Karpal’s election on March 21 will be an incandescent return to Parliament to light up the darkness of the Barisan Nasional governance and expose its abuses of power and injustices and a bulwark in the defence of the 46-year “social contract” that Malaysia is a secular democracy with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The Party has decided that in the larger political and strategic objectives of the DAP to further its ideals of social democracy, justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, Karpal Singh should contest in Bukit Glugor.
Karpal’s election as Member of Parliament is not only important to DAP, the people of Penang and Malaysia, but for the health and vibrancy of parliamentary democracy in the country.
Karpal’s election on March 21 will see his incandescent return to Parliament to light up the darkness of the Barisan Nasional governance and expose its abuses of power and injustices.
Karpal has made an invaluable and irreplaceable contribution to parliamentary democracy for 21 years as a five-term MP for Jelutong, raising issues which no MP had dared to touch like the Vijandran pornographic videotape scandal and taking on the longest-serving Prime Minister in the country, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in a direct cut-and-thrust “no holds barred” exchange whether during question-time or debate rarely seen in the Malaysian Parliament and which will be unforgettable memories for those privileged to witness them – but Karpal had to pay a heavy price for such parliamentary truculence and brilliance.
This was one reason why Karpal, already the country’s leading constitutional, human rights and criminal lawyer with international fame, was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) during the 1987 Operation Lalang crackdown. It was my second ISA detention but for Karpal and DAP MPs, like Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, Lim Guan Eng, V. David, Lau Dak Kee and the late P. Patto, it was their first experience of the iniquities of the ISA with the complement of dirty cells, insufferable food, solitary confinement and the deprivation of personal liberty.
The other reason was Karpal’s fearless championing of the underdog, whether to save the 14-year-old boy in the seventies who was to be sent to the gallows for possession of a firearm or our almost successful challenge of the most improper award of the first mega privatization, the North-South Expressway, in 1987 which nearly changed the law of public-interest litigation to lay a firm and solid basis for a clean, incorruptible, accountable and transparent governance.
There is another reason why Karpal should return to Parliament – as he would be a bulwark in the defence of the 46-year Merdeka “social contract” that Malaysia is a secular democracy with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State, whether ala-PAS or ala-UMNO.
Karpal will have a great and irreplaceable role to play in this late hour in the greatest crisis of the 46-year Merdeka “social contract”, to save and preserve it from being consigned to the dustbin of history, paving the way for Malaysia to embark on the road of an Islamic State, whether the “929 Declaration” of UMNO and Barisan Nasional or the Islamic State Document of PAS.
In my 30 years in Parliament from 1969 to 1999, I had never heard the term “Islamic State” used by any MP, whether UMNO or PAS, for it was indisputable that the mainstream nation-building agenda was in accordance with the 46-year Merdeka “social contract” that Malaysia is a secular democracy with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State.
In the past five years however, since 1999, Parliament has become the battleground to jettison the 46-year Merdeka “social contract”, with PAS and UMNO competing to out-Islamise and out-Islamic State each other, with more and more new and unheard-of Islamic and Arabic terms becoming the political lexicon in the country.
This spiral of competition between UMNO and PAS to out-Islamise and out-Islamic State each other to win Malay votes has almost become a daily occurrence in the country, as illustrated by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s launching of the state-level Islam Hadhari programme at the Seremban Municipal Council on Monday. A Malay journalist asked me what is the meaning of “hadhari”. He does not know as he has never heard of it. I checked and it is not to be found in Kamus Dewan issued by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. (1984 edition). According to the New Straits Times, “hadhari” means “management of an Islamic State”.
This incident illustrates the urgent and indispensable need for MPs like Karpal to be in the new Parliament before it is too late to send the clear and unmistakable message to remind all and sundry about the Merdeka “social contract” agreed by the forefathers of the major communities on the attainment of Independent nationhood and publicly defended by the first three Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn that Malaysia is a secular democracy with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State, and that there should be no attempt to bring about a tectonic shift in the entire nation-building process and agenda by jettisoning the “social contract”.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman