Conviction of Karpal Singh a setback for rule of law

Karpal Singh - Photograph: Wikipedia

The Malaysian government must stop using colonial-era repressive laws to harass political opposition leaders, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) have said.

On 21 February 2014, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Democratic Action Party (DAP) Chairman Karpal Singh guilty under Section 4(1) (b) of the 1948 Sedition Law. The case stemmed from a press conference on 6 February 2009, in which Karpal Singh questioned the decision of Sultan of Perak state Azlan Shah to fire the then chief minister, Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin.

“Under the rule of law, no one is above the law. A decision of the monarch can be scrutinised in a judicial process under a constitutional monarchy system. Mr Karpal Singh has been prosecuted for merely expressing a legal opinion. This is clearly inconsistent with international standards for freedom of opinion and expression, including Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

“Malaysia must urgently repeal its outdated Sedition Law and all the other draconian laws inherited by the British colonial administration,” he urged.

The court set the sentencing for 11 March. Karpal, 73, faces up to three years in prison or a RM5,000 (US$1,515) fine or both. He also risks losing his parliamentary seat because the Malaysian Constitution stipulates that an MP must be removed from office if fined more than RM2,000 or jailed for a term exceeding one year.

“The Malaysian government’s increasing use of draconian legislation to harass and silence political opponents and human rights defenders is a matter of grave concern,” said Suaram Executive Director Yap Swee Seng.

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“Over 18 months ago, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the Sedition Law would be abolished. But as his government struggles to maintain its shaky grip on power, Najib has failed to keep his promise. Instead, Najib’s administration has stepped up prosecutions of opposition leaders under this law,” Yap added.

Karpal Singh was initially acquitted of sedition charges on 11 June 2010. However, following an appeal by the prosecution, on 20 January 2012, the Court of Appeals reversed the acquittal and ordered Karpal Singh to stand trial on the original charges.

Another member of Malaysia’s opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, is currently on trial on politically motivated charges under another colonial-era law. Anwar has been charged under Section 377 of the Malaysian Criminal Code, which criminalises sex between adult men. Karpal Singh represented Anwar during the latter’s first and second sodomy trials.

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29 Sep 2014 6.33am

I repeat the earlier assumptions I made on this subject on other blogs about the cause for an appeal against the courts decision that Karpal Singh had breached the sedition act 1948. Whilst none of the reasons in the appeal submissions are made public in detail in this article one must make reasonable assumptions based on what Karpal Singh’s lawyers have reputedly said to Rakyat Times and placed on the record on the subject. Based on the published grounds for appeal against the sedition charge for which Karpal Singh was convicted, it is hard to see how the judge could have erred in law in finding Karpal Singh guilty of the offence of sedition as is prescribed under the sedition act 1948. It was a time of high volatility aided not helped by the Bersih madness that gripped a nation dividing it along racial and cultural lines. The threat to (allegedly) overthrow a legitimate government with foreign funding by Bersih and other elements of the opposition in Malaysia was very real.. Bersih and the Malaysian Bar were not simply after a change of government from the… Read more »

najib manaukau
28 Feb 2014 8.47am

Malaysia will be a much better country than it is now if only they have acted and enforced rules like a colonial master ! Malaysia would not have been in deficit, the infrastructures in the country would have been better maned. Or they don’t have to mull of leasing the fighter jets for the air force, when the present administrators are already leasing Putrajaya ! This is not a joke or an insult, soon the present regime might have to lease Johore or part of Johore … to stay relevant ! As it is everything in the country is in a shamble, shortage of skillful professionals in everything, the situation is heading south so rapidly that Talent Corp was officially formed to go round the world begging the immigrated skillful professionals. Even though unofficially the immigrated were approached some to return to serve the country years ago. Sad to say millions of the immigrated, who are mostly non Malays, did not ever consider returning to Malaysia to serve Malaysia. Even with incentives and added incentives. More than 99.9% of the successful immigrated professionals Malaysians have become… Read more »