DEWAN RAKYAT, Feb 26, 2009:
CAN anyone recall the last time the damn word “celaka” was uttered torrentially in the House during a full-blown debate, hurled in the august hall like the worst acid rain beating down on an unsuspecting parched earth? Thank Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) for having the brass and the crass to wax lyrical on such a taboo word and for reminding us that “celaka” can now be applied as part of a viable political lexicon.
That and the temerity of Umno Youth members to demonstrate in the proximity of his Penang law firm and home, and the deluge of police reports lodged against him for his allegedly “treasonous” insouciance, treason being the operative word pounded unrestrainedly by his enemies.
It was as if Karpal had deliberately set himself up as a sitting duck, an easy to sight moving target that even the most insignificant Barisan Nasional politician can aim and fire at will, and still hit the target. But the difference between Karpal and these political pass-by shooters is that he had never shorn his ageless Teflon body armour that casually deflects bombs, bullets, arrows, knives and the occasional stabs in the back.
Like all seasoned, been there, done that politicians, and that includes his compatriot Lim Kit Siang, his nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad, his one-time nemesis-turned-compatriot-turned dubious nemesis Anwar Ibrahim, controversy is a golden badge of honour worn with defiance, aggression and a measure of theatrics to create a wow factor. Karpal will be the first to admit this, seeing that he practically wrote the book on how to play up a glorious scene in Parliament, lap it up and earn Brownie points over the other side.
Debating the Royal Address while garrisoning accusations that he committed treason, Karpal was in an impossibly uncompromising disposition, taking on detractors like a Jet Li character “kungfuing” his way out of a pack of snarling attackers. Inside the House, Karpal’s an old hand in verbal hand-to-hand combat, seeing it needed a posse of BN MPs to pounce on his querulous charge that an Umno Youth member was responsible for sending the live bullets to him.
"Where did the celaka (damn) Pemuda Umno fellow get the bullets?" he bellowed as Puad Zakarshi (BN-Batu Pahat), Ismail Mohamed Said (BN-Kuala Krau) and Abdul Rahman Dahlan (BN-Kota Belud) leapt from their seats to demand an instant retraction, which Karpal sidestepped momentarily by cloyingly stating that he was “not accusing anyone in particular.”
By this time Karpal had the a sizeable number of BN MPs lapping up on his stage play as more demanded that he retract the damn word. "It is unparliamentary language. He should retract it," insisted Rahman, whose riposte was justified, being the Umno Youth secretary that at that point of time had to defend the wing’s honour.
By this time, Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had enough of Karpal’s theatrics, first appealing to the statesman in Karpal not to spew the word again but when that wasn’t effective, threw the full weight of the chair by ordering Karpal, which the MP agreed though not without a stinging parting salvo. "Okay, okay I will retract, but that does not change anything about Umno Youth."
Before that moment of unhinging came to pass, Karpal threw tempting morsels of political double-speak on his radioactive remarks that Anwar was unfit to lead Pakatan Rakyat and should step down. "I don't have any misunderstanding with him,” was Karpal’s whimsical overture. “I accept him as a leader of Pakatan.”
That won’t do, the chorus of BN backbenchers counterstroked and plangently called on Karpal to clarify his “misleading” apologia, to which he must have smiled enigmatically as a quick response but a second later, he returned to character in his huff and gruff intonation. “That is none of your business," he dismissed the pack.
Karpal’s theatrics would have the usual repercussion - indignant protests, demands for his head to roll and so forth - but never physical violence. It changed today after the DAP chairman was confronted by a mob Selangor Umno Youth members at the Parliament tower block then degenerated into a shouting match and culminated in a scuffle with the MP for Segambut Lim Lip Eng having his shirt tugged.
As soon as Karpal arrived for the afternoon session, the Umno Youth mob started heckling him over his “damn” reference to the wing. Karpal's aide immediately summoned help and several DAP members turn up and the potential for a really ugly incident was forthcoming.
Parliament security officers quickly summoned police help and Karpal was safely wheeled under heavy escort to the lobby. BN Backbenchers chief Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing quickly condemned the marauders and complained of the slack security. "This is not the way. In politics there are bound to be people who provoke. We have to accept that this part and parcel of politics," he said in Karpal’s defence.
But the attack gave Karpal even more fodder to play with: inside the House later, Karpal and several DAP members questioned how the pre-meditated way the mob confronted Karpal, beseeching Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to act agai8nst the perpetrators. "I am disabled but not intimidated by this,” Karpal declared in his usual bravado but he being him, Karpal still made a meal out of the torrid incident. “The police were there and they just watched,” he charged.
Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, while regretting the incident and promising to investigate, challenged Karpal to back his allegation with proof in 24 hours or be considered a liar. Mukhriz Mahathir, Khairy’s rival for the Umno Youth chief’s post in next month’s party elections, proposed that Karpal be charged with sedition for questioning the sultan besides chiding him for stating that “Singh is King”. "He does not respect our rulers," Mukhriz charged in a statement.
Karpal can be a tacky one at playing delightful mind games with this crowd, MPs and Umno Youth mob. That Anwar apologia was a 180-degree swing from his angry outburst denouncing the Opposition Leader to a pulp, done in the full light of media scrutiny. Is this his way of playing the paradoxical game?
If one is to consider the deception technique of throwing wolves off the scent, Karpal’s sudden vindication of Anwar, the ‘damn’ utterance and the pointed accusation that an Umno Youth member was the anonymous bullets’ sender may be the flimflammery needed to deflect the marauders as he buys time to plan and execute the legal action against Sultan Azlan Shah. Or maybe that too is another of his famed flimflammery?