Retired Malaysian judge Datuk K.C.Vohrah shares his views on Karpal Singh:
WITH the passing away of Karpal Singh, the country has lost a great Malaysian, a great man and a great lawyer.
Some may say we have lost a good politician; he was an improbable politician, perhaps, and I often wondered how a patently honest man given to straight talking and straight thinking could have ever become a politician - but his effect as a politician was far-reaching nevertheless.
He made Malaysians aware of unvarnished truths, however unpalatable they were. He spoke loudly on the social ills of the country affecting all communities irrespective of race, religion, gender or creed. He spoke of the problems in the criminal justice system and the legal system and of serious issues of constitutional, administrative and criminal law that need to be addressed, especially in relation to fundamental liberties.
He spoke on issues most people dare not talk about in this country - where most people keep their views to themselves, for whatever reasons.
As a lawyer, he was like the late Raja Aziz Addruse, who was an icon of the Bar. Fearless and relentless in the pursuit of justice, I have had the privilege of Karpal appearing before me in the courts. He lost some and he won some, but in all he was always gracious in courts before all judges - even when he lost his cases.
He was principled and ethical. He fought his cases tooth and nail in court but he was courteous - quite unlike what one would read of him when he was in Parliament or as a politician. But to be sure, he did not take bullying from overbearing judges.
As a matter of fact, when I was in the Judiciary, judges were quite glad to see him conduct a trial or argue an appeal. Judges felt comfortable as he would not mislead on the law and he was to-the-point in his arguments.
In an appeal, like any prudent lawyer, he would put in as many grounds of appeal as there were perceived defects in a court's decision, but come the of day of argument in the Appeal Court he would drop his weakest grounds and rely on just two or three grounds, usually on issues of law. Judges appreciated that as they had heavy dockets of cases to hear for the day.
Karpal has featured in many trials and appeals and many owe their lives to him. His participation in the process has enriched Malaysian jurisprudence in many aspects - especially in regard to constitutional, administrative and criminal law.
Certainly, the legal and political landscape will be never be the same with the absence of Karpal from our midst.
Hopefully his ideas will be cherished and will bear fruit in the future.
May he rest in peace.