Politics & government

[2739] Karpal Singh, the Rock

I woke up to terrible news on Thursday. Lying on a bed and bracing myself for the work morning, I reached for my phone trying to stay in bed longer. I glanced through my phone to see if there was anything urgent. There was none and I felt relieved. My eyes then were focused on messages that popped while I was sound asleep.

There were several messages at round 3am or 4am. These went: ”Karpal Singh is dead.”

I was still unsure if I was awake then. It would not be the first time I thought I was awake but really, I was still dreaming. I took a few more minutes staring blankly into the ceiling, assessing my reality, before checking my Twitter account to verify the news.

True enough, condolences were everywhere and news agencies as far as Australia were already breaking the news. Karpal Singh died in a car crash in Perak, while he was on his way to Penang.

I have deep scepticism to politics revolving around personality. But in times when our institutions can disappoint us, failing to check the powers that be and worsening the excesses of power, personalities like Karpal Singh can do a lot of good.

He was almost always there to remind us of the limits of power and to put pressure on our institutions to do what was right, even at his expense. That happened in Perak in 2009 when he questioned the Sultan of Perak for the monarch’s intervention that led to an outrageous change of government. He was charged for sedition and was found guilty in March 2014.

It is hard to think how such a conviction is possible in this age. Maybe it is more than a possibility because the royal institution is ancient and it requires all the help it can get to survive in this modern world.

He was also steadfast in his beliefs. He has been a strong opponent to the implementation of hudud and he was the rock in the middle of the road. Even when things were relatively at peace and the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat rather not talk about the Islamic penal code so that they could focus on the commonalities between them, he continued to voice his opinion. I know some people in DAP cringed whenever he talked about hudud. They thought it was unnecessary to disturb the peace in the coalition with everybody working together, at times when hudud was put on the backburner.

Now, hudud, that monster that will not die, is back. PAS plans to table two private member bills in the Parliament to allow Kelantan to implement it.

I disagree with the current legal system in Malaysia. I am no legal expert but I see two laws for two different peoples in this country. It divides us all and makes fun of the idea of equality of rights. The implementation of hudud will exacerbate that.

The way hudud has been promoted highlights its distaste for equality: That it only affects the Muslim population. The advocates say so in the hopes of addressing the concern from the non-Muslim side, so that the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Christians, the atheists and others would step aside as if it is purely a Muslim issue.

”Everybody, stay out! It does not concern you,” the more argumentative pro-hudud men and women would say. They are sacrificing whatever equality we have to get what they want.

We know it is not true that it will affect the Muslims only. We know there will be overlaps of rights. We know there will be conflict. We know hudud will change the way Muslims and non-Muslims will interact which each other. We know it will change the characteristic of this country. There is no way on earth will a great change in the majority population not affect others.

Even in the current shariah system, we are already seeing overlaps and conflicts. Our institutions, with all of their bias, offer no justice in that situation.

I foresee the implementation of hudud making that kind of conflict worse. So much worse that I contend hudud will be the end of Malaysia as we know it.

Karpal left us at an inopportune time. I am upset at him now because it is in this exact situation that we need him. He left abruptly too soon. We will need a new one if we want to prolong our shared story. We need a new rock blocking the road to the end of Malaysia.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
First published in The Malay Mail on April 20 2014.

By Hafiz Noor Shams

For more about me, please read this.

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