Thursday, August 21, 2008

Et Tu Brute?: Ravi and Betrayal

Betrayal in politics is not unexpected as self-preservation in the play for power is the priority. Decisions on alliances based on mutual interests are secondary. The PAP and the communists warily allied with each other in the 1950s in the anti-Colonialist struggle in a cautious dance of who would betray each other first. Chiam See Tong was betrayed by his protege and SDP in the 1990s and was forced to leave the party he created in 1994. The PAP felt that they were betrayed by the late President Ong Teng Cheong when he questioned the PAP about the state's reserves. In the latest drama of betrayal among political allies, SDP deserted their loyal lawyer-supporter, M Ravi, after his recent arrest.

M Ravi appeared in SDP's circle in the past few years. In 2006 when M Ravi was suspended for one year, SDP stood by him, just as he had stood by SDP and gave speeches at SDP rallies during the Election that year. In their own words, M Ravi was "a dear friend of the SDP". Ostensibly with the support of SDP, the human rights lawyer was also an intern with the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats in 2007.

Ravi's Madness, not Method

Ravi was recently arrested for disrupting mosque prayers and the PAP-controlled media almost predictably insinuated that he is mad. However, SDP confirmed that his mental health is in question when they conceded that

"There is no escaping the fact that Mr Ravi needs medical attention and rest to recuperate."

With that politically unwise candour when silence was astute, SDP strapped up M Ravi in the straitjacket and left him out alone by confirming his questionable frame of mind. In retrospect, M Ravi's mental condition is more unfortunate fact than PAP fabrication and signs of him cracking under the pressure was seen in 2006 when the Falun Gong members he was defending doubted his sanity and he was even admitted into the Institute of Mental Health.

Betrayal and a Replacement Lawyer

Ling How Doong a SDP member and lawyer has not represented the Chee siblings in recent memory, and no lawyer besides esteemed JB Jeyaretnam has the conviction to defend SDP until M Ravi came along. With M Ravi only just seen more as a political liability than an asset considering his bouts of mental instability, SDP needs a new lawyer in their plans. An unstable M Ravi would not do for their already fragile image as a credible activist group and his continued association with SDP was more harm than help. Seeing his frequent presence at SDP events, Chia Ti Lik might be the one to replace M Ravi as SDP's de facto lawyer.

But for M Ravi, SDP's explicit statement that he needs medical help dooms his fate as a reliable lawyer and activist. What would the hapless M Ravi think?

Et tu Chee?

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