– Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
The Malaysian Insider
April 24, 2014
I refer to Raja Shahrir’s “Thank you for showing us what courage is”, in Free Malaysia Today, April 19, with regard to his moving tribute to the late great Karpal Singh.
I beg the kind indulgence of the reader to allow me to say a few words honouring the intrepid Karpal.
It is my firm belief – and there is no shadow of doubt about it – that besides Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang, Karpal belongs to that triumvirate of the opposition leaders in Malaysia which has been consistently maligned and slandered by the powers that be since day one.
However, I would also like to state unhesitatingly that Karpal was the most personally abused among the three, and hounded politically in a persistent and nefarious manner by the establishment.
Yet, Karpal never backed down nor did he ever cease being faithful to the cause. He remained committed until the very end for the reform agenda and for the general movement of the collective struggle of the Malaysian people.
Consider the Tiger’s records of courage:
He was one of the many other opposition politicians who were “detained without trial under the Internal Security Act during Operation Lalang in October 1987 for inciting ‘racial tension’ in the country”.
The powers that be briefly released him for a few hours in March 1988 in response to a habeas corpus application, but he was then rearrested and remained in prison until January 1989. He was deemed “a prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International.
In January 2000 he was arrested under the Sedition Act “along with four other opposition politicians and the editor of the Harakah Daily, the newspaper published by the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)”.
This time, he “was charged for making seditious remarks in court during Anwar’s first corruption trial”.
According to Wikipedia:
“This was the only known charge of sedition in any country in the Commonwealth of nations brought against a lawyer for remarks made in court in defence of a client. The charges were dropped in 2002.”
Further, in March 2009, “Karpal was charged under the Sedition Act again for allegedly threatening to sue the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, in the wake of the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis. He had contended that the Sultan had acted beyond his constitutional powers while appointing Zambry Abdul Kadir as Menteri Besar. The charges were dismissed in June 2010 after the High Court determined that the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the acquittal in January 2012 and ordered Karpal to enter his defence.”
As I’ve stated in my article, “Long live the tiger, viva Karpal”, in The Southeast Asian Times, March 7, 2014:
I overwhelmingly agree with the contention of Emerlynne Gil, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Legal Advisor on Southeast Asia, that Karpal’s “conviction sends out a message that lawyers in Malaysia are not free to express their opinions about legal issues”.
Further “this case is another sign of the lack of respect of the Malaysian government for the principle of free expression”.
This is a shame and an irony by virtue of the fact that Karpal merely “acted in fulfilment of a core function of the legal profession, which is to contribute to the public discourse on matters of law.
“The United Nations basic principles on the role of lawyers specifically provide that lawyers, like ordinary citizens, are entitled to freedom of opinion and expression.”
The ICJ Advisor also added that lawyers have the right “to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights” without fear of suffering professional restrictions or repercussions due to their lawful action.
I am commending Karpal’s courage especially when he categorically stated that he was standing by his statement in February 2009 that the Sultan was not above the law.
As the Tiger himself stated:
“I was doing my duty as an MP and lawyer that the Ruler can be taken to court.
“If you are afraid, then you cannot represent the people. The fight goes on.”
Indeed, “It was just barely a month ago, when Karpal Singh was found ‘guilty’ of sedition. Many cried out at the plain injustice laid out on a veteran fighter who has seen more jail time than most real criminals. To many of us Malaysians, Karpal was one who held the baton for change back when discourse of politics, justice and human rights were gloomy and dark.”
It is with this great sense that I completely concur with the contention of Raja Shahrir when he stated that:
“When no one stood up in a time when standing up meant persecution, Karpal did. When no one dared to face the courts of injustice to fight tirelessly for the rights of others, Karpal did. At a time when being an opposition politician equaled harassment and endangerment, Karpal did.
“When no one was brave enough, Karpal took on the courage to stand up for the nation and the people around him.
“Time after time, for decades, this man fought tirelessly for what he knew and whole-heartedly believed was rightfully Malaysia’s. He knew our country deserved so much better in terms of human rights, political freedoms, real democracy and fairer opportunities for all.
“It was he who paved the way for the following generation of leaders to stand up for the nation. He showed true unwavering vigour as a lawyer and fought for others inside and outside of court.”
He used consistently and persistently his keen and sharp legal knowledge and brilliant technical expertise to fight and counter the abuses, barbarity and the arbitrariness of the powers that be in defense of the people’s welfare even if, most of the time, in doing so, he would end up in jail, be suspended or be denounced and slandered by some neurotic and fanatical groups!
He cast them aside like he was merely rubbing away some cobwebs and dust. He did not give a damn whether he would lose his seat or not. He dedicated all his being for the general welfare of the Malaysian public and he helped tremendously in developing the political consciousness of the people through his unwavering bold actions and brave deeds through the years.
No one can deny or question Karpal’s consistency and tirelessness in fighting for justice, “from the Perak state crisis sedition case, to his countless times representing Anwar Ibrahim in court, to the period he found himself behind bars, these notable events are often shadowed by the probably frequent harassment, personal danger, insults and abuses he faced hidden from the eye of the public.”
Needless to say, the Malaysian people “should be thankful for his efforts and contributions in shaping the future of our country. If anything, this man made history.”
He defied the powers that be all throughout his conscious political life and in the end: he stood victorious, mighty and invincible! He was such a freedom–loving man!
As the saying goes: a life without freedom is no life at all and Karpal, undeniably, had lived such a good life, because it was a well fought life, a struggle until the very end.
Indeed, Karpal is a giant, a hero and an icon for justice and equality of Malaysian contemporary history!
The Tiger is dead, long live the Tiger of Jelutong! Long Live Karpal Singh! – April 24, 2013.