- [VIDEO] CNN Talk Asia: Karpal Singh
- Obama Sets Date for Visit to Tarnished Malaysia
- Eminent Malaysian lawyer Karpal Singh dies
- Karpal Singh, always in the pursuit of justice
- Karpal Singh
Posted: 17 Apr 2014 01:53 AM PDT
Posted: 17 Apr 2014 12:33 AM PDT
US President set to arrive April 27 as KL faces increasing international criticism
US President Barack Obama is expected to visit Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia this month as part of his push to increase US diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. But despite the relative size and strategic importance of the other countries, it is his April 27 trip to Malaysia that arguably gives the president his biggest problems.
Given the events of the past few months, Obama will visit a country that has earned some of the worst press in Asia, not only for its fumbling response to the loss of its jetliner, MH370, with 239 people aboard, but to revelations of growing racial and religious intolerance, blatant attempts to silence the opposition through spurious legal action and bizarre charges by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's own newspaper that the Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped the plane to foment trouble with China, 152 of whose citizens were aboard the missing craft. The same newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, also repeated as a real possibility speculation by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the CIA brought down the World Trade Towers in 2001as a plot to blame Muslims for the destruction.
In recent weeks, an appeals court has reversed a lower court decision against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, declaring him guilty of what were clearly trumped up charges of sodomy. The decision, apparently rushed forward, was designed to deny Anwar an almost certain win in a Kuala Lumpur suburban by-election that would have paved his way to becoming chief minister of the country's most populous and prosperous state and would have given him a potent rhetorical platform to challenge the government. In an equally dubious decision, Karpal Singh, chairman of the Democratic Party, the biggest in the troika of opposition parties, was declared guilty of sedition for saying a decision by the Sultan of Perak could be questioned in court.
The international press that showed up in Kuala Lumpur after the disappearance of the airliner began asking questions that exposed an authoritarian regime unaccustomed to facing independent scrutiny – questions that a kept mainstream media, all of which are owned by the political parties in power, have ignored for decades. While a vibrant opposition press exists on the Internet, the government simply ignores it or tries to neutralize its reports. Those questions include crony capitalism, gerrymandering and political repression. CNN, the major US and British newspaper s and other media assailed the government as authoritarian, corrupt and befuddled.
The feeling in Washington, however, is that the cost of cancellation to the strategic relationship between the two countries would be too high. Obama reportedly is being urged to visit a Christian church while in the country to show US commitment to human and religious rights. Advocates say the President should make at least some gesture of recognition of the fact that a 50.87 percent majority of Malaysians voted against the ruling coalition in 2013 general elections at 47.38 percent but still hold only 89 of the 222 seats in parliament because of gerrymandering. It's unsure if he will do so. There is speculation that he may just opt for a "meet and greet" and get out of town as quickly as possible to avoid international criticism for propping up a regime that is starting to assume Zimbabwean characteristics of repression and kleptocracy.
"I don’t have any problem with Obama visiting Malaysia, provided he reaches out to Malaysians on both sides of the aisle and all sectors of society, including the Christian community, whose rights are being trampled on by their government," said John Malott, a former career foreign service officer who served as ambassador to Malaysia from 1996 to 1998 and who has emerged as Malaysian government’s severest western critic. "But this has to be a visit that is based on the reality of what kind of country Malaysia really is today – and not to believe the talking points that Malaysia is still a tolerant multi-racial, multi-religious, harmonious, moderate Islamic nation, an economic success story, and a role model for others. It no longer is."
Najib visited the White House in 2011 and was given a wholehearted endorsement by the President, who said Najib has "showed great leadership, I think, not only in continuing to show great leadership not only in Malaysia's economy but on showing leadership on a wide range of multilateral issues."
The president is said to like Najib personally despite the fact that a wide range of issues have never been cleared up, going back to allegations of Najib's personal involvement in the US$1 billion purchase of French submarines that according to French prosecutors was said to have netted US$114 million in bribes and kickbacks to the United Malays National Organization. The case is still making its way through French courts.
There is also the matter of the still controversial 2006 murder by two of Najib's bodyguards of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, who according to a now-dead private detective had been Najib's girlfriend before she was said to have been passed on to his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, a key figure in the purchase of the submarines. The bodyguards were acquitted on appeal despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, raising questions about Malaysia's legal system as well.
There have been some rude shocks. Six months ago, in the run-up to his previous failed visit to the region, the US president hailed Malaysia as an "an example of a dynamic economy” and praised its multi-ethnic, moderate Muslim-dominated society only to see just three days later a court decision ordering Christians not to use the word "Allah" when referring to God, making it the only Islamic country in the world to do so.
After that, the government ordered the confiscation of Malay-language Bibles containing the word – but only in Peninsular Malaysia. Christians using Malay-language Bibles in East Malaysia were allowed to keep them. That is because most of the Christians are tribes indigenous to Borneo that are aligned with the ruling party. In Peninsular Malaysia, they form the bulk of the opposition.
"So the issue is — how can you talk about establishing a 'strategic partnership' with such a government?" Malott asked. "Maybe that is what will have to be downplayed or even canned for this visit. To me, the idea of a declaring a strategic partnership with a government whose faults have now been revealed to the world, day after day, seems politically unwise."
Malott also questioned what strategic benefits the US can obtain from Malaysia.
"What strategic value does Malaysia have that it warrants America to hold its nose and ignore the trampling of democracy and political freedom, not to mention the corruption and cronyism that hurt American business interests there?" he asked. "And with Mahathir, the great anti-American, increasingly calling the political shots and Najib’s popularity the lowest of any Prime Minister in polling history, will a 'strategic partnership' with the US survive Najib’s departure?"
Posted: 16 Apr 2014 11:24 PM PDT
Veteran Malaysian opposition lawmaker Karpal Singh, an eminent lawyer who had been detained without trial under security laws and battled numerous sedition charges, has died in a road accident. He was 73.
District police chief Ng Kong Soon said Mr. Singh was travelling with four others when his car collided with a truck early Thursday on a highway.
Mr. Ng was quoted by national Bernama news agency as saying Mr. Singh and his personal assistant were killed immediately and his Indonesian maid was badly injured, but his son, Ram Singh, and the driver escaped unhurt.
Gobind Singh Deo, Mr. Karpal Singh's son and also a political leader, posted a message on Facebook and Twitter announcing his father's death.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Malaysia has lost an "indefatigable fighter for justice."
Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:07 PM PDT
Karpal Singh – the prominent lawyer, lawmaker and DAP leader – died early this morning in a road accident while on the way to Penang, doing what he does best: going to court for a client. He was 73.
His reputation as a lawyer and politician had earned him the nickname the “Tiger of Jelutong” from the time he started legal practice in 1970 – which was also the year he joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
When he died early today, Karpal had just let go of the DAP chairmanship as he battled a sedition conviction that risked his four decades of legal and political career.
But the controversial decision was nothing to Karpal. He had been thrown out of parliament, put in detention during Ops Lalang in 1987 and had faced previous sedition charges.
“Eliminating me from the political terrain will not be the end of Karpal Singh. It will in fact lead to the rise of many Karpal Singhs!” said Karpal, who was Amnesty International’s “prisoner of conscience” for his detention without trial.
His legal and political colleagues remember him as a fearless and smart lawyer and politician, but to the countless ordinary people in his Penang constituency and legal office in Jalan Pudu Lama, Kuala Lumpur – he was a friend.
This was the other side of Karpal Singh apart from his legendary roles as a DAP politician and remarkable lawyer – he was a gentle-mannered man who was always ready to help the ordinary folk he came across in his daily life.
They knew Karpal as a humble man with a ready smile, who was always ready to stop and listen, no matter how small you were. No question was too trivial or repetitive for him to answer, no hello was too unimportant to stop for.
His tragic death in a road accident today meant that he “died in his saddle”, a term he had used upon turning 70 when he said: “I’ve always said that a lawyer should die in a saddle. I think it equally applies to being a politician.”
An earlier road accident in 2005 put him in a wheelchair while this morning’s road accident occurred near Gua Tempurung when the veteran lawyer was on his way up north to Penang in his white Alphard for a court case.
Anyone who knew Karpal would easily attest to how he was probably the busiest 73-year-old around, often shuttling between parliament and court during the week, and on weekends, travelling up north, mostly to visit his constituency or for a court case.
Nothing stopped Karpal, who at 73 was still shuttling between parliament and court or travelling north to visit his constituency. – The Malaysian Insider pic, April 17, 2014.Nothing would stop him in court or politics. Not even the latest sedition conviction where he was alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as menteri besar of Perak by Perak ruler, Sultan Azlan Shah, could be questioned in a court of law.
Karpal’s defence was that he had offered a legal opinion and not a threat to the ruler, who was once the Lord President of the Supreme Court. Charged for the offence in 2009, Karpal was acquitted by the High Court without his defence called in the first round.
However, the prosecution appealed against the decision and succeeded at the Court of Appeal, and even pressed for a deterrent sentence against the wheelchair-bound politician.
He was handed down a RM4,000 fine, which would have disqualified him as an MP if he did not succeed in an appeal which has not been heard.
Karpal joined DAP in 1970 and was first elected as a Kedah state assemblyman in 1974 before becoming MP for Jelutong in 1978, a seat he held until he lost in 1999.
He returned to parliament in the 2004 general election as the Bukit Gelugor MP, and although the motor accident in 2005 confined Karpal to a wheelchair, it did nothing to curb his spirit or vigour.
Karpal’s legal career started when he was admitted to the Penang Bar in 1969 after reading law at the National University of Singapore.
He was one of Malaysia’s most prominent lawyers, and had taken up numerous high-profile cases, including drug trafficking charges against foreign nationals such as Australian Kevin Barlow, and the sodomy accusations against former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, especially for drug trafficking offences.
He was detained in the Ops Lalang government crackdown in October 1987 under the Internal Security Act which allows for detention without trial, along with DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and 104 others. He was released in 1989.
Karpal was also known to be opposed to turning Malaysia into an Islamic state, often citing the Federal Constitution that provides for a secular nation.
“I'm doing it for the country. At the end that's what it is for,” he had told The Malaysian Insider in an interview before his 70th birthday.
He had also said then that “one can’t always win,but should not stop trying either”.
Clearly, Karpal never stopped. He was and will always be a Malaysian hero.
He will be missed, never forgotten. He will always be loved, treasured and respected for decades to come.
But that cannot be said about the government which until the last moment was trying to put him behind bars for speaking the truth and speaking lucidly about something that mattered dearly to him: the law.
He leaves behind wife Gurmit Kaur, daughter Sangeet, sons Jagdeep, Gobind, Ramkarpal and Mankarpal, and a host of grandchildren. And Malaysians.
Posted: 16 Apr 2014 08:24 PM PDT
"He gave his honours to the world again,
At almost 3 this morning I awoke to the shocking news of the death of one of the nation's most illustrious heroes – YB Karpal Singh. It came like a lightning bolt to me because just last evening, I had had a lengthy chat with him.
After getting hold of myself, I then twittered a short condolence expressing deep sorrow and devastation over the loss of "our indefatigable fighter for justice". Once again, Azizah and family offer our deepest condolences to Gurmit Kaur, Gobind, Ram and the rest of the family. May you all remain strong in this great hour of tribulation.
Indeed, words cannot express enough my profound sadness of the passing away of my brother-in-arms for freedom and democracy, an inspiring symbol for the struggle against oppression and injustice and a man of unimpeachable moral integrity.
The nation has lost one of her most dedicated servants. The people have lost a selfless , courageous and noble defender of their fundamental liberties. The legal fraternity has lost one of it’s sharpest minds and I have lost a true friend, kind in words, noble in deed.
"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
And so it was with our hero Karpal Singh for there is none more valiant in life than this great mortal whose body may have perished but his spirit shall live on with us.
17th April, 2014
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