MP SPEAKS The Malay proverb of “A tiger dies leaving its stripes, a man dies leaving his name” is apt for the late Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh.
For one, metaphorically the “Tiger of Jelutong” has left behind his stripes; secondly, in reality, he leaves behind a great name as a politician who is respected by both his allies and enemies alike.
It is rare for one to be able to fill this proverb metaphorically and in reality, this shows the greatness of the one who has departed from us.
Singh is King
The quote " Singh is King " was used by Karpal when he replied to the threats he claimed he received from Umno Youth. I was in Parliament when the late Karpal questioned the actions of a few Umno Youth members barring him in Parliament.
Among other statements he made during the tense situation in Parliament at that time was “ini Pemuda Umno yang celaka” (which means “These are the infernal Umno Youths”) which prompted the Yang Dipertua Dewan Rakyat to ask him to retract his statement, but Karpal refused.
After repeatedly being pushed to retract, Karpal then agreed and said “I take it back, but these Umno Youths are “memang celaka” - indeed infernal”. At that moment, the Dewan was in uproar with the laughter of the members.
Karpal was also known for his biting words, such as “jangan main-main” (don't play-play) whenever he wanted to push for action to be taken immediately. His Indian slang in the Malay language always tickled us MPs but the content of his speech always got the attention of the BN side, because of his powerful attacks on the BN MPs.
Without Singh is King, the Dewan will definitely be a silent place.
DAP and I
I first came to know of DAP while I was in secondary school, through its general election posters when the GE loomed. As a Penangite, growing up in George Town, the DAP never frightened me, even though my perception of DAP in my schooldays was very much that of the stereotype that the other Malay boys held during my time.
As one who grew up in the household of a PAS leader, I found it hard to accept Umno, especially when Umno attacked PAS daily, but at that time, I also did not see DAP defending PAS.
I can summarise that in my schooldays, I saw DAP from the eyes of PAS that saw DAP as the party which did not help. Furthermore, the anti-Malay DAP perception was very much rooted in the minds of the Malay youths of my time.
Time flies, and any remnants of (negative) perceptions about the DAP has much been eroded from the maturing thoughts of today's generation and it is up to DAP to surely prove otherwise.
I am positive that the emergence of a new Malaysian politics, one which rejects racial disposition, will ease the paths of those wanting to know DAP.
Karpal and me
In all honesty, I am far too dwarfish in relative terms when compared to the stature of Karpal in the world of Malaysian politics as a first time state assemblyperson in Kedah, and his role in the country's legal arena. When Karpal started his political career in 1974, I was only in Year 4 of primary school.
I only knew Karpal's name during my late secondary schooling days. When Kelantan introduced the Syariah Penal Enactment, Karpal was among the personalities who was strongly against the move.
I became interested of this personality in the 90s and tried to discover objectively why he was opposed to the Islamic penal code of hudud. It was from here that I started to know of his legal thoughts that was firmly entrenched in the sanctity of the framework in Malaysia being a secular nation.
In 2005, I returned to my hometown, Penang. The first time I met Karpal was during a visit when he was hospitalised after his accident. Although I could not find the time to speak to him due to his condition, I managed to convey, as a PAS representative, consoling words to his wife.
My subsequent meeting with him was at Parliament, after I was elected to the Dewan Rakyat, and was now standing in solidarity with veteran MPs, including Karpal.
There was an uproar during the first day of the Dewan Rakyat swearing in, when the Kinabatangan MP protested how Karpal could be sworn in without raising his hand despite the representative of Kinabatangan knowing fully well Karpal had difficulties in doing so.
It was the first time that we were shown how a war of words could erupt in the Parliament of Malaysia.
Subsequently my meeting with Karpal was as a new MP learning the ropes of debating in Parliament and I found his speech mainly centring on legal issues and the judiciary, including his revelation of judicial misconduct that could erode the credibility of the courts in Malaysia.
I, too, followed every political speech of Karpal whenever I could. Among these was during the time I was in Malacca, when the relationship between PAS and DAP was based on the agreement of Barisan Alternative in the late 90s.
Karpal's speech was nonchalant but heavily laced with pointed criticism towards the nation's legal system, specifically during the height of the case against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim at the time. I then heard a far more serious speech at the DAP's victory celebration dinner in Penang.
Wheelchair-bound, he was spirited in describing DAP's core struggle and its commitment to the political climate and secularism as the basis for nation building. His words were clear, words tumbling one phrase at a time to thunderous applause from the audience who were in joyous mood over the DAP-led Pakatan Rakyat success in capturing Penang.
'I am not against Islam'
Behind the pressure on Karpal's attitude of being supposedly anti-hudud and anti-Islamic State, including his controversial " over my dead body " statement, Karpal had continuously stated that he was never against Islam.
I was there during the 2010 Pakatan Convention in Kepala Batas when Karpal announced in front of PAS and PKR leadership as well as participants of the convention that he respected Islam as the official religion of the federation, as stated in the Federal Constitution, and that he was never against Islam as Malaysia's official religion.
Karpal even said the following words in an interview,"I'm not opposed to Islam at all, I’m a God fearing man.”
Karpal's attitude against accepting the Islamic state and hudud, which earned him the accusation of being anti-Islam, made him the main target of a group of Malays from both Umno and PAS, notwithstanding their political dissimilarities.
The question to be asked, however, should be: why did Karpal react as such?
Tomorrow: Part 2 - 'Karpal’s rejection of hudud purely legal'
MUJAHID YUSOF RAWA is the Member of Parliament for Parit Buntar.