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Human rights lawyer, Mr M Ravi, is arespected friend of the SDP. He has an accomplished legal mind and aheart of gold. His determination to do what is right has cost himmuch, both in personal terms and in his career. Unfortunately, he isalso afflicted with bipolar disorder.$CUT$
It is no exaggeration to say that theGovernment’s decision to review the death penalty is a result ofRavi’s unflagging determination to save the lives of those on deathrow.
It was not only his legal submissions in court but also hisgarnering of international opinion against the senseless execution,especially of small-time drug mules, that has made the Governmentstop and reflect on its actions.
Few know that Ravi travelled acrossEurope, the UK, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and the UN (mostof the time at his own expense) to publicise the unreasonableness ofthe mandatory death penalty law – at a time when few cared.
In a country where few lawyers wouldargue cases that challenged the Government’s position – includingacting for the SDP’s activists prosecuted for exercising our freedomsof speech and assembly – Ravi came forward. He did not do this formoney because none of us could afford to pay him. He did it becausehe could not keep silent when injustice swirled all around.
But sometimes Ravi has relapses of hisdisorder. And when he does, he is not the same Ravi that we know.Indeed, it is difficult to be around Ravi when he is in one of hismanic episodes. His behaviour is bizarre and his speech erratic,sometimes highly so. Those around him are often the target of abuse.
However, when Ravi is not experiencingthe onslaught of this mental disorder, he is a very different person.He is competent, endearing, and dedicated.
But let us recognise this: Ravi’scondition is a medical one. And when he falls ill, just as all of usdo from time to time, he needs medical treatment and rest.
At such times, let his friends andsupporters not turn his distress into a political event. Those whorecommend Ravi’s absence from court for him to seek treatment may notnecessarily be wishing him ill and those who are treating him are nothis enemies.
Let us also not defend or even praiseRavi’s inappropriate behaviour when he is undergoing a manic episode and use him as a political football. Rather, let us treat himas we would treat a brother.
On the other hand, Ravi’s detractors,no matter how much you may disagree with his legal views and actions,should not ridicule him for his behaviour and poke fun at his medicalcondition. There is no honour in attackinga man when he is at his most vulnerable.
Do we laugh at a cancer patient wholooks strange because he lost all his hair after undergoing therapy?Do we mock the elderly for soiling their garments because they areincontinent? Do we ridicule the autistic child whose utterances andphysical movement we may find odd?
As they say in football parlance: Playthe ball, not the man.
What Ravi – and, for that matter,anyone who is similarly afflicted – needs is medical attention andthe sooner he receives it, the better it is for him and for ourcommunity. With a strong and supportive social network, Ravi canfunction and contribute positively to Singapore, as he has all theseyears.
Let us give him the space that he needswhile he is going through a difficult period: keep the cameras awayand the interviews at bay. Let us get him back on his feet again sothat he can be the Ravi that we have all come to know and respect.And yes, love.
Note: Ravi has been admitted to a hospital. [Update: Ravi has been discharged from the hospital.]