues.

ICJ's International Legal Advisor on Southeast Asia Emerlynne Gil said this conviction sends out a message that lawyers in Malaysia are not free to express their opinions about legal issues.

ICJ’s International Legal Advisor on Southeast Asia Emerlynne Gil said this conviction sends out a message that lawyers in Malaysia are not free to express their opinions about legal issues.

We, Malays, make such a big fuss about protecting kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu and, in doing so, we instigate for the prosecution of anyone especially non-Malays like Karpal to teach them a lesson not to memperlekehkan our Raja-Raja. As a result, we bring to the world’s attention the oppressiveness of our archaic laws and the abuses that can arise from such laws. In the end, we will be the losers because we never heed our own peribahasa – “Kasihkan Raja Di Atas Usungan”.

I will not explain the meaning of that proverb so that you, the readers, and hopefully all Malay politicians will research, read and apply that peribahasa in the proper context when dealing with our Malay royalty.

 Same case, same judge, different judgments -- only in the land of endless possibilities! mj


Same case, same judge, different judgments — only in the land of endless possibilities! mj

In prosecuting and convicting Karpal Singh, neither the Malay executive nor the Judiciary gave cogisance to another Malay legal maxim or peribahasa which is so significant in this context. If Karpal Singh can be convicted for sedition just for questioning the powers of a malay monarch, then this maxim must be expunged from the Malay perbendaharaan of peribahasa – “ Raja Adil Raja Disembah Raja Zalim Raja Disanggah“.