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Why Not?

Published: Friday April 18, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 18, 2014 MYT 10:23:21 AM

Death of a hero, birth of a legend

The death of Karpal Singh is a sad, sad thing. But what’s sadder is the dearth of humanity – that there are those who can celebrate the death of a fine man, or that they can incite others to hate just because they share the same views.

IT’S mid-April, the time of the year when many in the world celebrate the new year.

It was Ugadhi for the Telegus, it was the Tamil Chithirai Puthandu, the Sikh Vaisakhi, the Thai Songkran, the Myanmar Thingyin and it was the Malayalee Vishu.

Laos, Cambodia and much of Indochina celebrated the new year, too.

Happy New Year?

No. There’s so little to be happy about.

There’s still no news about MH370 and the families are left with no closure 40 days on.

A ferry has capsized in South Korea, a day after the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, with close to 300 – mostly high school students – feared dead.

In Nigeria, madmen have kidnapped 100 schoolgirls.

Now, Karpal Singh is dead. The man who was always a presence in Penang is no more. It’s quite hard to believe.

The Khalsa was formed in mid-April. It was when the Sikhs called themselves Singhs – lions. Karpal was lion and he was tiger – the Tiger of Jelutong.

(BRIEF CAPTION) Chaiman of Persatuan Kebajikan Naam Thamilar Pulau Pinang PA.THA.Mahalingam hangging folwers in front of the late DAP leader Karpal Singh's house in Jalan Utama in Penang. April 17,2014. ZHAFARAN NASIB/ The Star. 
Respects: Chairman of Persatuan Kebajikan Naam Thamilar Pulau Pinang P.T. Mahalingam hanging a garland of flowers at the entrance of Karpal's house in Jalan Utama in Penang. - ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

He was my MP for many years. I voted in Jelutong until the late 90s.

Like him or dislike him, he was a man of principle, one who would always stand by his words and call a spade a spade.

He not only took on those on the other side of the divide, even those in his own party feared him. No one was too big for him, not his party leaders, not the nation’s leaders. not even royalty.

If he thought you were wrong, he would be on your case. Ask Prof P. Ramasamy. They were on the same side but the Tiger pounced when he thought the professor had overstepped his bounds.

One old friend called Karpal a lawyer’s lawyer, a great legal mind lost not just to Malaysia but to the entire region.

Karpal may have been many things to many people but he was not one to propagate hate. He stood staunchly for what he felt was right and what the Constitution says. But hate? Never.

Which is why it is so sad that there are other failed politicians – some not fit to even hold a candle to Karpal – who could celebrate his death.

Zukifli Noordin dared to claim that God took Karpal away so there could be no objection to the proposed hudud law in Kelantan.

He backed off later after facing a barrage of criticism but the damage was done. Another lawmaker Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad posted pictures of Karpal’s body on Facebook with crude remarks, adding a giggle to his post as well. Their actions speak volumes about them as human beings.

Luckily, there were those like Khairy Jamaluddin and former Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin who spoke up immediately to silence them.

As for what you may say God’s will is, I remember Karpal being wheeled to a Hindu temple in Penang’s Jalan Utama from his house before the general election in 2008. The drums played loud as the huge group marched.

He was garlanded and the crowd cheered as he came before the deity with R.S.N Rayer pushing the wheelchair.

Days later, Karpal, Rayer and DAP swept to victory in the state.

The man is dead. We should cherish his good deeds. And there are many. He has saved the lives of many people. I am told death row inmates actually smile when they hear his name.

There was one case where a man who was sentenced to jail for “natural life” for a firearms offence was freed thanks to Karpal’s efforts. The man was unable to pay him and Karpal did it for free.

Karpal was always against “natural life” sentence just as he was against the death sentence.

I called a friend to inquire about what was happening in Penang. He said the state was in mourning. “We should erect a statue for Karpal. He was just such a great figure in Penang,” said the friend.

I had to laugh. There’s already another zealot who is against statues. He wants statues in Batu Caves and in Air Itam torn down, or at least hidden away from the eyes of the public as he claims they are an affront to his religion, never mind that Karpal would tell you that freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution.

A statue for Karpal? No, I don’t think he would want it. I think he would settle for more right-thinking people, people who understand and embrace the diversity that is our country.

Because Karpal was that diversity. He never came across as an Indian, a Sikh, a Punjabi or anything else. He was just Malaysian.

Sadly, one accident in 2005 left him confined to a wheelchair. Now, another has taken his life. And made him legend.

There is nothing to celebrate. It’s a sad April.

 

> The writer, who can be reached at raj@thestar.com.my, is hoping that a new Karpal Singh will soon spring up – a real towering Malaysian.

 

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Whynot raj, Karpal Singh, Death, Accident

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