May 6, 2014
Being the loyal and devoted wife, she stood in his shadows all these years without public recognition and appreciation.
But last night’s memorial for the late Karpal Singh at the Han Chiang College Hall, Penang, saw tribute paid to his widow, Gurmit Kaur, who sat amid the 1,000 odd crowd at the event.
“This woman dedicated and sacrificed her whole life to Karpal for years in silence, standing steadfastly behind her husband as he went about his work, contributing to the nation,” said her second son, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo.
“This woman is my mother, let’s give her a big round of applause, it is not easy, not easy at all to do what she had done,” he added, as the crowd clapped loudly in her honour.
Gobind said he was only 14 when Karpal got arrested under the draconian Internal Security Act, and he remembered the sufferings the family had to endure when he was detained at the Kamunting detention centre, in Perak.
His little brother, Mankarpal, was a mere babe at the time and Gurmit carried him in her arms as the family tried to find out where Karpal was held early on, in which lock-up in the city.
“We eventually found out and demanded the right to see him. I remember sitting in the Jalan Bandar police station with my mum and Mankarpal in her arms, longing for the moment to see my dad,” said Gobind, a lawyer by profession.
“This is what they do to people’s families. This cruel law is being used by the government against us,” he stressed.
Gobind added when the family finally got to see Karpal, he was half his size and did not say much as the whole family was monitored by the authorities.
Gobind recalled that he saw pain in his father’s eyes then as he could not speak much to the family. This went on for 60 days until he finally received his two-year detention order.
“During that time, mum made many trips to see my dad, she stood by him until he was released from detention and was able to fight for justice for everyone because he had suffered himself,” Gobind said.
Confined to wheelchair
In 2005, Gobind said the family again faced another very dark moment when Karpal met with a serious car accident in Penang which resulted in him being confined to a wheelchair.
The family again felt the “shivers” as Karpal was bedridden, but his mother bravely stood by him and nursed him, being with him in hospital as she “brought him back, piece by piece” so that he was able to fight again.
“We must assure her that we will all carry on Karpal’s work, we must carry on so that all this is not in vain, we will carry on with what he left behind and make it a success,” he said firmly to the crowd’s resounding applause.
Karpal died in a tragic car crash along the North-South highway near Gua Tempurung on Apr 17 with his personal helper Michael Cornelius.
Michael, too, was not forgotten during the memorial as Gobind recalled how, even in the most difficult of times, made sure his master was at his best.
Other than Gobind, Karpal’s two other sons – Jagdeep and Ramkarpal – also spoke at the three-hour event.
Other speakers included former Penang Bar Committee chairman K Kumarendran, current chairman Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, former Aliran President P Ramakrishnan, national laureate A Samad Said, Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and DAP senior leader Lim Kit Siang and PAS central committee member and Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
The memorial also heard the song ‘You Raised Me Up’ by Josh Groban being sung for Karpal.
In paying their last respects, the public also placed yellow chrysanthemum flowers by his wheelchair on stage.
Karpal a ‘boxer’
Jagdeep said he thought his dad was a “boxer” when he was a kid as he was often approached by people thanking him and praising him for always winning a fight.
He described his father as a “mentor, comrade and friend”, saying Karpal prompted him on, even as he was losing faith in the legal system.
He revealed he was the last to know about Karpal’s detention under the ISA as he was sitting for his SPM examinations at the time.
“My mom did not let me know about it and said dad was busy working in KL. It was only six weeks later that she broke the news to me,” Jagdeep, who is a Penang executive councillor, said.
“When we went to visit him, I was shocked, because after 53 days, his face was swollen, and he wouldn’t talk much as we were being watched,” added the Dato Keramat assemblyman.
Jagdeep said he was supposed to further his law studies in Australia at the time but had then lost faith in the legal system and had no mood to pursue his studies.
But Karpal encouraged him to go ahead, while handcuffed to the hospital bed, and he recalled being very angry when told to leave for further studies in law.
“I said, “Pa! How can you tell me to leave to study law when there is no law in this country?”
“But he replied, son, do not lose faith. This is a man who believed in justice even as he was being incarcerated and detained without trial,” Jagdeep added.
Jagdeep said it was sad that Karpal died as a “convict” as the Court of Appeal had upheld his conviction and fined him RM4,000, pending appeal at the Federal Court.
“He died as a convict in a system that he believed in. Do you think he is a convict?” Jagdeep asked and the crowd shouted a resounding “No!”.
Disillusionment with judiciary
Jagdeep said his two brothers Gobind and Ramkarpal will continue to press Karpal’s appeal at the Federal Court to free him from the sedition charges brought against him for remarks against the Perak ruler in 2009, as he would not desire a pardon.
Ramkarpal also shared that he had expressed his disillusionment with the judiciary as he was travelling with his father back to Penang on that fateful night.
He recalled laughing and joking with Karpal on the night they left KL at about 11pm, and asking Karpal if there was any hope left for the legal system.
“Before he fell asleep in the car that night, he assured me despite all my disillusionment, there is still hope,” the son, who is a lawyer and one of the proposed candidates for Bukit Gelugor, said.
“That is what Karpal is about. Detention never ever deterred his spirit. He came from nothing, merely rearing cows as a child. He had a humble beginning and he left us with the same humble spirit,” he added.
Ramkarpal said that he had asked himself over the past 18 days why Karpal was taken away without notice, or warning and in such a shocking manner.
Despite his despair and anger at the sudden turn of events, Ramkarpal said he now understood that his father had never left them.
“He might not be with us physically, his spirit lives on and I want you to remember how Karpal lived. We are deeply sad about the way he went but I could not ask for a better father,” he said.