(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): This morning I visited Lim Guan Eng at the Kajang Prisons, and he asked me to convey to the voters of Kota Melaka his apologies and regrets for not being able to carry out their mandate to complete his full Parliamentary term as their Member of Parliament.
He told me that his worldly possessions have been reduced to five meagre items: a tooth-brush, a cake of soap, a towel, his prison garb of collarless white T-shirts and white shorts and a pair of slippers.
However, although his body can be imprisoned, his spirits and ideals for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance cannot be vanquished.
Yesterday, immediately after the Federal Court decision upholding the 36-month jail sentence of the Court of Appeal for Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act offences, I was asked by the press about the position of the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat. I said that the Kota Melaka Parliamentary seat had become vacant as Guan Eng had been disqualified as an MP.
It was when I returned to the DAP headquarters later in the evening that I discovered that I was wrong, that under amendments to Article 48 of the Malaysian Constitution, Guan Eng is still MP for Kota Melaka for 14 days, within which he could file a petition seeking a pardon from the Yang di Pertuan Agong - in which event, the disqualification would only take effect from the date of its rejection by the Yang di Pertuan Agong.
As announced by the spokesman for the Council for Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance, Dr. Sanusi Othman just now, the Council has decided to launch a nation-wide mass signature campaign for the people to ask the Yang di Pertuan Agong to pardon Lim Guan Eng.
The Federal Court judgement yesterday was a black day for democracy, human rights and justice in Malaysia.
Lim Guan Eng was one of the few MPs who have diligently, conscientiously and courageously spoken up for the rights and the interests of the people in Parliament - one of the few voices which have redeemed Parliament from becoming a mere "rubber stamp".
If Guan Eng’s voice is silenced, it would be a great loss to the nation and the people at a time when Malaysians want to see greater democratic space in keeping with a democratisation process rather than the reverse.
The Federal Court decision will strike fear in the country as when MPs are not safe from political persecution through selective prosecution, then who is safe for speaking up for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance?
Guan Eng maintains his innocence of the offences for which he is being jailed and to him, the question of pardon does not arise.
The Party would have to take a position on the pardons issue, and I have not had the opportunity to have a full and proper discussion with Guan Eng on this question.