Face to face with the Tiger

by Ralvin Manikam

As I stepped into Karpal Singh’s office with no idea of what to expect, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the legend that he was and still is in the political arena; a mammoth force with unflinching will, mirrored by his spoken words.

I sat right next to him, and he looked at me, squinting as if staring directly into the sun, clearly trying to figure out why I looked extremely nervous in his presence. I squinted back. He smiled at us like Santa Claus on a day off, slurring as he greeted us. His office is more of a library , adorned by pictures of  Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru after whom, he named one of his sons.

The Chairman of DAP has a record of being vocal on issues threatening Malaysia’ democratic society , weeding out elements that gravitate the rakyat and our leaders towards unconstitutional ideas or undertakings.

He even did this by seemingly jeopardizing DAP’s bond with the less secular components of the opposition coalition. While his blatant remarks are not aimed at insulting anyone or any establishment, the effect of this does paint Karpal as someone who is unwilling to cooperate with ideas foreign to DAP’s principles.

From what I knew about him, Karpal has had a record of confrontations with politicians, ministers, the former prime minister, and even the King at one time. Refusing to apologize for criticizing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who allegedly assaulted two men, Karpal turned up the heat and decided to sue the King, Sultan Iskandar in 1986 on behalf of one the assaulted men.  A case which he subsequently lost.

At the time of this interview, Karpal was convicted and awaiting his sentencing for sedition for threatening to sue the Sultan of Perak in 2009.  Karpal had commented on the legality of the Sultan of Perak’s removal of the Pakatan Rakyat Menteri Besar in Perak, by replacing him with a BN candidate.

The comment has embroiled him in a controversy that may cost him his parliamentary position and has stirred waves of criticism from those sympathetic to the Sultan’s position. Karpal has appealed to reverse the motion, believing, like many others, that he is innocent.

“Do you know what it feels like to hang an innocent man?,” I remembered him saying.

Being no stranger to the Sedition Act, Karpal was arrested and charged in January 2000 for uttering seditious remarks in court during Anwar’s first corruption trial. A charge unprecedented in any Commonwealth nation brought against a lawyer for remarks made in court.

The general public often forgets that it is only with such leaders, that true democracy is achieved. Despite undergoing the sedition trial, the 74- year old wheelchair-bound Karpal does not show any signs of slowing down, firm yet articulating his points in a very logical and party-principled manner.

Malaysia needs more Karpal Singhs

Any arising conflict in a nation would break the prisms and kaleidoscopes with which the rakyat views a leader or a politician. And it is during such times that we see who decides to be upright in defending and upholding the constitution.

The act of defending Malaysia’s secular state has polarised Karpal Singh’s image to some people but in return it showed us that there are some who are willing to speak up against the gradual Islamisation of Malaysia that was not intended by the founders of the constitution.

A hard point to convey in a country such as ours; where any opposition to the aforementioned religious subject is almost taboo. Being a non-Muslim, Karpal has a daunting task of delivering statements of that nature, having to predictably endure the brick-bats from staunch and even some moderate Muslims later on.

But this tiger continues to roar when threatened, storming into the battlefield against odds that seems insurmountable at times. Karpal, elected by the people, bearing the stripes of justice fights anyone who dares dabble with our rights as Malaysians.

And dabble they have, with our electoral process and the justice system, he believes. I remember his quote:

“Anyone who wants to be an MP, must be prepared to stand up and do what is required of an elected representative. We can’t be frightened and not say certain things to avoid getting into trouble, If you are, then you have made the wrong choice.”

But such is the nature of a tiger, unafraid of giving in to his aggressive instincts. The tiger of Jelutong, though wounded and old, lives on, fighting the powers-that-be, with his heart still beating to the drum of democracy. -The Rocket

* To read the exclusive interview with Karpal Singh, get your copy of the April issue of The Rocket

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