From Air Itam, memories of ‘Karpal’s coffee shop’

By Opalyn Mok |MMO
April 18, 2014

GEORGE TOWN, April 18 — In the working-class neighbourhood of Air Itam in Penang’s Bukit Gelugor constituency, the Ju Huat Coffee Shop is just another local eatery in a city famous for its food.

But locals call it by another moniker — “Karpal’s coffee shop”.

This was the coffee shop they went to if they wanted to seek the help of Karpal Singh, the veteran lawyer-politician who was killed in a road accident early yesterday.

Ju Huat Coffee Shop has been since 2008 Karpal’s chosen venue for holding press conferences and meeting voters.

Coffee shop owner Tan Bak Chooi, 50, said Karpal has probably held hundreds of press conferences at his coffee shop.

“He used to have press conferences once or twice a month here and he would always call us before he comes so that we will prepare a parking spot for him and get the tables arranged,” he said.

He said he had once asked Karpal why he had chosen his coffee shop out of all the eateries in Air Itam.

“He told me that my coffee shop brought him luck and that every time he comes to my coffee shop, whatever he does will be smooth going,” he said.

Tan said he heard about Karpal’s accident at about 2am on that night itself.

“I didn’t believe it when I heard it at the wholesalers’ market in town,”

“So at about 4am, I called the number that Karpal had always used to call me and I got a shock when a policeman answered the phone but I still didn’t want to believe that anything had happened to Karpal,” he said.

Ju Huat coffee shop’s owner, Tan Bak Chooi said the late Karpal Singh was always humble and patronised his coffee shop because he felt it would bring him good luck.

He only accepted that Karpal had died in the car crash on early Thursday morning after a reporter confirmed the news at about 6am.

“He was a humble and very down-to-earth leader despite his position,” he said.

Air Itam resident Sally Tan said at the coffee shop today that Karpal used to take on cases and not charge legal fees.

Tan said she once had some legal problems and Karpal had helped her to resolve it without accepting a single sen from her.

“When I went to ask him for help, he immediately helped me and didn’t charge any legal fees,” she said.

She said she was not the only one whom Karpal had helped.

“I’ve so many friends who went to him for help, on legal matters and court cases, and he never turned any one of them down,” she said.

She said her friends were all from poor background so the Bukit Gelugor MP did not charge them any legal fees too.

The housewife became teary-eyed when she recounted how Karpal loved to frequent Ju Huat coffee shop.

“We will know when he’s coming because there will be a lot of reporters, the coffee shop will arrange the tables in a row and he will always sit at one particular spot,” she said.

Karpal was killed when his car collided with a lorry on his way north from Kuala Lumpur.

He will be accorded a state honours funeral with a public ceremony for the public to pay their last respects at Dewan Sri Pinang on Sunday morning and the state flag will be held at half mast until Sunday.

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