Last updated on July 17th, 2017 at 02:55 pm
M Ravi was once famed for his brilliant oratorical skills and taking on cases that many shy away from. These days, he is more commonly known for his buffoonish behaviour and baseless tirades on Facebook Live. He has become, as the image above suggests, a ghost of his former self.
When viewed in the context of how he has been medically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, one may be able to understand why he is behaving in such a manner. M Ravi has had manic relapses in the past and the consequences of such relapses have ranged from being forcibly remanded in the Institute of Mental Health (“IMH”) and more recently, being denied a practicing certificate.
By his own admission and the accounts those many close to him, he has consistently refused to seek treatment and take his pills. He has also lashed out, which some may say is an understatement, at anyone around him who suggests that he rests or seeks professional help.
Armed with Facebook Live, he now has a new outlet that gives him access to thousands of people who tune in for entertainment where he proceeds to bash those who have stood by him.
One such example is Criminal Lawyer and Human Rights lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam. When Ravi was suspended from the Bar, Mr Thuraisingam helped him argue against his suspension in Court. Mr Thuraisingam also offered him a job as Head Knowledge Manager - as Ravi is a non-practising lawyer now - at his firm.
In the infancy of his current manic relapse, Ravi lambasted Mr Thuraisingam on a Facebook Live video. Even after that, Mr Thuraisingam did accept his apology and allowed him back into the firm. Since then Mr Thuraisingam found that his repeated harassment of his staff and his frequent baseless denunciations of him and the firm could not be tolerated any longer and proceeded to terminate his contract.
From his former employer to civil society activists, many good people have fallen victim to Ravi’s ire. Those who have known Ravi for a long time have opined that this manic relapse, with the availability of Facebook Live, has been the worst.
During past relapses, he has been known to cross-dress, dance and hug trees. Most of the time, his actions have only affected those close to him and himself. However, over the past 2 weeks, his actions have adversely affected a literal life-and-death situation.
Over his legal career, Ravi has taken on many death penalty cases. The most famous, arguably, was that of Yong Vui Kong’s, where Ravi helped him escape the noose. Needless to say, he took on those cases when he was mentally fit. In the past, he also has been reasonable enough to relinquish all cases, especially Capital cases, to other lawyers during his manic relapses. But not this time.
M Ravi and the Case of Prabagaran
Prabagaran was hanged at dawn on the 14th of July after a 5 year long battle in Court. On the afternoon of 13th July, Singapore’s apex court heard a final appeal for a stay of execution. As the issue before the courts was whether a case that has yet to run its course in Malaysia with regards to Praba’s right to a fair trial would justify a stay of execution, two Human Rights Lawyers from the Malaysian Bar - Mr N Surendran MP and Mdm Latheefa Koya - were assisting Mr Choo Zhengxi, Praba’s counsel, at the hearing.
Mdm Latheefa and Mr N Surendran with Malaysian Opposition Leader, Mr Anwar Ibrahim. The duo have taken on many high profile cases across the border. They are also the co-founders of Lawyers for Liberty.
M Ravi assisted Mr Kanagavijayan when he was representing Prabagaran in the High Court. Ravi was never lead counsel for Prabagaran at any point of time but he was the point of contact for his family. During the time he was assisting Mr Vijayan, Ravi made Mdm Eswari his domestic helper of sorts, by making her cook and deliver lunch to his office. He didn’t pay her for her deeds but actually demanded that she paid him for legal fees instead.
When President Tony Tan rejected Praba’s Clemency Petition last week, Praba’s family were informed that his execution had been set for the 14th of July. Consequently, Praba’s mother, Mdm Eswari, repeatedly contacted Ravi to no avail. Although Ravi was active on social media, he did not return any of Mdm Eswari’s calls. Out of desperation, Mdm Eswari made her way to Ravi’s house. Even then, Ravi ignored her. Thankfully, she was able to contact Mr Vijayan who then put her in touch with Mr Choo.
Mr Choo was then instructed by Mdm Eswari to act for Praba. He then filed for a hearing which was set for the 13th of July. Although he was not instructed by the family, M Ravi had also filed an application on behalf of Praba which was set to be heard alongside his application.
In the Court of Appeal
Even before the start of the hearing, he implored Mdm Eswari to dismiss Mr Choo as her lawyer and choose him instead. He said, “Do you want your Son to die? If you don’t, choose me as your lawyer. Why do you trust this Chinese guy?”
Mdm Eswari, who was already distraught, held her ground. How anyone could ask a grieving mother such a question was beyond us. He then proceeded to ask Praba himself if he wanted to die. The two Malaysian lawyers present helped console the family and shielded them from Ravi.
Throughout the hearing, whenever the judges disagreed with Mr Choo, Ravi nodded his head in agreement and expressed verbal agreement with the judges. Ravi also kicked Mr Choo’s chair as he was speaking.
When it came time for Ravi to present his case, the gallery was aghast when the judges revealed that his applications for Praba were only 3 Paragraphs long and he had no submissions. His oral arguments were utterly irrelevant and had more to do with himself than with Praba. He spoke about his sexuality and why he wants to wear a sari to court and how the police violated his rights as a pansexual when he was arrested for criminal trespass.
Here was what Mdm Latheefa said of Ravi’s actions during the hearing in response to a Facebook Live video where Ravi had the gall and temerity to hold Mr Choo responsible for Praba’s death.
Mr N Surendran, who is also MP for Padang Serai, had this to say.
As the DPP made his arguments, Ravi left his seat to proceed to the gallery. This time, instead of pleading with Mdm Eswari, he started to accuse her in Tamil of killing her son. Fortunately, Mr Surendran stepped in and confronted Ravi - who then shied away and accused the police of not protecting him against Mr Surendran.
Many in the Courtroom were surprised by the amount of patience that the judges showed Ravi. One has to keep in mind that that was, in all likelihood, Praba’s last night on earth and therefore, the more time Ravi wasted ‘arguing’, the less time Praba would have to see his family.
It took the judges no more than two sentences to dismiss Ravi’s application. The Prosecution also sought a cost order against Ravi by arguing that it was clear his arguments ‘were all about him and not about Praba.’ Granting a cost order in criminal cases is almost unheard of but in this instance, the judges granted the cost order against Ravi.
Ravi’s fiasco did not end there. In light of the hearing, the Prison wardens had agreed with Mr Choo that after the hearing, they would extend the visiting hours till 7pm in order for Praba to meet his family for the final time. They did not anticipate that the hearing, which started at 2.30pm, would drag on until 5pm because of Ravi’s submissions.
Even then, Mr Choo, the Prosecution and the Prison Wardens were able to reach an agreement to clear the Court if the judgment is not in Praba’s favour to allow Praba’s judgement to allow his family to meet him on the premises. After the judgment was delivered, Ravi continued to argue with the judges and asked about the whereabouts of his handphone which ate into the precious time left that Praba could spend meeting his family. In total, Ravi spent wasted close to 1 hour. This was 1 precious hour more that the family could have spent with his family on his final day.
When Mr Choo and the Prosecution stood up to urgently ask that the judges allow the family to meet Praba as the application has already been dismissed, Ravi scolded them for interrupting him. In the end, the judges stopped Ravi from speaking acceded to the request. They asked that Praba leave the room and head to the Basement of the Supreme Court so that his family can meet him until 7pm.
At the Vigil
On the evening on 13th July till the morning of 14th July, a candlelight vigil was held outside the main gate of Changi Prison for Prabagaran. It was a relatively peaceful and solemn procession where people from all walks of life gathered to stand in solidarity with Praba’s family.
Executions are usually carried out at the first break of dawn at 6am. At about 5.30am, Ravi, who was accompanied by George - his ardent supporter - appeared at the vigil. At the vigil, he berated all present. Most of the people whom he confronted tried to bring him away from the grieving family by engaging Ravi and walking away from the vigil. After some time, he approached Mdm Eswari and told her in Tamil that “she was responsible for her son’s death as she heeded the advice of Mr Choo and the anti-death penalty activists in Singapore.” When those present confronted Ravi to bring him away from the family, he then held Mdm Eswari’s - insisting that she was her client. He began spewing Tamil vulgarities at the top of his voice to those who argued that he should leave the mother alone and settle whatever problems he had away from the family or, at the very least, away from the family. He even shouted at George when he tried to restrain him.
In this video, Ravi can be seen berating the journalist and anti-death penalty Activist, Kirsten Han. The video had to be cut short as the person videoing intervened to stop Ravi. In the background, one can see the family grieving and staring into Changi Prison Complex.
After being separated from the family, he then proceeded to throw soya bean at a volunteer cameraman after asking him to film. It was around this time when all the plainclothes policemen who were observing the vigil from opposite stepped in and restrained Ravi. They managed to keep Ravi far away from the vigil for the rest of the night. For their professionalism and sensitivity, due credit must be given.
Thankfully, at least as far as Praba’s family were concerned, that was the last they saw of Ravi. He then continued his rants online.
What Should We Do?
Clearly, Ravi should not be allowed near any legal case, let alone one that involves life and death.
In the eyes of many, Ravi is a champion of Humans Rights. For these people, the account above will make for some uncomfortable reading but it can and will be corroborated by Court transcripts, the Police and first-hand accounts of all who were present at the Court of Appeal and the Vigil. To all those people who continue to egg and spur him on - through Facebook Live and other means - you must come to understand the effects of your encouragement.
In his current manic state, Ravi is a megalomaniac who thrives and craves attention. Every like, comment and share on his post gives him the false impression that he is a hero of the masses. In fact, to most of his entourage on his Facebook, he is little more than comedic relief - this can be seen from how he repeatedly fails to raise funds and the number of people that actually turn up to physically support him. He is nothing but a bad and unfunny joke
He may have mental illnesses to blame but many of those who cheer him on don’t.
What then can be done to help him, you may ask.
1) Don’t feed the Troll
Stop giving him attention. Do not like, comment and share any of his posts. Don’t engage with him on his Facebook Live videos too. Do report his posts to Facebook too - especially when they are aimed at smearing the efforts of good people. With enough reports to Facebook, his access to Facebook Live will be temporarily revoked.
2) Don’t fund the Troll
He has often raised funds for legal cases but when one actually views his submissions, like in the case of Prabagaran where they were only 5 paragraphs long, they will realise that their money is not being used to fund the defense of the downtrodden. In the case of the Elected Presidency, for example, his submissions were deemed "... unmeritorious in almost every conceivable aspect ..." and dismissed with costs.
3) Advise him to seek Medical Help
To date, anyone close to him who suggests that he seeks help will be denounced. If one has the time to interact with him, on Facebook or in person, one should urge him to seek professional help. The more people continue to urge him to seek professional help, the more may be more convinced to do so. There is also the possibility that the Courts will order him to be remanded again at IMH.
4) Educate His Supporters about the Real M Ravi
If you know anyone who still supports him on Facebook and real life, share this article with them to educate them on the consequences of their support. He can only blame his illness in so far as he is willing to seek treatment for it. It is irresponsible for him to commit to cases that he later drops or fumbles when he enters a manic phase.
The fall of M Ravi may be dastardly painful to watch, but more importantly, he is a clear and present danger to anyone who, based on his previous fame and feats, makes the mistake of engaging him, whether directly or indirectly, for legal help or representation. He will jeopardize and imperil their case or defense. The trauma that he causes will remain for a very long time to these person's families as he will negate any merits and ensure a conviction. Worse still, he may even go on to lay blame at their feet.
That he requires professional help is obvious, but this publication humbly submits that it is now needed with paramount urgency.
Feel free to republish this Editorial with a link back to this post.