IN his interview with The Nut Graph yesterday, Puchong Member of Parliament (MP) Gobind Singh Deo spoke about being suspended from attending the Dewan Rakyat, and how the loss of an MP’s salary affects an elected representative’s service to constituents.
In the second and final part of this interview, Gobind talks about raising unpopular questions in Parliament, something his father, DAP chairperson Karpal Singh, is also famous for.
The first-time MP also shares his thoughts on Pakatan Rakyat’s future.
TNG: Why do you court controversy by saying certain things? Shouldn’t you pick your battles in Parliament?
Gobind: (Long pause)
Every time a shouting match happens, the opposition MPs almost always get sent out and it gives BN room to accuse the opposition of creating a ruckus. So what about picking battles?
I guess it’s because I’m very straightforward. If I have an issue with someone, it is my style to take the bull by its horns. Most of the time it involves controversial issues as a result of which people get agitated and upset, and they react in a way that invites a lot of anger in response.
But I suppose that is how it is. If you want to ask a question and it’s a sensitive one, you have to do it. As an MP, it is my duty to ask those hard questions. Nothing personal against any Member of Parliament. But that [Altantuya case] was an issue which hogs the mind of many people both here and internationally, so it had to be brought up. And I brought it up.
In hindsight, would it have been any different? Maybe you’d still have your salary, had you not used such strong words.
I don’t know. Being a Member of Parliament, one has to say what needs to be said. I have no regrets. In any event, the charge against me was not for using such words.
The charge against me is (brings out photocopy of motion) … the motion against me is that I was alleged to have said that he was involved in a murder case. Which is what was said by a witness in the Raja Petra [Kamarudin] trial. So? In Raja Petra’s case, DSP Gan alleged that Najib was an important witness, and no statement was taken from him. So as an important witness, I wanted to know, what is meant by that. So I asked him.
In your suit against the Speaker, is there the possibility this issue will be brought up?
No, it’s not about that. What I said that day remains in Parliament on record. That’s that. I’m not going to raise it or repeat it outside Parliament. There is no necessity for me to do so as the PM never challenged me to. This suit is primarily about the procedure and the jurisdiction of the House, whether or not they have the powers to do what they did, and the manner in which they did it.
On to other topics. Your father has spoken against PAS’s stand on hudud law, and although Pakatan as an alliance has agreed to disagree, what are your thoughts, will this become a divisive issue in the future?
I think it is definitely a sore point which needs to be addressed. PAS is pushing for an Islamic state. The DAP always maintains and is firm that this is not an Islamic state, it’s a secular state. I have personally met with many leaders of PAS and I listen to them, and I believe that at the end of the day, they can subscribe to a particular line of thought, that, in so far as they are concerned, this is what they prefer. But the reality does not allow them to go ahead with it.
Look at the respective Pakatan states, this is the reality of it. This is the model on which we hope to build an alternative Malaysian government. Various parties with various ideologies, but at the end of the day, when it comes to ruling, it is accepted that we will continue consistently with what is provided for in the Federal Constitution. If PAS were to push for an Islamic state, we would not agree. And that is why we are there. We have consistently said we do not agree, and they accept our stand.
They accept for now.
Yes, for now.
So what does the future hold?
Having come from an opposition point of view and now having been given the opportunity to govern together in the last one year or so, we see the reality of it.
You’re hoping they will see the reality of it and stick with it.
I think they do. And that’s the reason why they govern with us, despite the fact that we’ve said in no uncertain terms that we won’t concede to an Islamic state. So now it’s a question of us working together, using this model and then coming to a point when they have to decide whether they are comfortable, whether we are comfortable, and I think as far as all the parties are concerned, everyone is comfortable with the current formula.
So I see this as a practical way in which all three parties recognise the limitations that exists, and recognise the requirement for cooperation in order for us to govern together.
But ultimately, this issue must be dealt with in more detail by the leadership.
Who do you think needs the other more — PAS needs DAP and PKR more, or the other way around?
I think all three need each other. Depends on which state and which issues, I don’t think there’s one blanket answer.
So the future of Pakatan parties is to remain in alliance?
Your thoughts on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is he really the only person who can hold Pakatan together?
Anwar Ibrahim is a person who can hold Pakatan together, but he should not be seen as the only person who can do that. At present, it appears that that is the case. So I think it is important for younger leaders to be groomed, who have similar capabilities, and I see a few currently who can do that. You can look beyond just PKR. You have some leaders like this in PAS and also DAP.
As an example, Datuk Seri (Mohammad) Nizar (Jamaluddin). Look at the Perak formula. I think that is Malaysia at its best. You [have] a menteri besar who is from PAS, a Speaker who is Indian [Malaysian] from DAP, and the Chinese [Malaysians] rallying all around them without any barriers. Let’s look at that model.
And one may argue that they represent a better model than what we have at [the] federal level of Pakatan. Look at how they work in Perak. They recognise the attacks coming from the outside in which time they must unite in order to fight. They have such a strong bond there.
At Pakatan federal level, people still notice the divisions in the way we work.
Like the BN?
That’s right. There’s division, although it’s not racial, but in the way the parties operate. But you go to Perak and people don’t know or don’t care which party Nizar or which party (Speaker V) Sivakumar is from.
But that’s the point. In times of hardship you look at the greater picture, the need for you to build that relationship that extends beyond smaller argumentative points.
Is PKR too dominant within the Pakatan alliance?
No, it’s not.
But it can reach both Malay Malaysians and non-Malay Malaysians whereas DAP is largely Chinese Malaysian-orientated.
You’d be surprised. I won’t say that DAP has got as [many] Malay Malaysian members as PKR or PAS, but it has got support. Like in Penang, a lot of Malay Malaysians there feel they can work with (Chief Minister) Lim Guan Eng. That’s something I’ve heard consistently, even from people in Umno.
They are concerned that Guan Eng is able to reach out to the Malay [Malaysians]. If this is the new model for the next generation of DAP leaders, these are leaders who’ve been able to break the barrier in reaching out across races. And these are signs of what is to come for DAP, greater strength for DAP at the grassroots levels.
You and your father are perhaps the most prominent Sikh politicians in Malaysia, any thoughts about this?
One of the main problems with MIC is that it has failed to build Sikh leaders. I know many Sikhs who have worked very hard for MIC. They’ve spent time, they’ve campaigned, lobbied and built the party up for years. Many still do. Even the founding fathers of MIC consisted of Sikhs as well. But you find the Sikhs not getting what they deserve. Not just them, but the other Indian [Malaysians]. Even in the party itself.
So then you look back and you recognise that the party has not given much thought towards building Sikhs in Malaysia. In DAP, we have four Sikh elected representatives. My father and I at parliamentary level, and two assemblypersons, Keshvinder Singh in Malim Nawar, Perak and Jagdeep Singh, my elder brother, in Datok Keramat in Penang. So we hope to open it up more. But in the DAP it’s never been a question of looking at race but how much a person has contributed to the party and the party recognising his [or her] work.
See also: “There’s no democracy in Parliament”