On 29 March, Karpal Singh announced he has stepped down as DAP National Chairman pending the appeal against his conviction under the Sedition Act. The court had on 11 March imposed a RM4,000 fine on the Bukit Gelugor MP, technically disqualifying him as an office bearer for the opposition party.
“Under the circumstances (of the conviction), I am publicly announcing that I am, pending my appeal to the Court of Appeal against the conviction and sentence that has been filed, stepping aside as chairperson of DAP,” said Karpal in a statement.
According to Section 9A(1)(b) of the Societies Act, if a person is convicted of an offense and fined RM 2,000 or more, he or she is disqualified from being and shall not become or remain an office-bearer, adviser or employer of a registered society.
Karpal’s sedition verdict arose from his remarks on the Sultan of Perak’s 2009 decision to replace the Menteri Besar (Pakatan’s Nizar Jamaluddin) with a Barisan Nasional candidate. Despite being acquitted on 11 June 2010 by the High Court, the prosecution’s succesful appeal to the Court of Appeal on 20 January 2012 forced Karpal to subsequently enter his defence.
The court’s decision to find Karpal guilty of sedition on 11 March 2014 was severely criticised by Pakatan leaders and international entities such as the United Nations.
“Lawyers must be able to discharge their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance or improper interference of any sort and should be entitled to express views in their professional capacities on matters concerning the law,” said the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville in Geneva.
Thus, it was legal technicalities that ended the veteran lawyer’s almost decade-long reign as the DAP National Chairman. He expressed that he would not demean himself by applying for an exemption from the Registrar of Societies to allow him to retain his post with the present conviction.
Meanwhile, DAP Deputy Chairman Tan Kok Wai will be the party’s acting Chairman. -The Rocket