APRIL 18, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Since his shocking death yesterday, the late Karpal Singh has been called “friend” by many that others would have thought to be irreconcilable foes.
At an emotive scene at the lawmaker’s home in Penang hours after his death, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin consoled a distraught Gobind Singh Deo, Karpal’s second son, when he went to pay his respects to the family.
Before that, contemporary and regular rival Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu had described the Bukit Gelugor MP as “good friend”, despite regularly crossing swords with Karpal when he had still been MIC president.
“Karpal Singh, who died in a car accident in the early hours of April 17th at the age of 74, was a rarity in the venomous world of Malaysian politics: a man respected by many of his opponents as well as those on his own side,” according to an obituary by The Economist today.
In the tribute titled “Burning Bright”, it noted that once-bitter rivals have lined to honour the man known as the “Tiger of Jelutong”, even those who tasted the acerbic sting of his tongue.
The business weekly pointed out that this included Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was among the earliest to offer his sympathies to Karpal’s family.
“In politics, he was an implacable leader; in law, a committed advocate,” the prime minister said in a brief statement issued by his office.
“At this difficult time, our thoughts are with the families of those who have died in the accident. I extend my deepest condolences to them. We pray that the other passengers make a full recovery,” Najib added.
Karpal’s popularity was also not solely due to his courage and tenacity, The Economist said. Instead, it was the veteran lawmaker’s dignity, modesty, humour and courtesy that turned foes into friends, begrudging or otherwise.
But the weekly also made pains to point out the outpouring of sympathy and friendship now was as rare as the man receiving it.
“It was also a reminder that, though his death has been greeted with respect and regret (some nasty political jibes notwithstanding), that is not how Malaysia’s opposition politicians are treated when alive.
Karpal, 74, was killed after the Toyota Alphard MPV he was travelling in crashed following a collision with a lorry along the North-South Highway near Gopeng, Perak at about 1.10am yesterday.
Karpal, who was seated in the front passenger seat, was killed on the spot together with his long-time assistant, Michael Cornelius.
Karpal will receive a state funeral in Penang this Sunday.