Vince Tan’s personal tribute.
The name Karpal Singh is familiar to everyone in the legal profession and in the political arena. He is one of the few Malaysians who had the courage to stand up for what was right without regard to the consequences that might fall upon him.
I was shocked and saddened when the news of his passing got to me. The thought of his yet-to-be completed mission to take over Putrajaya and form a new government that is truly for the people, by the people and from the people is in my thoughts at the moment.
Before I first got involved in politics, I recall how he made his presence felt when he came to officiate an event at my alma mater, St Xavier’s Institution, Penang. He presented a Smartboard to the school’s Computer Club as a token of giving back to the school which gave him an education. He was also present for a farewell dinner for Brother Paul Ho, marking his retirement as principal of St Xavier’s Institution back in 2009. He might have been in a wheelchair, but that did not stop him from giving back to society and doing what is right.
A few years down the road, I found myself on the campaign trail in the lead-up to the 13th General Election and managed to take a picture with the man himself while waiting for a ceremony where all the Pakatan Rakyat candidates took a pledge to serve the people before polling day. Being in politics has taught me one thing — that life would be exceptionally unfair, especially when you are in the Opposition, but nonetheless the quest to uphold justice and protecting the weak requires a lot of perseverance and tolerance before achieving success.
It was only two weeks ago when my friends and I attended the solidarity gathering at Duta Court for the sentencing decision of Karpal’s sedition trial.
I recently bought a book written by Tim Donoghue titled “The Tiger of Jelutong” which documents his earlier life and the numerous court cases on which he was counsel, particularly the drug trafficking cases which made him a household name. After reading most of the chapters in the book, I can see why this particular man is so admired by many. The day will come when Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya, but one man will not be there to see that day.
I believe that he has inspired many young Malaysians to fight the battles once fought by him, and we now see a generation of youth who dare to stand up for what is right, in the face of injustice. If there are more Karpal Singhs out there, Malaysia would be a better nation. He is a symbol of selflessness, bravery and loyalty to his party, his supporters and to every Malaysian citizen.
His defeat in the Jelutong constituency back in 1999 was probably what many dubbed as his political wilderness and a dark time for the party before their victory in 2008. He did not give up, and continued to contest in the next election in the Bukit Gelugor constituency seat in 2004 which he successfully retained until today.
I hope that we do not see his death solely on the dark and gloomy side but take his story as one which we can share with our next generation. We may call it The Legend of Karpal Singh, and instil in ourselves the values and principles he carried throughout his life.
I will end with a quote from Karpal himself, which I hope can inspire many Malaysians to continue his fight whether as a lawyer, a politician, or an activist:
And as for one who wants to be an MP, you must be prepared to stand up and do what is required of an elected representative. We can’t be frightened and not say certain things to avoid getting into trouble, if you are, then you have made the wrong choice.
Rest in Peace, Tiger of Jelutong.