By Aidila Razak | Malaysiakini
Apr 18, 2014
Karpal Singh is best known for his fiery speeches in the Dewan Rakyat, earning him the moniker the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’. Even during his last appearance in a parliamentary debate, the 74-year-old wheelchair-bound MP didn’t disappoint.
“The Honourable Speaker should not play around with the (Federal) Constitution. Follow the Constitution. This is the supreme law of the land, not the Standing Orders.
“Standing orders can be suspended. There are provisions (for that), discretion can be used. Why are you not using your discretion?
“This is the second time the conduct of judges is raised in this House. I had (before) moved a motion against… the former chief justice Zaki Azmi (left). Nothing happened. Why?
“Why is this House afraid of judges? Are we afraid to debate about judges’ conduct? So what am I saying… (is) don’t play around (with the Constitution),” said Karpal, igniting an uproar in the House.
These were Karpal’s last words in the parliamentary Hansard, recorded on April 10, 2014 – 36 years after he first stepped into the House for the first time as the Member of Parliament for Jelutong.
He was intervening on the Speaker’s decision to oust PKR’s Gombak MP Azmin Ali and PAS’ Sepang MP Hanipa Maidin from the Dewan Rakyat, over a motion on the conduct of the Court of Appeal judges.
A veteran lawyer, judicial independence was close to Karpal’s heart and was the topic of his final parliametary debate speech on April 8.
Debating the Judges’ Remuneration Bill (Amendment) 2014, Karpal again pointed out that judges were not above parliamentary scrutiny, but they should themselves remain above politics.
Similarly, he called for legislation to bar retired judges from practising as lawyers, like the former Lord President Mohd Salleh Abas, citing conflict of interest for this.
“We must defend the dignity of judges, including those who have retired. But lately, retired judges have become political beings. Can this be defended? This is the question this House must answer,” he said.
Karpal gave the example of former Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad, the head of the National Unity Front, a movement consisting of 50 NGOs, including Perkasa.
“Perkasa, Honourable Speaker, is an illegal organisation and yet even you know of it. What is voiced by its leader Ibrahim Ali is seditious, yet the Sedition Act is not used against Ibrahim Ali (left).
“No attorney-general or public prosecutor in this country dares to take action against Ibrahim Ali because even though it is illegal, its patron is former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and now they also have a former judge, the former chief justice.”
‘Raucous applause for this rascal’
He also took issue with former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Noor Abdullah, who has, as late as on yesterday, made controversial statements against non-Malays and non-Muslims.
Citing Malaysiakini, while stressing that “Malaysiakini tells the truth”, Karpal said Mohd Noor once said that the Chinese should prepare for backlash from the Malays for trying to seize political power in the 13th general election.
Malaysiakini had reported on Mohd Noor (right) saying this at a forum in Kuala Lumpur, to raucous applause from the audience.
“Raucous applause to this rascal,” said Karpal.
Despite his criticisms, Karpal supported the Bill and called for pay and pension rises and better facilities for all judges and retired judges in the country.
“We in DAP support this Bill, but more than that, we feel the pension and facilities given to retired judges in Singapore should be mirrored because the pensions and salaries and facilities for Malaysian judges are just not enough.
“And with that, Honourable Speaker, I thank you,” he said.