Karpal Singh, the tiger who fought for justice

Karpal Singh's remains will be transported to his home in Penang. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's remains will be transported to his home in Penang. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's body will be send off to his home in Penang at the Ipoh hospital mortuary. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's body will be send off to his home in Penang at the Ipoh hospital mortuary. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's sons carry his coffin into the car that will send his remains back to his hometown, Penang, for the funeral. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's sons carry his coffin into the car that will send his remains back to his hometown, Penang, for the funeral. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's son, Gobind Singh Deo, being consoled by well wishers. Karpal Singh's remains, which are at the Ipoh Hospital mortuary, will be sent to his home in Penang. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's son, Gobind Singh Deo, being consoled by well wishers. Karpal Singh's remains, which are at the Ipoh Hospital mortuary, will be sent to his home in Penang. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's wife, Gurmit Kaur (middle), being whisked out of the Ipoh Hospital mortuary by Penang state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh (left). -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh's wife, Gurmit Kaur (middle), being whisked out of the Ipoh Hospital mortuary by Penang state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh (left). -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Crowds gather at Karpal Singh's house in Jalan Utama, Penang to pay their last respects to the Tiger of Jelutong. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Crowds gather at Karpal Singh's house in Jalan Utama, Penang to pay their last respects to the Tiger of Jelutong. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Crowds gather at Karpal Singh's house in Jalan Utama, Penang to pay their last respects to the Tiger of Jelutong. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Crowds gather at Karpal Singh's house in Jalan Utama, Penang to pay their last respects to the Tiger of Jelutong. -- PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Malaysian member of Parliament and veteran Democratic Action Party leader Karpal Singh's Toyota Alphard involved in an accident early on April 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION
Malaysian member of Parliament and veteran Democratic Action Party leader Karpal Singh's Toyota Alphard involved in an accident early on April 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION
Malaysian member of Parliament and veteran Democratic Action Party leader Karpal Singh's Toyota Alphard involved in an accident early on April 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION
Malaysian member of Parliament and veteran Democratic Action Party leader Karpal Singh's Toyota Alphard involved in an accident early on April 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION
Malaysian opposition veteran and lawyer Karpal Singh (centre) leaves a court room on his wheel chair in Kuala Lumpur on March 17, 2008. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP 
Malaysian opposition veteran and lawyer Karpal Singh (centre) leaves a court room on his wheel chair in Kuala Lumpur on March 17, 2008. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP 
1978: Karpal Singh sharing a joke with then Penang Governor Tun Haji Sardon Jubir. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1978: Karpal Singh sharing a joke with then Penang Governor Tun Haji Sardon Jubir. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1984: Lim Kit Siang, flanked by Karpal Singh and Penang DAP secretary Mr Gooi Hock Seng, (left) participating in the "Save Bukit China" campaign at the Air Itam Dam. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1984: Lim Kit Siang, flanked by Karpal Singh and Penang DAP secretary Mr Gooi Hock Seng, (left) participating in the "Save Bukit China" campaign at the Air Itam Dam. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1978: Lim Kit Siang (right, in glasses) leaving the court with Karpal Singh (centre). -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1978: Lim Kit Siang (right, in glasses) leaving the court with Karpal Singh (centre). -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh speaking to his wife before being taken back to Kamunting detention camp. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh speaking to his wife before being taken back to Kamunting detention camp. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1979: (From left to right) DAP state assemblymen Chin Nyok Soo, Karpal Singh, Ooi Ean Kwong, Seow Hun Khim having a group discussion. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1979: (From left to right) DAP state assemblymen Chin Nyok Soo, Karpal Singh, Ooi Ean Kwong, Seow Hun Khim having a group discussion. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1989: Karpal Singh waving to friends after leaving the courtroom with his wife Gurmit Kaur and son Jagdeep (second from right). -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1989: Karpal Singh waving to friends after leaving the courtroom with his wife Gurmit Kaur and son Jagdeep (second from right). -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1981: Karpal Singh and P. Patto (left) at the NBI headquarters. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1981: Karpal Singh and P. Patto (left) at the NBI headquarters. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
 A young Karpal SIngh, who was the president of the Dunearn Hostel at the University of Singapore in 1963, delivering a speech. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
 A young Karpal SIngh, who was the president of the Dunearn Hostel at the University of Singapore in 1963, delivering a speech. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh with his mother. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh with his mother. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1994: Dr. V. David (third from left) greeted by counsel Karpal Singh (far right) at the court's compound. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
1994: Dr. V. David (third from left) greeted by counsel Karpal Singh (far right) at the court's compound. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh was lifted up into the air by his family and supporters after the announcement that he had won the Jelutong parliamentary seat. --  FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh was lifted up into the air by his family and supporters after the announcement that he had won the Jelutong parliamentary seat. --  FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Dr Koh Tsu Koon meeting Karpal Singh during their rounds at Carnarvon Street. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Dr Koh Tsu Koon meeting Karpal Singh during their rounds at Carnarvon Street. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh celebrates with his family and supporters after his release from ISA detention in 1989. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh celebrates with his family and supporters after his release from ISA detention in 1989. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
A photo showing Michael Cornelius pushing DAP chairman Karpal Singh on his wheelchair gesturing to the public while on his way to the press conference in Air Itam on 12 Nov 2011. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
A photo showing Michael Cornelius pushing DAP chairman Karpal Singh on his wheelchair gesturing to the public while on his way to the press conference in Air Itam on 12 Nov 2011. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (left), national chairman Karpal Singh (centre), adviser Lim Kit Siang (right) blowing the candles on the party's 42nd anniversary cake. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (left), national chairman Karpal Singh (centre), adviser Lim Kit Siang (right) blowing the candles on the party's 42nd anniversary cake. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh looks out of his office window in Green Hall along the road where his father Ram Singh once used to live upon arriving in Penang from India. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Karpal Singh looks out of his office window in Green Hall along the road where his father Ram Singh once used to live upon arriving in Penang from India. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Mr Karpal Singh - lawyer, veteran MP and a staunch member of the opposition. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Mr Karpal Singh - lawyer, veteran MP and a staunch member of the opposition. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The sudden death of Mr Karpal Singh - lawyer, veteran MP and a staunch member of the opposition - has left a gaping hole in Malaysian politics and its legal sector.

Tears flowed and tributes poured in for Mr Karpal, popularly nicknamed the 'Tiger of Jelutong', for his tenacity and fearlessness in standing up for his convictions, whether in court or in Parliament.

Jelutong was the parliamentary seat in Penang that became synonymous with him after he held it for five terms after first winning it in the 1978 general election. He contested and won the Bukit Gelugor seat, also in Penang, in the 2013 general election.

Mr Karpal died in a road accident in Perak while on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Penang to attend a court hearing on Thursday. He was 73.

In 2005, Mr Karpal was involved in an accident which left him paralysed and wheelchair-bound.

He graduated from the University of Singapore in 1969, and was in active law practice and politics since then.

He was regarded as an icon in court, even when he appeared in the dock in February to face a charge of sedition over his remarks on the crisis in Perak in 2009 after the opposition government was toppled through defections.

He was convicted and fined RM4,000 (S$1,540), and had risked losing his seat if the conviction was upheld. He resigned his chairmanship of the Democratic Action Party, soon after that, as the law barred a convicted person from active politics.

This was, however, not his first time running foul of the authorities.

He had faced previous sedition charges, and was also detained for two years under the Internal Security Act in 1987.

But he never cowered.

"Eliminating me from the political terrain will not be the end of Karpal Singh. It will in fact lead to the rise of many Karpal Singhs!" he said in a statement on Feb 24, days after his conviction for sedition.

To many Malaysians, Mr Karpal was a man who stood for justice and spoke for those without a voice. He was firmly opposed to the death penalty, and fought numerous capital punishment cases in court even for those who could not afford his legal fees.

Mr Karpal twice defended opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim against sodomy charges. Anwar was acquitted in 2012 but that was overturned by a higher court in March in a ruling denounced by rights groups.

Born in Penang on June 28, 1940, Mr Karpal leaves behind wife Gurmit Kaur, a daughter and four sons, and four grandchildren.

carolynh@sph.com.sg