KUALA LUMPUR: There was much tension and anger in the air as the High Court sat to hear arguments on how severe Karpal Singh should be punished for making a seditious statement.
Drama and yelling amidst oral submissions ruled a fair part of the sentencing proceeding which went on for two-and-a-half hours from 10.15am yesterday.
The “fights” were not only between the defence counsel and the prosecutor but at times involved the judge Justice Azman Abdullah as well.
Adding to the fuel were spectators in the public gallery who jeered at DPP Noorin Badaruddin as she made statements from the Bar table or when the judge refused to allow requests by the defence.
The tension started as Karpal’s counsel Gobind Singh argued that the law on sedition in Malaysia was very difficult to understand due to its artificial nature.
Calling it a draconian law and a “relic” from the colonial era, he urged the court to consider the circumstances in which Karpal had issued the statement questioning the Sultan of Perak’s act of removing a Pakatan Rakyat-government Mentri Besar and replacing him with one from Barisan Nasional.
“There was a political crisis in Perak at that time which resulted in a change of government.
“He was instructed, as counsel for Pakatan, to convey a legal position and indication of what it would and could do at that point of time,” argued Gobind.
Karpal, he added, had at all times stressed that this was his legal opinion.
After this point, Gobind’s submission became even more intense as he raised his voice.
“If something is done to offend the (Federal) Constitution, is it an offence for an MP and constitutional lawyer to bring the matter up?
“Do we punish him, incarcerate him, put him in prison, fine him and deprive him of his seat? Is this the way?” he argued loudly before mellowing down to seek a bind over or fine sentence of not more than RM2,000.
At one point, Gobind asked the judge if Datuk Cyrus Das, who was holding a watching brief for the Commonwealth Law Association, could be allowed to submit on a related point but the judge abruptly rejected the application.
This resulted in a snappy exchange of words between the two.
At about 11.45am, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his family arrived in the courtroom, joining Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali in the audience.
After the judge had dismissed an application by Bar president Christopher Leong to speak, Noorin started her submissions by arguing that Karpal had crossed the line when he questioned the act of a Sultan who happened to be a leading constitutional judge.
When she pressed for a deterrent sentence, which included a jail term, the people in the public gallery shouted “Sudahlah! Duduk! (Enough! Sit down!)”.
At another point, the proceedings became chaotic with both Gobind and Noorin speaking – the DPP was heard shouting – at the same time.
However, court policemen managed to keep the crowds in order.
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