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    Posted February 24, 2014 by
    Manila, Philippines
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    No archaic and barbaric law can ever tame the “Tiger of Jelutong”: Karpal Singh and the Sedition Act

    I refer to South China Morning Post, “Malaysian opposition leader Karpal Singh convicted of sedition for ‘insult’”, February 21.

    To quote from the said article:

    “A Malaysian court found a veteran opposition leader guilty of sedition yesterday in the latest use of a law the government had pledged to abolish in the run-up to elections last year.”

    I concur with Karpal, the Democratic Action Party chairman in slamming the Sedition Act as a “relic” of the dead colonial past. Indeed, the “case” against him unfair and utterly unjust.

    In his own words: "It's political intimidation…"

    According further to the report, “the outspoken, wheelchair-bound parliamentarian was found guilty of insulting one of the country's nine state sultans during a tussle over political control of Perak state in 2009.

    “He faces up to three years in prison, with sentencing set for March 7. The conviction, against which Singh plans to appeal, sparked further condemnation of the government's use of the decades-old Sedition Act.”

    I join the international community in condemning this indescribably idiotic and undeniably repressive ruling.
    Said “judgment” by the court not only compromised the court’s legitimacy but it also reinforce the people’s perception and take that the various institutions of the country are being controlled by the powers that be.

    This is a shame!

    The “ruling” is not only a gross violation of the freedom of expression, but also a political oppression and gross ignorance of the law.

    Only an idiot of the lowest order will fail to see that as such!

    As reported by V. Anbalagan for the Malaysian Insider, “International law experts say Karpal’s conviction violates freedom of speech”, February 22:

    “The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has joined the Malaysian legal fraternity in disapproving the High Court's decision in convicting lawyer Karpal Singh of sedition, saying the conviction was inconsistent with international law and standards on the free expression of opinion by lawyers.”

    I overwhelmingly agree to 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 ironic by virtue of the fact that Karpal merely “acted in fulfillment 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.

    This is in conformity with the position of the Malaysian Bar Council that Karpal’s conviction for sedition smells of ‘selective prosecution’.

    As reported by the Malay Mail in an article that carries the same title, February 21:

    “DAP MP Karpal Singh’s conviction today under the “archaic and draconian” Sedition Act 1948 has raised the spectre of selective government prosecution, the Bar Council said today.

    “The professional body representing some 13,000 lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia said it was appalled by the court ruling and denounced the government’s continued use of the 66-year-old law which “directly contradicts” the prime minister’s July 2012 promise to repeal it.”

    As categorically stated by the vice-president of the Malaysian Bar, Steven Thiru:

    “This was a clear admission and recognition by the Government that the Sedition Act is an anachronistic and repressive colonial law.

    “Thus, the decision to proceed with the prosecution of YB Karpal Singh under a law that the government has slated for repeal is inexplicable and raises the spectre of selective prosecution…”

    Indeed, Karpal, who is a veteran lawyer and inarguably the best that the Malaysian society has ever produced “was only exercising his right to free speech when giving his opinion during the Perak constitutional crisis in 2009.”

    For undeniably “the right of a citizen (in this case a senior and experienced lawyer) to voice an opinion on a constitutional law point, that is, whether the decision of a Ruler of a State is justiciable in the courts, is clearly within the scope of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 10 (1)(a) the Constitution…”

    The Malaysian 'prime minister' “had pledged to abolish the act in 2012 as part of reform promises made to halt a slide in support for his long-ruling coalition.”

    As usual, the problem is, after the election wherein the government lost big, they seem to forget what they had promised to the rakyat!

    To the powers that be

    If you thought that you can fool the Malaysian public, the answer is a deafening no!

    If you thought that you can tame the “Tiger of Jelutong”, the answer is a roaring no!

    You may succeed in sending him in jail, but he will continue to roar and fight you back to the death on behalf and for the interest of the greater Malaysian public!

    You may imprison the old man, but you can never defeat the warrior in him and you can never imprison his mind!


    Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

    Philosophy lecturer
    College of Arts and Letters
    Polytechnic University of the Philippines
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