Thursday, April 24, 2014

Karpal: Principle-centred to the core

By Habhajan Singh
You don’t come across many like him. Malaysia lost a nationalist in the form of Karpal Singh (picture), the lawyer and politician who died in a car accident near Ipoh, Perak, yesterday.
Throughout his some 40- year legal and political life, he was principle-centred to the core. Rarely wavering whether in public or private, ever steadfast in his belief.
Few politicians can match Karpal’s life and times. Fewer still can rise to the mark when it comes to holding them accountable to the principles they are supposed to be espousing, and fighting for. In words and deeds, Karpal had always matched them.
We have seen, far too many times, how politicians from all shades, watered-down their principles for political mileage or personal gain. Love him or hate him, politically, you would be hard-pressed to put Karpal in that mold. “He walked his talk.”
In politics, he was an eightterm MP representing the DAP, a partner in the federal Opposition and now the lead partner in the coalition governing the state of Penang. He just recently step down as DAP chairman.
Over the years, Karpal had been firm, clear and consistent on his stand that Malaysia is a secular state. He had, over and over again, objected to the implementation of the hudud law.
This objection had always been a thorn in the relations between DAP and PAS, the other member of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. But he never wavered. He held his ground.
This consistency, and honesty, is probably what led to PAS leaders paying glowing tributes to Karpal. PAS website landing page yesterday had tributes from PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and also PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
In his statement, Nik Abdul Aziz, the former Kelantan Mentri Besar, noted Karpal as a strong proponent of the Malaysian Constitution, firm on his stand that Malaysia is a secular nation.
“Of course, the principle is very different from PAS’ struggle, but he respects the differences,” said Nik Aziz.
On the legal front, fellow lawyers have high regards for the 73-year old politician from Penang.
“As his junior in many criminal cases he taught me to be absolutely forthright to the court. Brevity in his submission in court is his hallmark,” said fellow lawyer Datuk V Sithambaram in a statement.
He shared an incident in which they both shared the RM2,000 fees for a Federal Court case that carried the death penalty, saying Karpal reminded him that “the case was more important than the fees”.
Reporters who had covered him at the courts, too, were fond of him. “He was never too busy to explain legal jargon to reporters,” said one former journalist who spent some years on the court beat.
Hard work is another trait ingrained in him. He is known to put in long hours.
And that probably gave him courage to marshall on over the years, despite the many odds stacked against him, including being detained under the Internal Security Act.
I suppose the hard work emanates from being principle- centred.
When one’s life is centred on correct principles, says author Stephen Covey in his book Principle-Centred Leadership, one becomes more balance, unified, organised, anchored and rooted.
I do not claim to have the knowledge to say Karpal is all of the above, but he has certainly reflected some of the above qualities in public life. RIP, Mr Singh.