Karpal charged with sedition for saying Sultan can be sued

By Debra Chong
The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 – DAP chairman Karpal Singh was charged this morning with sedition for saying Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin’s removal as Perak menteri besar by Sultan Azlan Shah could be questioned in a court of law.

The veteran lawyer-politician was charged at the Sessions Court here before Judge Mohamad Sekeri Mamat under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1946.

Karpal is further accused of several other seditious statements related to the entire Perak constitutional crisis which began a month ago.

He is accused of committing the crime during a press conference at his law firm here on February 6.

A partial transcript of the press conference, which formed the basis for the charge, was read out in open court.

Among the underlined statements, which are allegedly seditious are:
“With that ruling of the federal court which has stood the test of time for 32 years beyond a pale of a doubt, the Sultan of Perak has contravened Article 16(6) of the Constitutions of the State of Perak,” referring to a 1977 Federal Court decision that the King had acted beyond his authority in confirming three detention orders under the Emergency Ordinance.

“Clearly the Sultan of Perak cannot invoke his powers under Article 16(1) which states [His Royal Highness shall appoint an Executive Council] to appoint a Barisan Nasional Executive Council with a new Menteri Besar and a new government. The Government of a Menteri Besar Dato’ Haji Nizar bin Jamaluddin still had constitutional supremacy and legitimacy. The actions of the Sultan of Perak are clearly, premature.”

Karpal pleaded not guilty.

If found guilty, he can be punished under the same Act with a maximum fine of RM5,000 and a jail term of up to three years for the first offence, and five years for subsequent offences.

This is Karpal’s second sedition charge. His first was in 2000, during the trial of sacked deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, where he was charged for seditious statements on arsenic poisoning.

But the prosecution later dropped the charge against him and he walked out a free man.
Chief prosecutor, Datuk Kamaluddin Md Said from the Attorney General’s Chambers, requested the case against Karpal be transferred to the High Court and bail to fixed at RM2,000 with one guarantor.

There were no objections from Karpal.

As he told reporters later, he wants the matter to go all the way up to the Federal Court.
He explained that if the matter was heard at the High Court level, it could be taken all the way to the apex court. On the other hand, if the matter remained at the Sessions Court, the highest it could get to was the Court of Appeal.

“I think the highest court in the land should decide on this, once and for all. This affects my dignity as an MP,” the federal lawmaker for Bukit Gelugor said.

  1. #1 by UzMiNoOnist on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 5:40 pm

    Any legal guys here?

    I do not dare to make comments here as I may be hauled up for sedition because it seems to me that UMNO/BN has pulled out all stops to show their mightiness through all the agencies to shut the public outrage over the illegal takeover in Perak.
    To Malaysian the whole episode is a tragic nightmare, and to foreigners it looks like Mugabe has better finesse.

  2. #2 by shah pinang on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 5:41 pm

    On this occassion, you have my unequivocal support YB Karpal. What has become of this country??! Sedition charge on what basis??! What UMNO did during the Terengganu saga WAS seditious and an outright insult to the royalty.

    I am appalled and disgusted. Its unbecoming of the BN government especially the ‘Ketuanan UMNO’ and for the rakyat, there’s only one thing we can do-vote them out!

  3. #3 by HB Lim on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 5:57 pm

    A sinking ship with all thrown into the open sea with little life support. The drowning people will grab at anything to save himself even if it means grabbing another drowning person and causing his death. Sure tell-tale signs of desperation and near demise. No need to ask on what basis, legal or otherwise, they take such and such actions for there is none except to save themselves. But the situation is beyond redemption. UMNO is sinking and sinking very fast. The more they try and struggle to save themselves, the faster the ship sinks, the faster they drown. Be consoled that this is all happening. There will be sunshine after rain, there will be laughter after pain…

  4. #4 by k1980 on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 6:18 pm

    From RPK’s blog

    The Constitutional Crisis of 1993 arose from an ugly confrontation between Umno and the Rulers over a question that had direct and profound implications on their sovereignty and that of the Yang diPertuan Agong. For good reason, the Head of State in most countries may not be prosecuted in an ordinary court of law. In 1993, the government campaigned to remove this immunity through amendments to the Constitution.

    The Rulers and Parliament were railroaded by you-know-who’s administration and the amendments duly passed. These are the very same amendments, which, today, make it legal for a Ruler to be prosecuted.

  5. #5 by ekans on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 6:50 pm

    Wasn’t it last year that a private bank had successfully sued a reigning monarch of one of the federated states in this country over a business deal that had gone sour?

    Why weren’t that bank’s owners, board of directors, etc. made to face the same charges as Karpal?

    Simply because that bank’s suit against the monarch was purely financially motivated, which has no political intention of preventing UMNO-BN from holding onto power.

  6. #6 by StevePCH on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 7:26 pm

    i strongly believe that YB KS wil prevail in terms of constitutional rights. However, to have a fair trial is questinable at this juncture looking at what that has happened on Perak.

    this witch hunt will continue and guys, beware of your comment. Comments are now under microscopic scrutiny of BeEnd now. They will go after you at any open chances.

  7. #7 by wanderer on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 7:26 pm

    These UMNO goons have removed the immunity of the Sultans and now, they are shouting foul!
    Come, come, you cannot have it both ways…I thought Tun Mahathir sang it very clearly and loudly, “I did it MY WAY”
    This simply shows the immaturity and arrogance of the present bunch of UMNOputras.

  8. #8 by Loyal Malaysian on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 7:35 pm

    I supposed there’s no point in asking Karpal to sue that Sultan now.
    If it be of any use, I supposed he would have gone ahead.
    Well, once again the rakyat has to put their faith in an institution that in the best of times ought to be neutral and impartial; it ought to be the rakyat’s last stand against an oppressive executive. It ought to be fair and impartial and its decisions based on justice.
    Is it?
    And, so I go back to hope and prayer, that Karpal will meet with one of those rare gems in the mould of Judge Komala who remembers she sits on the bench not to do favours for the UMNOputras.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 8:35 pm

    A charge of Sedition against Karpal Singh only makes him a hero and enhances his international profile. What is troublesome behind such a charge is that the following 5 anomalies are hard to explain:

    1. The 1993 contitutional amendment during Mahathir’s administration removed the Rulers’ immunity and made it possible for them to be sued in personal capacity if they have done some criminal or civil wrong provided that it is tried via a special constitutional court with AG’s consent. This means that suing rulers is constitutionally lawful. If suing a ruler is itself lawful it is hard to understand how a “lesser” mere suggestion that a ruler be sued would be unlawful as in being seditious!

    2. Though it is seditious to say or act in a manner raising “discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia, the first problem is how does one prove that what was said – that a particular ruler ought to be enjoined in a suit – actually created “discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects”. Has there been a survey, a Gallup Poll or an opinion poll done to prove “discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects” have been created by such a suggestion?

    3. Sometime in 1996 a Singaporean business women Faridah Begum brought a suit in Constitutional Court against the Sultan of Pahang for libel. And Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) also successfully sued the late ruler of Negri Sembilan, Tuanku Ja’afar for US$1 million on a Leter of Credit. Neither Faridah’s nor SCB’s suit had proven that a suit against any ruler had caused any “discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects” against Monarchy Institution. Also how come neither Faridah Begum nor SCB has been charged for sedition, and Karpal Singh is when the constitution says everyone is supposedly equal before the law?

    4. Besides, the Sedition laws themselves say clearly that it is not sedition if the act or speech was to “show that any Ruler has been misled or mistaken in any of his measures” or to “procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter…as by law”. It seems to me that resorting to the law, constitution and courts is always lawful because we’re a country governed by laws and not men – whether commoner or royalty – a fact stated by HRH the Sultan Perak at the 14th malaysian Law Conference with these words: “No single man or body shall exercise complete sovereign power, but that it shall be distributed among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, compendiously expressed in modern terms that we are a government of laws, not of men.” “Every legal power must have legal limits, otherwise there is dictatorship. In particular, it is a stringent requirement that discretion should be exercised for a proper purpose, and that it should not be exercised unreasonably. In other words, every discretion cannot be free from legal restraint; where it is wrongly exercised, it becomes the duty of the courts to intervene”, HRH added. Now if resorting to law and courts is a right and is lawful how could it be unlawful as in being seditious at the same time? This is confusing.

    5. Finally, Karpal spoke in context as lawyer for his client Perak PR. To punish him for it violates the basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers as endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. It would be one of the rare if not first case anywhere in the world in which a lawyer has been accused of sedition in respect of words spoken in the defence of his client. It may draw adverse international repercussions.


  10. #10 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 8:42 pm

    Any suit contemplated against the Sultan of Perak is now held in abeyance pending the outcome of the sedition case against Karpal – giving time for the events in Perak to unravel. Apparently, they are hoping that by the time the relevant case reaches the court doors, issues raised would be moot.

  11. #11 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 8:44 pm

    Mr Karpal commented that this prosecution on him could be the early trial run of Mahathirism by the Umnoputra bureaucrats at the dawn of Najib’s taking over the premiership. If Mr Karpal’s comment really holds true, then this prosecution case is going to be a selective prosecution which will most likely tarnish the professional image of the A-G’s Chamber.

    Quite contrary to Dr. Mahathir, Najib has shown us a worrisome tendency that he can easily make error-prone political judgement which is in contradiction to his personal interest as a PM-to-be of Malaysia.

    Even though Dr. Mahathir was the hard-core practitioner of Machiavellianism, Dr. Mahathir was still smart enough in making a wise decision on matter involving the disputable prerogative power of a Monarch. I strongly believe that Dr. Mahathir will never permit such a case as this (which accuses Mr Karpal for committing sedition because he voiced out his professional opinion as a senior legal counsel that the Sultan of Perak could be sued in court for making an unconstitutional political decision) to be brought to the court in order to test out the functionality of the Special Court clauses in the Federal Constitution. Since Dr. Mahathir had been trying very hard to centralise the political power into the Executive Branch during his 22 years’ reign as the PM of Malaysia, it would certainly defeat his original purpose of power centralisation if the Monarch had to be given back the privilege of legal immunity by court through a desirable court ruling that would be asked by the A-G’s Chamber with such a lawsuit case as Karpal’s present prosecution case.

    Najib may be very keen to imitate and emulate the authoritative power of Dr. Mahathir. However, such an early trial run of Mahathirism by taking Mr Karpal to court hastily without taking into the consideration of the future implication of the final court ruling only proves that Najib’s imitation and emulation can only bring forth the “tapir effect”, which will only indicate that Najib is not in possession of a commendable leadership style or a note-worthy personality taste but is just a lousy imitator or emulator of Dr. Mahathir.

    Note: Tapir is an animal which partly looks like a bear but is no bear, partly looks like a buffalo but is no buffalo, partly looks like an elephant but is no elephant, and partly looks like a whild boar but is no whild boar!

  12. #12 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 8:47 pm

    Jeffery QC,

    “Also how come neither Faridah Begum nor SCB has been charged for sedition, and Karpal Singh is when the constitution says everyone is supposedly equal before the law?”

    It is obvious that the case against Karpal is politically motivated. The fact that A has not been charged for the same offense is not a defence for B who has.

  13. #13 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 8:47 pm

    Sorry, typo… “whild boar” should be replaced with “wild boar”.

  14. #14 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 8:51 pm


    Cut the mumbo jumbo.

  15. #15 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 9:05 pm

    Karpal is determined to see this case goes up to the highest court in the land, the Federal Court but guess who sits as CJ? By then it would be water under the bridge as far as the situation in Perak is concerned.

  16. #16 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 9:28 pm

    Karpal is keen to see the case go up to the highest court in the land, i.e. the Federal Court, in order to find out how much the CJ knows about Law and how well the CJ can perform his duty with due diligence in writing a convincing verdict about this case. Clearly, the Federal Court has to draw a clear-cut line on what the citizens can say and what the citizens cannot say about the Sultan.

    I guess that Karpal will eventually be found not guilty by court because he has the legal basis to say that the Sultan can be sued.

  17. #17 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 9:41 pm

    Onlooker Politics Says:

    Today at 21: 28.24 (9 minutes ago)
    Karpal is keen to see the case go up to the highest court in the land, i.e. the Federal Court, in order to find out how much the CJ knows about Law …”

    The only reason why anyone would want to see his case goes up to the highest court in the land is that it brings about a sense of finality to the problem of what is seditious and what is not. It is never to test anyone’s knowledge of the law etc. Why?? Do you think Zaki Tun Azmi is stupid? He is anything but stupid.

  18. #18 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 10:11 pm


    “Stupid” is not a usual word being adopted in performance evaluation. Is this the only word you know about CJ Zaki?

  19. #19 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 - 10:21 pm

    The case itself is indeed controversial. It seems that there is no all-round solution here — one cannot say something which will please the Rakyat meanwhile it will also please the Monarch.

    The court ruling will certainly need some political acumen and not only the normal level of legal knowledge will suffice to do away with the controversial implication of the final court ruling. It is going to be a good test on the professional capabilities of a court judge!

  20. #20 by frankyapp on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 1:09 am

    You know guys,why umno/bn decided to sue Karpal ? It’s because Singh is King. Now these people are sueing the King,aren’t they too are subject to sedition act of the country,ha ha ha ha ha ha .Ok guys let’s not be funny. These guys sue Karpal to rid him off the political arena,like they did to his son Govind,it’s a kind of a stone killing two birds type agenda.They are getting Anwar on sodomy case,the next guys on their agenda would be LKS and his son.To these guys,once having bag these five tough and strong rakyat’s respresentatives,then they can do whatever it takes to further rape and rid the country of all resources to their fullest benefit and satisfaction Imagine how creedy these guys are,yet they still have the cheeks to say they are loyal to king and country. My goodness, it’s really very disgusting indeed to see these crooks doing what they did.

  21. #21 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 1:36 am

    Before a case could go on appeal there must first be grounds for appeal and appeals are always based on the law and not on the facts. Leave will have to be obtained from the judge who tries the case. Depending on the complexity of the issues of law involved if any, leave may not be granted by the Court of Appeal. In which case it will die a natural death at the feet of CA justices.

    Should the case reach the highest court of appeal, the CJ has had a long history of working for UMNO and is not about to turn his back on the party that has helped him carve out a financial empire for himself. Issues dealing with interpretation of the laws are never easy but rest assured he will find a way. Do you really think judges in every case listen to the facts and the evidence and then apply the law to the facts and arrive at their judgment? No. They don’t always do. In cases like this they first form their judgment and then find the legal reasoning to support it. This explains why the reasoning is sometimes so convoluted.

  22. #22 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 7:53 am

    Defense under the 1948 Act is provided under Sec. 3 sub-Sec (2) and sub- sections (a) and (b) thereof should exonerate Karpal unless, of course, the judge indulges in more than just a little mental gymnastics to arrive at a guilty verdict.

  23. #23 by khairi ali on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 9:28 am

    If I’m one of the workers in Attorney General’s Chambers, I will advise them to put aside the seditious charge, but get the court rulings on Sultan’s action.

    Sometime I’m just wondering if complaining can be construed as seditious.

    Or even if Karpal did take the sultan to court, will that be liable to be charge as disregard of sultan’s status as the head of state. We are in a country that have courts to determine what is legal or not, arent we?

    I think it is premature, just like Karpal said.

    But it will be a little different if one to consider the case of stating : Singh is King!

    But then it will just be unbecoming. It is still not seditious, but the unbecoming statement can be very well ignited those who are stalwart to ketuanan Melayu.

  24. #24 by taiking on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 9:50 am

    Sedition my foot.
    Its a stupid political move to instill fear.
    Karpal is made of really stern stuff.
    They should have known that.
    He will thrive and prevail.
    The charge is obviouly bad and unsustainable both in law and in fact.
    So this is another own goal scored by umno.
    Thank you umno for the goal.

  25. #25 by shortie kiasu on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 12:48 pm

    BN & UMNO is making themselves look worse in the country by trying to muffle any dissent in this country just to hide their heinous acts commited.

    Poeple are not idiotic any more, they know how to judge for thermselves and the days of reckoning will be near.

  26. #26 by One4All4One on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 3:07 pm

    The next time, if I said a ruler’s farting stinks, I wonder if I would be charged for sedition and treason?

  27. #27 by Jong on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 - 8:25 pm

    Will someone please ask the Sultan of Perak Raja Azlan Shah if it is seditious to say “the Sultan can be sued”?

    I am sure as a former Lord President who else is more
    ‘qualified’ to enlighten us on this?

  28. #28 by AhPek on Friday, 20 March 2009 - 3:22 pm

    If Sultan of Perak were to answer in the affirmative,then he will have a bigger problem in finding a convincing answer to the question as to why neither Faridah Begum nor Standard Charter have been sued for sedition when Faridah sued the Sultan of Pahang for libel and Standard Chartered Bank sued Negri Sembilan Tuanku Ja’afar and won nearly US$1 million on a letter of credit over a business deal.
    If he were to answer in the negative then why is Karpal’s case all about.He is therefore done for,caught in a catch22 situation.
    So best solution is not to say anything and over time it will pass off as water under a bridge!

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