‘My political career has been jeopardised before it even started’

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Sitting at his Blackburn office, which is office number two, Gurpal Singh an experienced barrister and solicitor in Melbourne, is ruing about his aspirations towards a political career that has, unfortunately, been nipped in the bud. Singh, a Liberal Party candidate for Scullin for the May 2019 federal elections, says he was in the middle of a pre-polling booth when he got a call from the party’s director asking him to attend office immediately. It would lead to his resignation to his candidature for Scullin in North Melbourne.

Singh’s termination made headlines and for the Indian community with very few political representations, it was indeed a disheartening turn of events.
In his own words, Singh, whose many credentials include working with top American law firm Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley (RMKB) based in San Jose with specialisations in International commercial and IT laws, shares his personal views on what happened.

‘’However, I must express why my name was joined in this conversation by a section of the media. In 2017, I was often called for my opinion on immigration issues or on topics of interest to the Punjabi community at the SBS Radio’s Punjabi station. When the issue of gay marriage came up, I was interviewed, and I said as a person of faith and being a devout Sikh I believed in the theory given by Guru Nanak that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. I expressed my views and I also said we do not know what the impact will be on those children because it is a new phenomenon that will become apparent only after certain years from the day same-sex marriage becomes a law or when the first set of children are adopted.

‘’In the course of the interview, I explained the basis on which I formed my opinion and I said we have to see the impact of this whole new scenario on the children in the future, say, 15 or 20 years later. And those children are not biological children of husband and wife as we see in a traditional marriage, they are surrogate or adopted children, so we have to see the issue of paedophilia and what happens to the children. As a lawyer, I have seen cases where after a couple’s separation the wife alleges that the husband has inappropriately touched their daughter – and this is a situation in a heterosexual couple. Imagine the situation where the parents are not biological parents and we have seen some cases in the US where the results were not very happy. In one of the cases, the child killed both the parents.

‘’That interview was in Punjabi, and later during the election campaign. When the Prime Minister made a statement in my favour, they didn’t like it. The Labor Party and other leftist media came up with another story which was also picked up from SBS Punjabi in which I, in the capacity of a lawyer, had commented. The story titled ‘’I married my rapist’’ was posted on the Facebook page of SBS Punjabi. I have taken up cases where rape occurred ten years prior in time of making the complaint. Despite such a delay of years, police took cognisance and charges were laid against the accused. Now in this case, I read the story and found it truly preposterous. I am a lawyer, I handle many such cases and it is a very sensitive issue.

“I did write a comment on that Facebook post by expressing my opinion that this seems improbable and the woman is trying skimming money from her husband and the father of her two children. This is not a case of someone locked up and kept in shackles as happened in the US, we have an educated girl here who was travelling, working, etc., and when there is a separation she makes allegations. I said this does not seem probable and we don’t know the extent of misleading content.

‘’As a consequence, I was called to the party head-quarters and I was questioned as to what I did. I said I know this guy. Now you should show me whether any complaint was made to the police, whether the husband was investigated or charge-sheeted and whether there was any criminal trial against him. There was none. So, this story remained published for more than a year. And my comment remained published on the SBS Facebook page for that period of time. SBS Punjabi didn’t come back with any rebuttal and they didn’t produce the other version of the story. It was a one-sided story; the rape had not been demonstrated. However, the Liberal Party said ‘we have only six days to go before the elections’ and there was no time left to counter this point. I had to resign from my candidacy.

‘’So, this is the background. Unfortunately, it came at a time when people in the constituency were loving me, they wanted a change and I would, in all probability, have won the seat or given a tough fight.

‘’I have been practising law for 26 years and I have kept my record clean. They were digging for financial irregularities or any acts of misdemeanour, but they couldn’t find anything. What they found were these two statements (on gay marriage and comment on alleged rape story) against me and they were trying to demean me on those bases.

‘’They were just opinions. I am a lawyer and I am entitled to make opinions on the basis of facts of a particular case. But you are taking those opinions out of context and divesting me off my political career, which has not even started? I spent everything I had – my time, my energy, resources and friendships.

‘’I made a request to SBS that you kindly provide me the documents showing the rape, they said ‘no we will not because there is a privilege’. I am a first-generation migrant and I established my law offices here in Melbourne. I was teaching in university too and now everything has gone against me. I have not been given any opportunity to prove that the allegations of rape were not real.

‘’I feel very frustrated because I have lost friends too. People read the headlines and they believe I am some sort of rapist or a criminal or some culprit. On my Facebook page, there were so many abusive comments. My photo was also projected on the LGBT dating site to show I am a bad man. There is nobody to support me, people are trying to say things left, right centre against me as if I am a criminal. Tell me, what is my fault? I am trying to explore what did I do wrong.

‘’I had not done anything wrong. I just made a statement and in this free democratic world how frustrating is this. Should I be keeping my mouth shut? I am a lawyer for God’s sake. I act for people, I have the capability because of my education for which I have spent a lot of money and time to make a judgement and express my opinion to the court.

‘’My political career has been jeopardised before it even started. I was doing well. Even after my resignation I was close to 22,000 votes because there were people who could understand this guy is not doing anything wrong. Ok! if I have made a statement in support of the husband in a family violence case and saying it was not a rape as alleged by the wife, what stopped you from bringing the other side of the story.

‘’I have suffered immense loss, my work has suffered, my family gone through so much pain for wrong reasons, my political career has slipped away. I remain disturbed, my wife remains disturbed, my son remains disturbed. We were crying day and night; we could not sleep.’’

(Disclaimer: The views expressed are of Gurpal Singh and personal)