Karpal Singh: A fighter and a gentleman

Karpal Singh: A fighter and a gentleman

Karpal Singh was as fierce as a tiger when taking on his opponents in the legal and political arena but the private person in him was soft-spoken, courteous and a true gentleman.

On Wednesday afternoon, Karpal Singh had called to say he was leaving for Penang that night and that he would only be coming back on Tuesday.

"You can come by this evening, if you like," he said.

I phoned Mr Karpal, as all of us call him, a few days ago to say I would like to interview him about the Kelantan government's plan to introduce hudud law, an issue which the DAP leader had been uncompromising about throughout his political career.

We decided to do the interview over the phone. It was not a long interview, just 20 minutes or so.

He knew the Kelantan government's hudud plan was for real this time and when I asked what a long-time critic like him could possibly do, he did not have a ready answer.

"We cannot stop them from tabling the Bill but we can vote against it," said Karpal, the Bukit Gelugor MP.

As we said goodbye, I had teased him: "All that thing about 'over my dead body' - you hang on in there. We need you around."

His reply was a deep-throated chuckle. Of all the things I could have said, why did I have to say that to him on the last day of his life?

Some of my friends had asked whether there had been any hint from Karpal about the tragedy ahead. Of course not. Karpal was not a superstitious man, as reporters who covered him as lawyer or politician would know.

Tributes mixed with shock and sadness have poured in. I have always felt that obituaries tend to be rather too kind and flattering to the dead.

But I have been reading the pieces written by fellow journalists and people who knew Karpal and there has been this genuinely heartfelt sentiment for the man who had led quite an exceptional life as a lawyer, a politician and a Malaysian.

He was a stand-out lawyer, he challenged the law and achieved landmark decisions in the legal world.

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