Human rights lawyer, Mr M Ravi, is a respected friend of the SDP. He has an accomplished legal mind and a heart of gold. His determination to do what is right has cost him much, both in personal terms and in his career. Unfortunately, he is also afflicted with bipolar disorder.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Government’s decision to review the death penalty is a result of Ravi’s unflagging determination to save the lives of those on death row.
It was not only his legal submissions in court but also his garnering of international opinion against the senseless execution, especially of small-time drug mules, that has made the Government stop and reflect on its actions.
Few know that Ravi travelled across Europe, the UK, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and the UN (most of the time at his own expense) to publicise the unreasonableness of the mandatory death penalty law – at a time when few cared.
In a country where few lawyers would argue cases that challenged the Government’s position – including acting for the SDP’s activists prosecuted for exercising our freedoms of speech and assembly – Ravi came forward. He did not do this for money because none of us could afford to pay him. He did it because he could not keep silent when injustice swirled all around.
But sometimes Ravi has relapses of his disorder. 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 his manic 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 experiencing the onslaught of this mental disorder, he is a very different person. He is competent, endearing, and dedicated.
But let us recognise this: Ravi’s condition is a medical one. And when he falls ill, just as all of us do from time to time, he needs medical treatment and rest.
At such times, let his friends and supporters not turn his distress into a political event. Those who recommend Ravi’s absence from court for him to seek treatment may not necessarily be wishing him ill and those who are treating him are not his enemies.
Let us also not defend or even praise Ravi’s inappropriate behaviour when he is undergoing a manic episode and use him as a political football. Rather, let us treat him as 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 medical condition. There is no honour in attacking a man when he is at his most vulnerable.
Do we laugh at a cancer patient who looks strange because he lost all his hair after undergoing therapy? Do we mock the elderly for soiling their garments because they are incontinent? Do we ridicule the autistic child whose utterances and physical movement we may find odd?
As they say in football parlance: Play the ball, not the man.
What Ravi – and, for that matter, anyone who is similarly afflicted – needs is medical attention and the sooner he receives it, the better it is for him and for our community. With a strong and supportive social network, Ravi can function and contribute positively to Singapore, as he has all these years.
Let us give him the space that he needs while he is going through a difficult period: keep the cameras away and the interviews at bay. Let us get him back on his feet again so that 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.]