From Jelapang to Jelutong: A Tale of Defiance
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on February 10, 2009
I must be getting old these days. A many number of times, I find myself grappling, trying hard to understand Malaysian politics. Or perhaps, it is Malaysian politics itself that has since gone warily unfathomable, rather than the sanity of my intellect.
Take, for example, the case of Karpal Singh. He wants to sue the Sultan of Perak. A whole load of people are unhappy with him for intending to do so. Numerous police reports have been lodged, at various places, all of which allege Karpal Singh as derhaka, kurang ajar, rebellious; some even asserting that he has committed acts of treason.
This is the part that I don’t quite understand. Why can’t Karpal sue the Sultan? It’s his right to do so. Of course, some of us may opine that he ought not to do so, given that it is the adat that a commoner should show subservient to the sovereign ruler.
But in these modern times, with contemporary progressive laws, the right of a citizen to task his leader to a court of justice is a fundamental liberty to be found contemporaneous in almost all jurisdictions in the world. If Karpal Singh has a bad case, his suit will be dismissed by the court, of which he would be liable for costs. In any event, it will be with the judiciary that lays the ultimate bastion of justice.
This comes to mind my other incomprehension. Why are certain sectors of the rakyat angry at Karpal Singh for wanting to sue the Sultan? I personally find this quite amusing. Karpal Singh has been suing the Sultans since time immemorial.
In 1986, he filed a civil suit against the Sultan of Johor, Tunku Mahmood Iskandar, who was then the Agong. The civil suit was filed on behalf of one Daeng Baha Ismail for damages of assault (Daeng Baha Ismail had been taken to the Johor Palace in handcuffs by police personnel and was punched and repeatedly hit by the Sultan in the presence of the Royal household). Karpal lost his case, and it was reported that the Sultan allegedly named one of his dogs after him (“A Malaysian Who Dared Sue a King” Far Eastern Economic Review, 20 May, 1993).
In 1995, Karpal filed a suit against the then King, Tuanku Jaafar Rahman, the Ruler of Negeri Sembilan. The complaint was that Tuanku Jaafar had cheated a businessman of a land deal in Port Dickson. Karpal also threaten to bring charges of criminal breach of trust and lodged a police report against Tuanku Jaafar. It was reported that Tuanku Jaafar then entered into a handsome out of court settlement thereafter.
In 1996, Karpal represented Faridah Begun bte Abdullah against the Sultan of Pahang in the Special Court. The case, however, was not successful on an issue of technicality.
So, why now, is everyone taking offence at Karpal Singh? I cannot help but wonder that this issue has been sinisterly politicized.
And I don’t at all empathize with all the police reports that have been lodged, claiming acts of treason against the sanctity of the Institusi Raja-raja Melayu. It seems that Malaysians, in general, forgets easily.
In 1983, it was the BN Government that introduced the constitutional amendment bill designed to remove the royal assent to legislation passed by Parliament.
In 1993, again it was the BN Government that passed the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 1993 to remove the immunity of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the other Rulers, who now can be sued for actions done in their personal capacity.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t these amendments to the law an indignant affront to the Sultans then, rather than what Karpal Singh is doing now? No one was complaining, or wildly lodging police reports then, even though the powers of the Institution of the Monarchy were being systematically wilted away by BN and UMNO at that time. Nobody had the gall to stage protest, complete with banners and signage for support; inclusive of the yellow-bands.
Now, we have one man threatening to sue the Sultan, and suddenly mayhem ensues. Umno Youth, in its usual hot air gibber, has predictably offered to take the lead to protect the sanctity of the Institution of the Sultan; the very establishment their umbrella party has ravaged against decades ago.
Tell me again why I don’t understand Malaysian politics.
p/s: Read Bahasa Malaysia version here. Thanks to Barbie!