‘Good night, sweet prince’
If justice is about fairness as indeed it is, then Karpal Singh personified it, says Anwar Ibrahim in this tribute.
Just as many of us had gone through in the early hours of 17h April, when the thunderbolt struck from out of the blue, the unintended wake-up call came with the devastating news. Stunned, shocked and stupefied. That is how I would sum up my immediate reaction.
And after getting hold of myself but still shaking, I tweeted my first expression of condolence, deep sorrow and devastation over the loss of our indefatigable fighter for justice, the legendary Karpal Singh.
Later in the day, I sent out a press statement declaring there is none more valiant in life than this great mortal whose body may have perished but his spirit shall live on with us.
Indeed, on this occasion where we gather to do honour to the memory of our dearly beloved brother Karpal who, though physically departed, has left us his eternal presence for all the sacrifices he made, all the labour of love he gave and all the pain and suffering he endured for us.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
The profound sadness of his departure can never dissipate for when something that is more precious than the worldly treasures of the world is taken from you, there can never be a replacement.
As the nation has lost a most dedicated servant, so too, the people have lost a selfless, courageous and noble defender of their rights and liberties. And even as the legal fraternity has lost one of its sharpest minds, above all and speaking here personally for myself, I indeed have lost a true friend, kind in words, noble in deed.
When in more challenging times he gave me some tongue-lashing in public, I knew there was never an iota of malice or ill-will – which is why I took it with an open heart, looking at it as an affectionate slap on the wrist from an elder brother to his younger sibling.
I can never thank him enough for all the help he gave me these last 15 years, and I will never forget those regular visits he paid me during my time in Sungai Buloh Prison. I certainly cannot even begin to entertain the possibility of repaying him for the kindness and generosity he showed me.
He called me at 6.30 on the eve of that fateful morning. He told me he was worried about the Federal Court appeal that was pending. Having been accustomed to the devious machinations of the powers that be, he said he was particularly troubled by the unprecedented speed at which the appeal record swere sent to his office.
But when I too started sounding agitated and worried, he immediately switched back to his usual cool and confident self, no doubt intending to put me at ease.
Such was his magnanimity of spirit that when push came to shove, Karpal would always be on your side.
So, we ended our long chat with his trademark parting shots: “Anwar, you carry on. Don’t worry. I’ll do my best!” Seven hours or so later, with those parting words still ringing in my ear, I heard the news. The angels had taken him away.
He was a man of unimpeachable moral integrity – absolutely fearless as far as mortals are concerned, forgiving to a fault and, being so full of the milk of human kindness, was utterly selfless in helping the oppressed and the victims of injustice.
If justice is about fairness as indeed it is, then Karpal Singh personified it. Hence, he never used underhand tactics or dirty tricks when defending his clients. He always told me: “Anwar, we will fight them tooth and nail but it will be a clean fight. No cheating. No evil schemes.” That is why the fact that I was not given a fair trial was so repugnant to him that he vowed to make sure that I would be acquitted and freed no matter how long that might take.
Last Sunday, we witnessed thousands of Malaysians paying their last respects to Karpal, and there is no doubt in my mind that in his life time, worldly titles did not matter to him at all. What would really matter is the high esteem the people have for him.
And true to that, a sea of people stretching for miles came on the day of the funeral to send him off, showing their love, affection and respect for this great man.
As Horatio says to Hamlet upon his death, I now say to my dearly departed brother Karpal:
Now cracks a noble heart.— Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
Eulogy by Anwar Ibrahim on the occasion of the memorial service for the late Karpal Singh, Tiger of Jelutong, on 24 April 2014