DAP National Chairman and MP for Bukit Gelugor Karpal Singh’s sedition conviction has brought Malaysia back under the international radar as a “rogue nation” in its system of justice.
When a veteran political leader and senior lawyer could be convicted of sedition for stating the law and giving his opinion on the 2008 constitutional crisis in Perak as there was a belief by certain quarters that the rulers enjoyed immunity and no legal action could be taken against them, Malaysia has undone all the “puny” efforts in the past decade to restore national and international respect and confidence in a truly independent judiciary and a just rule of law in Malaysia.
The convergence of recent events, with blatant examples of the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers involved in a series of unprofessional activities and selective prosecutions, have not helped in restoring public esteem in the independence, efficiency and integrity of these two key institutions – and the judiciary – in the nation’s system of justice.
Human rights and democracy, and in particular freedom of speech, are the major casualties in Karpal’s sedition conviction.
Nobody advocates that freedom of speech is absolute, and Karpal had not transgressed any of these limits – as he had never questioned the system of constitutional monarchy in Perak and Malaysia, as this is one of the basic principles of the DAP’s political programme since its formation 48 years ago, nor had Karpal ever incited violence or guilty of hate speech.
Strangely though, since the beginning of this year, the Police have treated with “kid gloves” the many in recent months who have been guilty of hate speech and incitement of violence not only against a woman and a Member of Parliament, as in the case of DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, but even those like the Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria who publicly advocated that the anti-price hike protestors on New Year’s Eve at the Dataran Merdeka could be killed – with no action being taken against them whether by the police or the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
It is no surprise therefore that the international legal and judicial community like the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has joined the Malaysian legal fraternity in disapproving the High Court’s decision in convicting Karpal of sedition, saying the conviction was inconsistent with international law and standards on the free expression of opinion by lawyers.
Will the adverse national and international reactions to Karpal’s sedition conviction be seriously considered by the Cabinet on Wednesday, as it goes against all the promises for legal reforms and the Prime Minister’s pledge to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world”.
If the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are not prepared to act to redeem Malaysia’s international reputation as a modern and progressive democracy which upholds a just rule of law, then the voters of Kajang in the by-election on March 23 will have a golden opportunity and responsibility to speak up not only for Selangor but for all Malaysians as to the type of a society and nation the citizens want in this country.
(Media Statement in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 23rd February 2014)