'Tiger of Jelutong' leaves behind a lasting legacy

'Tiger of Jelutong' leaves behind a lasting legacy

For his five decades of following his strongest convictions in Parliament and in the courts, Mr Karpal Singh became known as the "Tiger of Jelutong", his long-time parliamentary seat in Penang.

The nickname stuck even after he lost the seat in the 1999 election, so much so that a bank manager who crashed into the taxi Mr Singh was taking in 2005 had reportedly exclaimed that he had hit the "Tiger of Jelutong".

The accident left him paralysed, which he described as being "like a prisoner within yourself". But he also said at the time that he kept looking ahead as he did not want to sink into depression.

His zeal in living up to his legal and political principles did not waver.

Known for his fierce integrity and loyalty to principles, Mr Singh played no small role in shaping Malaysia's robust democracy.

The 73-year-old politician did not flinch when it came to putting his Democratic Action Party (DAP) at loggerheads with the other two parties in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. He spoke out repeatedly against creeping Islamisation and, most recently, he opposed its ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia's plans to enforce the Islamic penal code, hudud, in Kelantan.

His forthright positions sometimes put the PR in an awkward position, but it was never Mr Singh's manner to stay silent on matters of principle.

He left a legacy so respected that tributes poured in when news of his sudden death broke. Mr Singh died in a road accident on his way to Penang to attend a court hearing yesterday.

As a lawyer, his legal colleagues recall, Mr Singh often took unpopular cases, including defending those on capital punishment charges, as he believed everyone was entitled to legal help.

"He taught me to be absolutely forthright to the court," said prominent Penang lawyer V. Sithambaram, who assisted Mr Singh in many criminal cases.

He recalled the two of them once splitting RM2,000 (S$770) between them as their fee for appearing in Malaysia's highest court, the Federal Court, on a capital punishment case. "He reminded me that the case was more important than the fee. He was a man of compassion," he said.

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