23 April 2014
I can’t wait to hear what excuses the police will give for not turning up in sufficient numbers to help with crowd control during the late Karpal Singh’s state funeral. Neither could I wait to hear the reasons given by some newspapers for giving the scantiest coverage of the same event.
One would have thought that the cops, with their inherent fear of large crowds would have been in Penang in huge numbers. And really, when one of the biggest names in Malaysian politics passes away and an estimated fifteen thousand people turn up to say goodbye, this does not merit front page news coverage?
Oh well, whatever the reason these institutions have for behaving the way they did does not really matter. This is because despite the fact that the police were nowhere to be seen, Karpal Singh’s state funeral went off smoothly. Sure there were many disappointed people who could not get into the hall to pay their last respects, but there was zero untoward incidents as the state government used their own volunteers to help with the traffic and crowd control.
And if many of the print media think that by shoving the story deep in their papers it will somehow belittle this great opponent to the government, then they are very mistaken. This can be seen by the outpouring of grief and respect shown to the man either in the flesh by those who travelled from all over the country to Penang, or in the furious activity on the internet, which apart from a few ignorant and “kurang ajar” morons, have been affectionate and grateful to Mr Karpal’s sacrifices for the betterment of this country.
In a way it is fitting some members of the press and the police have acted in this way. By doing what they did, they have given the public the opportunity to show that their will is stronger. When united there is no need to depend on the police to maintain order. And when determined there is no need to depend on usual sources for information and for our own expression.
By shunning Karpal Singh’s state funeral, these institutions have helped the people to make a point that would have made the late MP proud. That people power can trump any sort of political machinations.
Karpal Singh was a giant figure in Malaysian politics, but he was well aware that what should matter is not any individual but the right principle. And in his case what is right are constitutionalism, rule of law, democracy, human rights and social justice. And these principles must be taken up not by any one person or one party but by all citizens who believe in them.
Of course the lack of police and the lack of newspaper coverage is not a great obstacle to overcome. We have far greater battles to fight in the form of unprincipled leaders, religious bigotry, racism, extremism, oppressive laws, corrupt institutions, the list goes on. But even so, the people have shown what they can achieve together in the face of an unsupportive police and press. It just takes a little more effort to show what we can do in the face of institutionalised injustice.
It feels right that we displayed that potential at Mr Karpal’s funeral; a man who championed the empowerment of the people.