At memorial service for Karpal, speakers highlight his many sides

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Last Updated: 2:38pm, Apr 25, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR (April 25): He left a legacy which touched the lives of many. He fought on against all odds to protect the weak who could not defend themselves. He never cared if his words would offend those in power as long as he believed what he said was right based on his code of honour.

And based on those same principles of honour, he never cared if he himself was persecuted and prosecuted. He sacrificed himself, his time with his family and at one point in time, even his freedom to protect the sanctity of his beliefs.

He inspired respect and admiration in both friend and foe. His spirit of nobility was so pure, that when he felt an enemy of his was unjustly persecuted and prosecuted, he took up the enemy’s cause and fought tooth and nail to uphold the Rule of Law, the Constitution and the justice system he believed in and loved with all his heart.

These were the words spoken by many of the late Karpal Singh’s comrades and brethren in arms in Pakatan Rakyat and his friends from the legal and activist worlds.

These were the words they recalled as they reminisce upon the late Tiger of Jelutong who was taken tragically in the wee hours of April 17th, one week after his passing.

More than 3,000 Malaysians of all creed and colour came to pay tribute and honour the memory of the late Bukit Gelugor MP last night, packing the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, with another 3,000 watching the proceedings through DAP’s Ubah.tv.

In an emotionally charged event, politicians, lawyers and activists recalled how Karpal has inspired them to never give up, to take up the legal profession, to uphold themselves honourably and to get back up, no matter how many times or how hard they fall in defeat.

Some of the luminaries who came to pay their tribute and speak of the late Karpal included vaunted names such as national laureate A Samad Said, special advisor of the UN secretary-general to Timor Leste Dr Noeleen Heyser, PAS deputy president Muhamad Sabu and DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.

Gobind - a testament to his late father

When his turn came to speak, Karapl's second son Gobind Singh walked up the stage and touched the ground before the large portrait of his late father in a sign of seeking blessing before addresing the crowd.

The Puchong MP would have done his father proud last night had Karpal lived to see how the crowd fell silent the moment he stepped on stage.

Masterfully speaking to the crowd in a sombre tone, Gobind recalled his memories the man and the packed hall was so silent that one could hear a pin drop.

The son who was hospitalised and who Karpal had visited just hours before the  road accident said that when his wife broke the news to him, they only knew that "two of their family members had passed away".

"Later, Ipoh Timur MP Thomas Su called me and told me that my younger brother (Ram Karpal) survived and that Micheal (Cornelius) had passed away. Michael was like family to us as well," he said speaking of Karpal’s loyal aide Cornelious who has been with the veteran politician ever since the 2005 accident which left him wheel-chair bound.

Gobind whose eyes were swollen said that it will take time before the family came into terms with their loss.

"On behalf of my family, we would like to thank all Malaysians who have offered their prayers, their condolences...All of you gave the tiger the send-off he deserved. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts," he said.

Recounting the privilege of knowing such a great man, Gobind said that to Karpal never said no to anyone who needed his assistance.

"To him it was simple. If anyone comes to you for help and you are able, you should help," he said adding that to Karpal what mattered was trying and fighting on.

As he continued speaking, the same flare and fiery spirit of Karpal was exemplified in Gobind where he began rallying the crowd to the extent of rejecting the calls by the media to strike off the charges laid upon his late father by Attorney General Tan Sri Gani Patail.

“We must rise to finish off what he has begun in this country.

“They thought they could break him. They tried for years - to break him.

“They could not break him!” roared Gobind to the approval and cheers of the crowd.

“We don’t need favours from the AG. We don’t need his sympathy. We won’t back down. We will fight him till the end because Mr. Karpal would have fought him till the end.

“As to why we are here tonight, let us remember the spirit of the man!” Gobind said as he stepped down from the stage to a deafening applause by the audience.

Ambiga: A true son of the noble tenets of Sikhism

Former Bersih co-chair and former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan pointed out that when Karpal was born, “God broke the mould”.

Ambiga recalled that when she was still a junior member of the Bar, Karpal dared to speak out on issues others fear to even mention.

“He epitomise the Malaysian Bar, in upholding the cause of justice, not influenced by fear or favour. At an AGM of the Malaysian Bar in 1977 it was Karpal who proposed a motion against the Essential Security Cases Regulations 1975 (ESCAR). He described ESCAR as repressive and against the Rule of Law.

“A resolution called for Members of the Bar to withdraw from ESCAR cases. Those words repressive and against rule of law, were his constant battle cry against all oppression.

“He himself faced some of the worse form, his detention under ISA and sedition charges faced are but some. I was in court that day, fixed the sentencing of KS in latest sedition charge,” said Ambiga.

She then pointed out that Karpal has lived his life according to the Sikh Holy Book and that he is truly the son of Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the 10 Gurus of Sikhism.

“What a warrior for justice he was, in the true spirit of the Sikh religion. He never left the battlefield of righteousness and he defended truth to the end.

“The Penang State government bestowed honours upon him but the ultimate tribute was the hordes of people who turned up to give him farewell in the end,” she said.

Ambiga also quoted an anonymous individual in Penang during Karpal’s funeral on Sunday:  “Sir, if you could see the thousands here to say goodbye, more than any ceramah, you would know your life was not in vain.”

Guan Eng: Tales from a former cellmate

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng called upon the crowd not to forget Karpal’s achievements.

“We hope that all of you here can celebrate Karpal Singh's achievements by continuing where he left off. And on behalf of DAP we want to assure everyone that we will continue the good fight that Karpal Singh fought his whole life.

“Pakatan is in power in Penang and here, we try to put into practice what we fought for all these years. And one of the most important issues was to abolish death penalty and we can’t do that because we aren’t in power but at least we did something in Penang because in past six years, we never approved a death penalty,” said Lim.

Lim, who was also Karpal’s cellmate when the two DAP leaders were incarcerated in Kamunting Prison, Taiping under the Internal Security Act during the 1987 Ops Lalang, then called upon the crowd to help honour Karpal with what he was working hard for - to take over Putrajaya come the 14th General Election.

“Let us therefore remember Karpal, remember him well in 2018. Can we do that or not? Can we keep the flame burning? Can we honour Karpal with the best gift of all… for a new M’sia!?” asked Lim to a roar from the crowd.

Anwar - a former enemy turned brother

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim recalled the memories of when Karpal first stood for him in the first sodomy case he faced, even though the prominent lawyer was severely critical of him when he held the post of deputy prime minister.

“I knew, there was never an iota of malice in him… I look at it as an affectionate slap on my wrist as an elder brother to a younger sibling,” said Anwar recalling the times when Karpal told him off.

“I can never forget all those regular visits in my time in Sungai Buloh Prison. All he has done for me, I can never forget that. When push comes to shove, Karpal Singh will stand by your side.

“When I was first charged for sodomy he said: Datuk Seri, we will fight tooth and nail. But it will be a clean fight. No cheating,” said Anwar to the soft laughter of the crowd.

“He vowed to make sure that I will be acquitted and be free no matter how long it takes,” said Anwar, who ended his speech with: “I now say to my dearly departed brother Karpal Singh good night sweet prince and rise of angels sing to thy presence.”

Malik Imtiaz: Karpal’s law career a historical roadmap for profession

Human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who spoke about Karpal the lawyer, said that Karpal's achievement in his cases was a "roadmap to the evaluation of criminal and constitution law" ranging from matter such as the secular status of the nation, powers of the monarchs and habeas corpus matters.

He recalled that "Uncle Karpal" was one of the "coolest" persons he knew always fondly standing up for his children and their group of friends against their parents and participating in the jokes and pranks together with his children.

He ended his address quoting a stanza of William Blake's poem "The Tiger" as Karpal was fondly known as the 'Tiger of Jelutong" which perfectly encapsulates Karpal’s bold and daring spirit.

"Tiger, tiger, burning bright/In the forests of the night/What immortal hand or eye/Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

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