Monday, April 28, 2014

Hudud implementation is not part of Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy platform or general election manifesto



Speech by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at DAP Dinner held in Kuala Kangsar, Perak

Hudud implementation is not part of Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy platform or general election manifesto

The sudden passing of former DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh on April 17 in an accident saddened and shocked the entire nation.

The massive outpouring of grief at his wake and funeral showed that he was so respected and loved by the people.  He was indeed a people’s hero.

Although Karpal has left us, he will be forever remembered.

Karpal devoted his life for the cause of human rights, justice, and democracy.  The best tribute that we can pay to him is to continue his struggle for the causes he has fought.

We must all not forget the famous words uttered by Karpal after his sedition conviction-“You knock out one Karpal, a hundred Karpal Singhs will rise.”

What he said must serve as a reminder to us that the battle to fight for justice, fairness and democracy must continue.
With local DAP leaders

Karpal believed strongly in holding on to principles. To him, the correct principles must remain permanent.

On this score, I wish to reiterate that DAP will never waiver from our principle that Malaysia is a secular and democratic nation and must remain so.

Since PAS announced its intention to table a private member’s bill on hudud in Parliament, BN component parties like MCA and Gerakan have been attacking the DAP ,even questioning if DAP is indeed a party of principles.

MCA and Gerakan have proven over time that they are parties which will bow to anything UMNO wants, yet they have the gall to question if DAP has principles.

MCA and Gerakan dared not object when the former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir declared in 2001 that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

DAP vehemently objected to his declaration and we made it clear that we will never accept the establishment of an Islamic state in Malaysia, whether ala PAS or Umno.

MCA and Gerakan may think people are forgetful, but the people are not and they will forever remember that MCA and Gerakan gave their full support to Mahathir’s declaration.

There is no doubt that PAS is an important ally in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition and PAS is definitely needed to help in PR’s mission to capture Putrajaya in the coming general election.

But let me reiterate tonight that hudud implementation is not part of Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy platform or general election manifesto.

Hence, DAP will not support the hudud implementation.

தமிழ்ப் பாலர் பள்ளி: நிதி உண்டு! ஆனால், செய்வார் இல்லை!

-மு. குலசேகரன், ஏப்ரல் 27, 2014.
kula1-710712கடந்த அக்டோபர்  2013 இல் தாக்கல் செய்யப்பட்ட  2014 ஆம் ஆண்டுக்கான பட்ஜெட்டில் பிரதமர் நஜிப் பாலர் பள்ளிகள் அமைப்பது பற்றி குறிப்பிட்டிருந்தார். அதில் தேசியமாதிரி சீன மற்றும் தமிழ் தொடக்கப்பள்ளிகளில் 93 பாலர் பள்ளிகள்  அமைப்பதற்கு கணிசமான தொகையையும், மலேசிய இந்தியர்களை தேசிய நீரோட்ட வளர்ச்சியில் இணைப்பதற்காக ரிம100 மில்லியனும், 176 பாலர் பள்ளிகளின் கல்வி மேம்பாட்டிற்காக ரிம28 மில்லியனும் ஒதுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

2014 ஆம் ஆண்டின்  நான்கு மாதங்கள் கடந்த பின்பும் இந்த ஒதுக்கீடுகளை பயன்படுதுவதற்கான அறிகுறிகள் எதுவும் தென்படவில்லை. எந்தத் தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகளுக்கு பாலர் பள்ளிகள் தேவை, எவ்வளவு ஒதுக்கீடுகள் இப்பள்ளிகளுக்கு கிடைக்கும், யார் இதைக் கட்டப்போகிறார்கள் என்ற விவரங்கள் இன்னும் தெளிவாக இல்லை. பாலர் பள்ளிகளின் தேவை அதிகம் உள்ளது. அரசாங்கமும் அதற்கான நிதியை ஒதுக்கியுள்ளது. இந்த இரண்டையும் இணைத்து  செயலில் இறங்க வேண்டியது யாருடைய பொறுப்பு? கல்வி அமைச்சுதான் இதனைச் செய்ய வேண்டும் என்பது அனைவற்கும் தெரியும். ஆனால், இதுவரை கல்வி அமைச்சு செயலில் இறங்கி விட்டதிற்கான அறிகுறிகள் எதுவும் இல்லை.

கல்வி அமைச்சுக்கு உதவி தேவைப்பட்டால் தற்பொழுது பேராசிரியர் என்.எஸ் இராஜேந்திரனின் தலைமையின் கீழ் அமைக்கப்பட்டுள்ள தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகளின் மேம்பாட்டு திட்ட வரைவுக் குழுவிடம் ஒப்படைக்கலாமே!  பிரதமர்துறையின் கீழ் இயங்குவதாலும் தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகள் அவரின் நேரடி பார்வையில் இருப்பதாலும், இப்பொறுப்பினை அந்தக் குழுவிடம் வழங்குவதன் வழி கல்வி அமைச்சின் சுமையும் குறையும் வேலையும் ஒழுங்காக நடைபெறுமே!!

நிதியை பள்ளி வாரியங்களிடம் கொடுப்பதே நல்லது

இப்பொழுதெல்லாம் பள்ளி வாரியங்களில்  நிறையவே படித்தவர்களும் பொறுப்பானவர்களும் இருக்கின்றார்கள். ஆகவே, அரசாங்கம் நிதியை நேரடியாகவே பள்ளி வாரியங்களிடம் வழங்குவதன் வழி  அரசாங்கத்தின் பணம் விரயமாகாமலும், காலம் தாழ்த்தப்பாடாமலும், அதன் நோக்கத்திற்கேற்ப செலவிடும் சாத்தியமும் அதிகமாக உள்ளது.

பள்ளி வாரியங்களில் உள்ளவர்கள்  பள்ளியில் நேரடியாக சம்பந்தப்பட்டிருப்பதாலும் பள்ளியின் முன்னேற்றத்தில் மற்றவர்களைவிட  அதிக அக்கறை கொண்டவர்களாக இருப்பதாலும் அந்தத் திட்டத்தை நிறைவேற்றுவதில் அவர்கள் அதிக அக்கறையும் முனைப்பும் காட்டுவர் என்று நம்பலாம்.

கல்வி அமைச்சு வேண்டுமானால் அந்தத் திட்டம் நிறைவேறுவதற்கு சரியான அதிகாரிகளைக் கொண்டு மேற்பார்வை இடலாம். தேவையானால், அவை முறையாக நடைபெற்றதா என்பதற்கு கணக்காய்வு செய்யலாம். மேலும், கடந்த பெப்ரவரி மாதம் தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகளின் திட்ட வரைவு  அறிமுக நிகழ்ச்சியில் பிரதமர் கூறி இருந்தது போல, மானியங்கள் நேரடியாக பள்ளி வாரியத்திடம்கொடுப்பதே  உத்தமமானது. அக்கூட்டத்தில் கலந்து கொண்ட நானும் இந்த பரிந்துரையை பெரிதும் வரவேற்கின்றேன்.

அரசாங்கத்தால் ஒதுக்கப்படும் நிதிகள், குறிப்பாக பாலர் பள்ளிகளுக்கும், தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகளின் மேம்பாட்டுக்கும் வழங்கப்பட்ட நிதிகள், பெரும்பாலும் ஒரு சில அரசு சாரா இயக்கங்களுக்கு வழங்கப்பட்டு விட்டதாகவும், ஆனால் அவை முறையாக சேர வேண்டிய இலக்கை அடையவில்லை என்பது பற்றியும் பத்திரிக்கைகளில் அதிகமாக எழுதப்படுவதை நான் கவனிக்கின்றேன்.

இது போன்ற சமுதாயச் துரோகச் செயல்கள் தொடர்வதை இனியும் நாம் அனுமதிக்கக் கூடாது. அதோடு அரசாங்கமும் இந்த விசயத்தில் இன்னும் பொறுப்போடு நடந்துகொள்ளவேண்டும். அரசு செய்யவேண்டிய கடமைகளை வெளியாட்களைக் கொண்டு செய்யச் சொல்வது பொறுப்பற்ற செயலாகும். பாலர்பள்ளி கட்டுவதற்கும் , கல்வி மேம்பாட்டுக்கும், தொழில் திறன் வளர்ச்சிக்கும் ஒதுக்கப்படும் நிதிகளை அரசாங்கம் அரசு சாரா அமைப்புகளிடம் வழங்கி விட்டதன் மூலம் அதனுடையக் கடமையைச் செய்துவிட்டதாக எண்ணி கை கழுவி விடக் கூடாது. பாலர் பள்ளி நிறுவது முதல் அது செயல்பட ஆரம்பிக்கும் வரை  கண்காணிக்க வேண்டியது அரசாங்கத்தின் கடமையாகும்.

கணக்கு கேட்பேன்

அரசு சாரா அமைப்புகள் தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகளுக்கும் தமிழ் மொழிக்கும் செய்யும் சேவை  அரசாங்கம் செய்யும் முதன்மைப் பணிக்கு உதவியாக இருக்க வேண்டுமே தவிர அவையே அரசாங்கத்தின் வேலையை செய்யக் கூடாது என்று நான் கருதுகிறேன்.

அந்த வகையில் எத்தனையோ கோடி வெள்ளி கடந்த காலங்களில் ஊர் பேர் தெரியாத அரசு சாரா இயக்கங்களுக்கு கொடுக்கப்பட்டு அவை போன இடம் தெரியாமல் இருக்கிறது. இந்தத் தவறுக்கெல்லாம் அரசாங்கத்தின் அணுகுமுறையிலும்  நிதி கொடுக்கும் முறையிலும் இருக்கும் கோளாறுதான் காரணம்.

இது குறித்து அடுத்த நாடாளுமன்றத் கூட்டதில், எந்த எந்த அரசு சாரா இயக்கங்களுக்கு எவ்வளவு நிதி கொடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. அதன் தலைவர்கள் யார் யாரென்று குறிப்பிட வேண்டுமென்று எழுத்து மூலமாக கேள்வி எழுப்ப உள்ளேன்.

56 கோடி வெள்ளி தமிழ்ப்பள்ளிகளுக்காக  ஒதுக்கபட்டதாக அரசாங்கம் அறிவித்துள்ளது. ஆனால், இந்தப் பணம் எப்படி செலவழிக்கப்பட்டது என்பதற்கு முறையான விளக்கங்களை  இதுவரை  திருப்தி அளிக்கும் வகையில் எந்த தரப்புமே வெளியாக்கவில்லை. முன்னாள் அமைச்சர்களும் இன்னாள் அமைச்சர்களும் அந்தப் பணம் சரியாகத்தான் செலவு செய்யப்பட்டது என்று எவ்வளவுதான் சமாதானம் சொன்னாலும், அந்தப் பெருந்தொகையின் தாக்கத்தை எந்த வகையிலும் நம்மால் பார்க்க முடியவில்லை.

இந்த 56 கோடிக்கான விரிவான செலவுப் பட்டியலை, எந்தப் பள்ளிக்கு எவ்வளவு கொடுக்கப்பட்டது,  என்ன மாதிரியான திட்டங்கள் மேற்கொள்ளப்பட்டன,  அவை பூர்த்தியாகி விட்டனவா என்பன போன்ற கேள்விகளுக்கு சம்பந்தப்பட்ட அமைச்சர்களும்  அதிகாரிகளும் விளக்கம் கொடுக்க வேண்டும்.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

To our 'kawan' Karpal: Farewell!

1:44PM Apr 27, 2014- Malaysiakini

To our 'kawan' Karpal: Farewell! 

Below is a eulogy of Karpal Singh by DAP national vice-chairperson and Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran, delivered at the Riverfront Hotel, Ipoh on April 25.


Kawan-kawan,
The sudden passing of Karpal Singh has left me with a feeling of being bereft. I feel a void in the party, in my circle of mentor-friends, in the legal fraternity and, above all, in the highest arena of the land, which is the national Parliament. 
 
Only the day before Karpal left us in the wee hours of April 17, I left for India, to witness the general elections there. I was supposed to be in Chennai for over a week under the care of the Election Commission of India. Less than 48 hours after I had arrived, I had to return to Penang for a sad duty, which was to attend my party chairperson's funeral.
 
It was a most dizzying change of focus – from witnessing a sprawling democracy's rite of renewal to paying homage to and bidding farewell to one of Malaysian democracy’s more lively exponents.      
 
I first met Karpal when I paid visits to the late P Patto who like Karpal was detained at Kamunting under the draconian ISA, along with more than 100 other social activists and politicians in 1987. I didn’t know him well then, but when I subsequently joined the party he became a close friend of mine.
 
When I first stood for Parliament, which was in a by-election for the seat of Teluk Intan in 1997, Karpal arrived early on nomination day to check my papers. Nomination papers can be the most deceptive of documents; a single error can be about as fatal to one’s eligibility as the one on the North-South Expressway was to Karpal’s life.
 
Karpal pored word by word over what was written in the information fields on the nomination paper. As Karpal was checking the papers some impatient supporters, milling outside the DAP office, called for my presence for the blessing of the nomination papers, accompanied by the ritual breaking of coconuts.

Man of wisdom
 
Karpal interjected to say that here was a case where recourse to divine favor could not precede the securing of worldly sanction. This, kawan-kawan, you may recognize with me, to be a theme of Karpal’s political and legal careers - that no matter what the divinities may ordain, the wisdom of the world would have to be accorded first deference. 
 
This is my summary of the essence of Karpal Singh's politics and legal career which is: Make sure of the fine print on worldly documents after which you may accord the divinities their due.
 
I think this is the essence of the secular social democrat's political credo.
 
When my nomination papers for the Teluk Intan by-election were appropriately filled and the spiritual rituals performed, we proceeded to the nomination center. Subsequently, Karpal spoke at a number of ceramah and was always encouraging me.
 
Later, Karpal passed legal matters to me, especially if the matters were filed in the Ipoh area where I had my legal practice. In one particular case, he rang and asked if I could assist a person to defend a civil claim but Karpal said the prospective client may not have the wherewithal to meet the professional tab. Karpal urged that I take the case as he said the man was a good chap and worth helping. 
 
I took the case and won it. The client was a lorry driver who was sued by an insurance company as he had failed to notify the insurer of an accident in which he was involved. Karpal asked me, on and off, about the progress of the case. He was concerned about how the matter was handled.

A lion in court and Parliament
 
Sometime in late 1996, I was held in contempt of court and thrown into a police lockup in Ipoh. My lawyer friends persuaded me to apologise to purge the contempt so that I could be freed. I apologised and regretted it. Later that evening, Karpal called me from his KL office by phone and advised me to file an appeal. 
 
That very night Karpal prepared affidavits after getting facts on my issue of contempt and we finished our discussion only at the midnight. The next day he drove down to Ipoh and filed the appeal which was eventually allowed by the Court of Appeal. 
 
The Court of Appeal reprimanded the Sessions Judge for unbecoming conduct in holding me for contempt. I felt vindicated, all because of Karpal. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
 
When I entered Parliament, he would often refer to me on the latest happenings in Parliament. In those days, parliamentary proceedings only began at 2.30 in the afternoon and would often go on till late. 
 
During one heated debate, Umno MPs became rowdy and were hurling all kinds of abuse at Karpal. He stood his ground but I who was sitting behind him was worried that the aggressive MPs would leap over and do Karpal harm. 
 
The meeting finished at around 8pm and Karpal just walked out of the chambers as though nothing had happened. I met him on the outside and asked if he were not afraid that the aggression shown against him inside the chamber would spill over into violence. 
 
He replied, “Barking dogs don't bite and in the case of Umno...” I think I had better not refer in full to how Karpal wrapped up his response to my anxious inquiry. 

Remember Michael too
 
In the 2004 general election, Karpal campaigned in my area. I thanked Karpal for assisting me. He retorted that “Whatever happens, you must enter Parliament this round and I will make sure of it and I will come many more times to help you.” 
 
As we were driving to one ceramah in Ipoh Barat, Karpal noticed we were proceeding through a red light district. He said, “Thambi, you have good company in your area” as we both chuckled at what he said.  
 
About three years ago, after an event in Ipoh, Karpal and others dropped by my house for a drink. We had quite a few stengahs amid a lengthy discussion on – what else - politics. Karpal relished the whiskey I served and requested an empty bottle so that he could purchase one the next time he sought to replenish his stock. 
 
I decided the least I could do was to honour him by giving him an unopened bottle of the same brand. We all, then, had something to eat but his ever-faithful orderly and assistant, Michael Cornelius Jaikrishnan, was his usual smiling self despite not partaking of the fare. 
 
Michael was a teetotaler and vegetarian. Upon being apprised that Michael was a vegan, my wife prepared him a special dish of vegetarian noodles. It was a fitting end to a fine evening. 
 
Of a man of Karpal's stature, one could be led to think he was reserved and aloof. On the contrary, Karpal was amiable and  greeted even the youngest of lawyers at courtside.
 
I had begun these reminiscences with ‘Kawan-kawan' which everyone knows was Karpal's rather unique salutation to his audience whenever he held forth in Bahasa Malaysia. I end these reminiscences with a salutation to my friend in Latin, which is the source of much precision and brevity in the law, especially common law, which Karpal stoutly espoused and valiantly defended. 
 
This salutation is ave atque vale which simply means ‘Hail and Farewell’. To my friend Karpal Singh Deo, I bid a fond ‘Hail’ and a grateful ‘Farewell’. May he rest in peace. 
 
Thank you very much.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Make Malaysia Election Commission a totally independent body that reports directly to Parliament



Press Statement by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat in Ipoh on Friday, April 25, 2014

Make Malaysia Election Commission a totally independent body that reports directly to Parliament
The Indian General Parliamentary Elections is now in progress. It is conducted in phases and has started on April 12. It will end on May 12. Voting will take place in 543 constituencies.
The election will involve over 500 million eligible voters, making the Indian general election as one having the largest voter population in the world.
YB A. Sivanesan, Segaran (DAP Ipoh Barat Chairman), Vembersan (PKR Klang) and I decided to go and witness the ongoing General Elections.
We arrived on the 16th April in Chennai.  On the next day,   we were taken by the Indian official to the Election Commissioner’s office of Tamil Nadu.
We attended a 2 hour briefing on the do’s and don’ts of the General Parliamentary Elections. The head of Election Commission, Mr. Parveen Kumar briefed us and took questions from us.
Among the matters he told us were:-
1) A parliamentary candidate can spend up to 40lakhs.  (A Malaysian candidate contesting Parliamentary elections can expend to the limit of RM200 K).
2) Candidates are not allowed to put up banners and posters in their constituency. But during the elections, if the candidate is holding a public rally or meeting the people at a certain area, the candidate is allowed to put up banners and posters within 12 hours before the event and all these banners and posters must be removed within 4 hours after the event.
3) The electoral rolls of voters have photos of the voters. Further, CCTV and Video cams are operating at all times at the voting center. This process prevents cheating and does away with ghosts voters.
4) During the Parliamentary Elections, the local councils, state Government and related elected representatives are disallowed to announce any new policy or do any act which may influence the voters.
We had an appointment to meet with the Mayor of Chennai. But just a few hours before the event, the Election Commission called us to cancel the meeting. It was done to prevent any form of advantage it might occur /give to the Mayor’s party by our meeting.
5) We were showed the process of electronic voting. We were taken to a school in Chennai and even the inedible ink was put on our finger. (The ink is still on my finger after nearly a week!)
We were given to understand that a team from the Indian Election Commission had come to Kuala Lumpur some 3 months ago and had demonstrated the Electronic voting system to our Election Commission office.
6) Any political party can set up their own TV station and telecast the policies and programmes of their party. Printing presses are allowed to flourish without control. 
We were in India for only 2 days as we had to cut short the originally planned week long visit due to Karpal Singh’s untimely demise.  Upon being informed of the sudden passing of our most beloved and respected leader, we immediately changed our flight schedule to rush back to Malaysia so that we could attend his funeral on April 20th.
Nevertheless, during the 2 days of our tour in India, we were exposed with the latest full proof technology and in the process learned a lot. We are grateful to both the Indian High Commission in Malaysia, in particular His Excellency Mr Tirumorthi and the Election Commission of Tamil Nadu for facilitating the tour.
Many issues including vote rigging, ghost voters, lack of media space for opposition parties have continued to surface in Malaysia general elections although the nation has held 13 general elections.
I am sure that Malaysia Election Commission (EC) is aware of how these issues can be tackled by adopting the measures practiced by the Indian Election Commission.  If they are not, I will certainly make them aware through coming Parliament meetings.
The key question is really how serious is the EC and the Malaysian government about having free, fair and clean general elections as till today the EC and the government have not adopted many past recommendations made by the Opposition, including the automatic registration of Malaysians as voters upon reaching the age of 21.
I believe that the first step to bring about a free, fair and clean general election in Malaysia is to make the EC a totally independent body that reports directly to the Parliament.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Karpal Singh a political man of his times


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.

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

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.



DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached atbwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

Monday, April 21, 2014

We will oppose hudud as it is not part of Pakatan agreement, says Guan Eng

We will oppose hudud as it is not part of Pakatan agreement, says Guan Eng

By EILEEN NG
April 21, 2014
Latest Update: April 21, 2014 07:40 pm
 
DAP has put its foot down against PAS's plan to table a private motion on hudud in Parliament, saying that Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) common policy platform and general election manifesto does not include the formation of an Islamic state.

In stressing that the coalition's policy has not changed, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (pic) said this was further reaffirmed by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy platform and the 2008 as well as 2013 general election manifestos do not include the implementation of the hudud or the establishment of an Islamic state. This has been agreed to by all the component parties of PAS, PKR and DAP in Pakatan Rakyat.

"PR’s position has not changed because DAP’s position in opposing the implementation of the hudud has not changed. Under PR, there must be consensus by all three parties on policy matters,” he said in a statement today.

Lim said as DAP does not support the implementation of the hudud, the issue of PR supporting the hudud does not arise.

Lim, who is the Bagan MP, said while all the component parties can adhere to their respective objectives within the democratic framework, the focus and priority should be on PR's common policies that have been agreed to by all three parties.

This included fighting corruption, pursuing good governance, establishing rule of law and justice, and ensuring that economic prosperity can be shared equitably with the rakyat and not enjoyed only by the cronies, he added.

Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob had announced the east coast state representatives will table a private members bill in Parliament, as early as the next meeting in June, to implement Islamic laws in the  state.

The state is seeking permission to implement the Syariah Criminal Code Enactment (2) 1993 by December at the latest.

The decision was a follow-up to Putrajaya’s willingness, which gave way to any state government to enforce Hudud law in their respective state.

Following the report, four Barisan Nasional component parties - MCA, Gerakan, Sarawak United Peoples' Party and Liberal Democratic Party had voiced their objection to the plan. – April 21, 2014.

'What was Sri Lankan minister doing here'

‘What was Sri Lankan minister doing here’

 |
April 21, 2014--FMT
DAP leaders have criticised the government,
particularly MIC leaders, for allowing the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary
into the country.
RamasamyKUALA
LUMPUR: Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy criticised MIC leaders
today for keeping mum on Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gothabaya
Rajapaksa’s visit to Malaysia, especially when the island state had
killed 150,000 Tamils.


Gothabaya had told Malaysia to be wary of Tamil terrorists in the country.




Ramasamy criticised Gothabaya for making the statement at a forum
organised by the Defence Ministry last week. The report was carried by a
daily in India, The Hindu.




“I’m baffled by Gothabaya’s statement. Since the Tamil Tigers are not
present in Malaysia, we can assume that the phrase was used to refer to
local Tamil community, said Ramasamy in a press statement today.




He said Gothabaya’s visit was an embarassment to Malaysian Indians
because the Sri Lankan government had killed nearly 150,000 Tamils in
the island in its 26-year military campaign which ended in 2009.




Gothabaya is the brother of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa.




DAP MP M Kulasegaran urged the government to explain the motive of Gothabaya’s visit to Malaysia.




“Why did our government keep his visit a secret?” he asked.




Sungkai state assemblyman A Sivanesan criticised MIC president G
Palanivel and his deputy, Dr S Subramaniam, for keeping mum on the
matter.




“I am sure Palanivel and Dr Subramaniam are aware of Gothabaya’s visit since it must have been discussed in the Cabinet meeting.




“Being ministers representing the Indians, the duo should have objected to the decision,” he said.