By Lara Ling | OPINION |
When Karpal Singh died in a car accident on 17 April 2014, his untimely death rocked the nation. A light went out in Malaysia that day. Malaysians from all walks of life deeply mourned the tragic passing of a great man and felt unspeakable loss, for few men were more well-loved than this one.
If Karpal were still alive, he would have turned 80 years old today. Despite the fact that he’s no longer around, his tireless contributions and heartfelt sacrifices for Malaysia are still felt up to this day.
He was a man of honour and integrity, a true hero of the people. He was uncommon for the common man. A friend to the oppressed and the marginalized, his heart always went out to the last, the lost, and the least.
Karpal fought tirelessly for the disabled. Being paralysed himself since 2005, he personally understood and experienced what it was like to live under a government that cared and provided so little for the disabled. He championed their rights to be treated equally, to be given opportunities just like everyone else.
Karpal fought relentlessly for our civil rights and democratic liberties. He stood up for the destitute and the downtrodden, for those who were helpless to defend themselves. Rich or poor, he took on court cases without choosing clients based on their financial ability. In many instances, he represented them on a pro bono basis.
Karpal fought tooth and nail against the abuse of political and judicial powers. Throughout his life, he fiercely battled against a legal system that often failed terribly at protecting the rights of ordinary Malaysians. Laws have changed because of him. In the literal sense of the word, he was a lawmaker.
Karpal also fought long and hard to abolish the death penalty. He took up numerous cases on capital punishment, saving many death row inmates from the hangman’s noose. Former International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) president Karim Lahidji once said, “When Malaysia eventually abolishes the death penalty, much of the credit will have to be given to the courageous work of Karpal Singh.”
Amazingly, he never expected anything in return. Not fame, not power, not position, not recognition.
A legend and a political giant, he was fearless in fighting for justice, human rights, and democracy. Even in the face of intense persecution, he never wavered and always boldly stood up to injustice. And he paid dearly for it.
However, his sense of justice was so strong that nothing could stop him. Not detainment without trial, not fines, not prosecution, not systemic harassment by the then Barisan National government. Not even a debilitating car accident that robbed him of physical mobility and confined him to a wheelchair could break his spirit.
Even though the 73-year-old statesman suffered greatly for his principles, he was always undeterred. “We cannot be discouraged, as that’s exactly what our enemies would want.” In our current political climate, these words couldn’t ring more true. While deep darkness has fallen over our beloved motherland, let us be that light that shines bright especially when all around us is night.
Karpal never gave up. Neither should we. For that is what the great warrior would have wanted — for us to carry his hopes and dreams for a better Malaysia into the future. May his lifelong pursuit not be left unfinished.
For all the reasons above and many more, he will always have a very special place in our hearts. Thank you Karpal, for leaving us such a powerful legacy. You were committed to justice and equality, even until the very end.
Passionate and unbreakable, your life has truly been such an inspiration to all of us. We could never forget someone like you.
As you once poignantly said six years ago, “The fight goes on. You knock out one Karpal Singh, a hundred Karpal Singhs will rise.” Indeed, the Tiger lives on. Malaysia, rise for what is right! Happy birthday, Karpal!
* This article was written in tribute to Karpal Singh whose birthday is today.
**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.
The article, ‘Karpal Singh, The Tiger of Jelutong lives on — Lara Ling’ (The Malay Mail, 28 June 2020), first appeared here.
Celebrating June 28 as Karpal Singh Day (Asia Samachar, 28 June 2020)
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