By Kasthuri Patto
Three years on, Karpal Singh’s words still roar, reminding all Malaysians of the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and that not even the prime minister nor his Barisan Nasional government was above it.
On April 10, 2014, opposition MPs in the Dewan Rakyat led a walkout in protest against the verdict of the speaker of the house.
This was regarding a ruling on a substantive motion by the Gombak MP, supported by 63 members of the house on the conduct or rather, the misconduct of judges in the country, referring to the three Court of Appeal judges Aziah Ali, Balia Yusuf Wali and Zawawi Salleh, in relation to Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy charge.
The motion was shoved down to number 21 in the order paper, ensuring the motion would not see the light of day to be debated in the house.
Needless to say, the huge outcry against the speaker for not exercising his powers in the Dewan Rakyat to allow such a motion to be debated finally led to both Gombak MP Azmin Ali as well as Sepang MP Hanipa Maidin to be ejected from the Dewan Rakyat just before lunch.
It was also on that fateful Thursday that the late Karpal Singh made a powerful, compelling remark that would be forever etched in the stones of the august house and in the hearts and minds of MPs and Malaysians alike, not to fool around with the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
Karpal roared thunderously in his last parliamentary debate with his warning: “Tuan Speaker, jangan main-main dengan perlembagaan” (“Mr Speaker, don’t play with the constitution”). He was reminding the speaker to always place the Federal Constitution above the Standing Orders used in the Dewan Rakyat.
Karpal very calmly but sternly cautioned the speaker that the substantive motion, under Standing Orders 36(8) by the Gombak MP, be read in harmony with Article 127 of the Federal Constitution on the restriction on parliamentary discussion of conduct of judges.
This reads that “the conduct of a judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court shall not be discussed in either house of Parliament except on a substantive motion of which notice has been given by not less than one-quarter of the total number of members of that house, and shall not be discussed in the legislative assembly of any state”.
Where else should the conduct (or misconduct) of judges be debated if not in the august house of Parliament by legitimately elected representatives and yet the speaker used his discretion to shelve the motion.
I sat next to Karpal three years ago, looking in awe, admiration and reverence at this towering figure next to me and his relentless struggle to fight for what is right, his indomitable spirit to be the defender of the defenceless and never compromising on his principle to speak without fear or favour for justice, fairness and honour.
His last parliamentary sitting was a timely and sound reminder to us Malaysians, that no person is above the Federal Constitution, which is the cardinal, towering, unparalleled law of the land – a well-timed reminder to the judiciary, the prime minister and his BN government.
We remember you today, Karpal Singh, not for leaving a huge emptiness and void in our hearts because we miss you dearly, but for leaving a legacy for us all to carry on and carry forth so that the spirit of the Tiger of Jelutong, along with the spirit of constitutionality, not just lives on but ignites a fire, a determination to form the government in Putrajaya.
Kasthuri Patto is Batu Kawan MP and Wanita DAP publicity secretary.
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