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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

> Bar Council defends Karpal's action

The 13,000-strong Bar Council today defended parliamentarian Karpal Singh in voicing his opinion on the decision by the Perak sultan to remove Pakatan menteri besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin.

According to the council’s newly-minted chairperson Ragunath Kesavan, the MP was merely expressing his legal opinion that the decision of a ruler in the area of constitutional law can be questioned in court.

“At no time did he voice disrespect for or challenge the institution of the monarchy in any way,” he said.

“True to his calling as an advocate and solicitor, Karpal Singh had, without fear or favour, spoken of the possibility of a legal remedy and not advocated any recourse outside the ambit of our constitution.

“This is surely permissible under the constitution and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, amount to sedition.”

The opposition politician was today charged with sedition for criticising the sultan's handling of a power struggle in Perak.

In a controversial move, Sultan Azlan Shah in January handed control of Perak to the Barisan Nasional coalition, after a number of defections upset the delicate balance of power in the state.

The sedition charge was levelled over comments Karpal made last month when he allegedly questioned the sultan's right to appoint a new state leader, and threatened to sue the sultan over the move.

Karpal, a veteran DAP leader and MP for Bukit Gelugor, faces up to three years in jail if convicted.

It’s a case of selective prosecution 

Ragunath, in a statement today, reiterated the Bar Council’s steadfast view that the Sedition Act 1948 “is a draconian and archaic piece of legislation that undermines democratic institutions and is an absolute affront to democracy” and called for its repeal.

“The prosecution of Karpal Singh will be widely perceived as being selective and an attempt to pacify the partisan calls from certain influential section within Umno who are pushing for his prosecution. They have even outrageously called for the revocation of his citizenship.”

Ragunah, who was elected Bar Council chairperson last week, said he was “shocked and troubled” by the government’s action against Karpal, and urged the attorney-general to withdraw the sedition charge.

“We urge the government to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to democratic processes by encouraging open discourse on issues of concern to the Malaysian public.

“Any attempt to stifle public opinion by resorting to the Act is a sure act of regression that is antithetical to democratic principles.” - Malaysiakini.