The late DAP parliamentarian Karpal Singh was a staunch defender of Malaysia as a secular state. He had famously said, “Islamic State, over my dead body.”
That strong statement was deemed offensive by many Muslims.
But later, many Muslims were able to see the Tiger of Jelutong – dubbed so as he was a five-term MP for Jelutong, Penang – beyond that one statement and valued his principles and integrity, despite their continued disagreement with him on an Islamic State.
On Thaipusam Day in 2013, Karpal Singh had a visit at his home from Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
The then-menteri besar of Kelantan and mursyidul am (spiritual leader) of PAS celebrated his own 82nd birthday in Karpal’s home and offered him a slice of his birthday cake.
Even Utusan Malaysia gave a frontpage coverage on this, with the heading: ‘Hari jadi Nik Aziz di raikan dirumah Karpal Singh’ (Nik Aziz’s birthday celebrated in Karpal Singh’s home).
And Karpal Singh had this to say, “It was nice of him to come. We have our differences but we get along. My feelings even before this have been quite warm. He is one of those people whom you cannot hate, he exudes friendliness.”
That birthday meeting was one of the last spectacular moments of Karpal Singh that Malaysians remember. His struggle was cut short three months later, in a fatal road accident.
Malaysians of all ethnic, religious, political backgrounds paid their last respect to the towering lawyer-politician.
Nik Aziz lamented Karpal’s passing
Nik Aziz posted on his Facebook: “Perginya seorang tokoh yang berprinsip”, lamenting the demise of the man who – exactly driven by principles – opposed his aspiration to introduce hudud punishments.
Of course, some people could not wait to take potshots at Karpal Singh or cheer at his demise.
Umno’s Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad (the same guy who once suggested MO1 as our Agong) posted on Facebook images of Karpal’s body on the accident scene with a nasty caption: “Would anyone like to take on Karpal Singh’s challenge? Please give your names. Hehe.”
And Perkasa vice-president Zulkifli Noordin said Karpal’s death was an act of Allah to remove an obstacle for Kelantan to implement hudud punishments.
Nawawi Ahmad and Zulkifli Noordin, and many of their followers, could not have respect for their political opponent so much so that they had to celebrate or poke fun at his death.
In sharp contrast, Tok Guru Nik Aziz could see the person and his value, despite their opposite views on an issue both held dearly.
Yesterday, on Malaysia’s 53rd anniversary, Tok Guru Nik Aziz’s successor as PAS mursyidul am, Haron Din (photo), passed away in a hospital in California, United States.
It is sad that many could not wait to take pot shots – many have been crass – on the late Tuan Guru. They did not like his party and his politics.
Among them, regrettably, was Karpal Singh’s successor as Jelutong MP, Jeff Ooi, who posted harsh comments, including “Adios, Haron Din. Let there be peace.”
I do not sign up to the view that dead people are beyond criticism. Otherwise all obituaries would be sycophantic and history would be fairy tales of all good men and good women.
The dead deserve a bit more decorum
I do think the dead deserve a bit more decorum in treatment because they cannot defend themselves, and more so when their families and friends are still mourning.
Ultimately, whether alive or dead, the question is: are we being fair? Do we just run people down because they have a different belief – religious or political – from us?
Are people who oppose us or our ideas all stupid or bad? Can we understand then disagree, rather than disagree without understanding?
Can we accept that people are bound to have differences – in politics or otherwise – because of their values, experiences and circumstances? Can we refute only ideas with facts and logic, and not negate people with hatred and arrogance?
The answers to these questions are vital, because it will decide if we can attain democracy.
Democracy is never about living with people who agree with us. It is about co-existing, competing and cooperating with people who disagree with us.
Democracy requires some basic decency and reciprocity. Confucius said, “Do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you.”
Simple, just put ourselves in others’ shoes. If we were hurt and angry when the likes of Nawawi (photo) and Zulkifli insulted Karpal Singh, whose body was not even laid to rest, would Haron Din’s grieving families, friends and comrades not also be hurt and angry having insults hurled at him?
If we would not like our loved ones to suffer in grieving, why do we think others should endure that?
Without basic decency and reciprocity, we won’t care to be fair. We would just want to win – at all costs – to take everything. That won’t be able to sustain democracy.
Even if we throw out Najib Abdul Razak, Umno and BN, we will replace them with another set of authoritarian government.
Whoever wins will want to take everything. Whoever loses will be so bitter as to want to get even. We will do whatever things we can to defeat our opponents.
Every heart will be filled with bitterness and anger, believing that we are victimised by others and everything we do to strike back is fair.
How can we possibly have multiparty democracy in such a poisonous aura?
I miss the gentleman politics of the old mursyidul am of PAS and the old Jelutong MP, who could respect and value each other even though they were principally opposed to each other on a topic they hold so dearly at heart.
If only that had been passed on to their successors…
Wong Chin Huat