When Karpal Singh died in a car accident on April 17, 2014, his death rocked the nation. A light went out in Malaysia that day. Malaysians from all walks of life mourned the passing of a great man and felt tremendous loss, for few men were more well-loved than him.
If Karpal were still alive, he would have turned 80 today. Despite the fact that he’s no longer around, his tireless contributions and sacrifices are still felt up to this day.
He was a man of honour and integrity, a hero of the people. A friend to the oppressed and the marginalised, his heart always went out to the last, the lost, and the least.
Karpal fought tirelessly for the disabled. Being paralysed himself from 2005, he 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
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.
He fought tooth and nail against the abuse of political and judicial powers. Throughout his life, he battled 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 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.”
He never expected anything in return. Not fame, not power, not position, not recognition.
He was fearless in fighting for justice, human rights and democracy. Even in the face of intense persecution, he never wavered and always stood up to injustice. And he paid dearly for it.
However, his sense of justice was so strong that nothing could stop him. Not detention without trial, fines, prosecution, or systemic harassment by the then 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.
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 these reasons and many more, he will always have a 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. Your life has been such an inspiration to all of us.
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. Happy birthday, Karpal!
Lara Ling is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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