‘Karpal Singh!’ they chanted as 100000* turned out in Penang to give the Tiger of Jelutong a roaring send-off

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* The figure of 100000 is a guesstimate of those who swarmed the family home over three days, turned up inside and outside the Dewan (over 50000), lined the streets to accompany or watch the cortege along the way and thronged the crematorium. (Make sure you watch the video further below of the scene at the Batu Gantung crematorium.)

Penang has never seen anything quite like it. You would have to go far back in Malaysian history to witness this kind of outpouring of sorrow over the loss of a people’s champion. Perhaps as far back as the passing of D R Seenivasagam of Ipoh (1925-1969) or Sybil Karthigasu of Papan (1899-1948), the funeral processions of both drawing about a hundred thousand to the streets.

More than the number, it is the sense of loss that is overwhelming. Perhaps it is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, the passing of a living legend, who in death would be larger than life.

Penangites and other Malaysians seemed to sense this as they turned out at various points in town to pay their respects. Over the last three days, they had made a beeline in their thousands to Karpal Singh’s family home in Western Road until the cortege left the house this Easter morning.

About a thousand bikers, their machines some purring, others growling, combining into a collective roar, escorted the Tiger to the Dewan Sri Pinang where he received a funeral with state honours.

Quieter, greener cyclists from the Occupy Beach Street car-free Sunday pedalled in, providing a silent, almost admonitory, contrast. The road along Beach Street may have been blissfully free of traffic on Occupy Beach Street’s car-free Sunday, but over at the Dewan, the human traffic had ground to a standstill.

Ordinary folk milled around in resignation outside the Dewan; others literally pressed on, persistently wading their way through the sea of humanity as they tried to enter the building. I took two hours to find a way in. And my tweets couldn’t go through as mobile phone networks choked. Not that it mattered a whole lot.

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When I finally weaved my way in at 10.45am, we were quickly herded around Karpal’s coffin, barely catching a last glimpse of the people’s champion, now freed of the huge national burdens with which he had been lumbered. No wonder he was said to have suffered a bad back condition.

Once outside in the baking sunshine, I clambered onto a little ledge near the entrance gate, hoping it would provide a vantage point to view the hearse as it left the Dewan. I looked behind to make sure I was not blocking anyone’s view. Behind me, a grizzled man from Bukit Gelugor, peering through the vertical rails of a metal fence, assured me it was fine.

When I enquired what brought him here, he proudly said he was from Karpal’s Bukit Gelugor constituency. For a living, he worked as a hawker selling kuih. He said in awe that there were more people at the Dewan Sri than those who had voted for Karpal in Bukit Gelugor. “No other Penang leader before this has had this kind of rousing farewell from the people,” he said in Malay with quiet wonder.

I made some small talk about the blazing weather; by then the sun was beating down mercilessly on the gathered crowd.

He replied almost disdainfully, “This hot weather is nothing compared to what Karpal had endured.” And then he picked up a couple of bottles of water that were being distributed nearby and handed one to me through the railing as if to pacify me.

It was finally time for the hearse to leave the Dewan. The bikers in black on their big machines revved their engines as they readied themselves to lead the hearse. As the limousine slowly, almost reluctantly, pulled away, the chants from the people rose in the air: “Karpal Singh! Karpal Singh!” – not loudly but more like a painful yet defiant cry from the heart.

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Another legal champion of the underdog, James Logan (1819-1869), may have looked on from his almost forgotten memorial opposite the High Court, just outside the Dewan Sri Pinang, perhaps bemusedly recalling his own rousing send-off by the common folk almost a century and a half ago.

Thousands more lined the streets outside the High Court and the State Assembly buildings, repeating the same chant, as if vowing to ensure Karpal’s fighting spirit would live on in them.

Memories came flooding back as the haunting notes from the bagpipes of the corp of pipes and drums of St Xavier’s Institution, Karpal’s alma mater, floated in the air.

Over at the Batu Gantung crematorium, emotions overflowed as a large throng roared in triumphant anguish a final warrior’s farewell just before the legend of the Tiger of Jelutong was burnished in fire. The Spirit of justice and freedom – which inspired the man – lives on in the people for whom he fought so valiantly.


Earlier:

I will be covering the nation’s final farewell to Karpal Singh this morning and hope to give you some live updates of the scene around George Town, Penang.


Blog regular Pak Tim reports from the wake late last night:

Well, I finally made it. The queue was longer than at 8.00pm but my persistence this time saw me through. The wake was to end at 11.00pm but streams of people were still waiting to get in. I sympathise with his family for having to put up with that but I guess it comes with being a public figure. I am sorry to see him in that state and regretted not being able to shake his hand when he was alive. But the handshakes with his next of kin makes up for that. There were only two charities: one Michael Cornelius and one for the Gurdwara. The public gave generously. May he rest in peace.

Today appropriately happens to be Easter Sunday, which is the holiest and most important day in the Christian calendar. Easter celebrates New Life.

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At the Easter Vigil in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit last night, Bishop Sebastian Francis stressed key Easter messages from the scriptures: “Do not be afraid” and “Peace be with you”.

In recent days, many people have expressed the hope, perhaps wishfully, that a hundred more Karpals will emerge in Malaysia. Let me share this with you:

The late Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, spoke out vocally against right wing dead squads who were targeting peasant leaders and activists in El Salvador, then governed by a US-backed military regime.

Unfortunately, Romero himself was assassinated by a marksman while celebrating Mass in 1980. The readings for the day (which is often associated with the Easter message) included John Chapter 12 in which Jesus said,
24 In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.
25 Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Romero in his homily explained how the harvest comes about: “… one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives, while those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others, will live, live like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about only because it dies, allowing itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed. Only by undoing itself does it produce the harvest.”

We await the rich harvest.

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50 COMMENTS

  1. Watch this show……..Dadah is death. One of the cases Karpal Singh has represented. Even condemned fellas

  2. What a grand send off. My only regret is that he probably never realised how revered and admired he was as a statesman and lawyer. But I guess he wouldn’t care about such things.

    • No, he wouldn’t, but you know who would. Are you ready for…? Sorry, something wrong with the mic. Are you ready…oh dear, the mic’s not working. I know you’re ready. Here he is …Sai. (Don’t censor, Anil. It’s true..the sai bit.)

  3. 100000* turned out in Penang to give the Tiger of Jelutong a roaring send-off.

    More than the combined number of people watching the 3-day Sepang F1 GP in 2014!!!!!

    The roar of Tiger of Jelutong is louder than the whimper of F1!

  4. Egregious Mahathir and turncoat Najib just look at the people from all races and all walks of life attending the funeral. What have you got to say about that tsunami ?
    Can you be assured that you will get anything similar to this when you go ?
    May be the government may order bans to play for the occasion, order the Malay regiment to lead the funeral and even more. Otherwise may be a few … will be there hoping for a feed. Not even all your cronies will be there !

    But not from people voluntary come to mourn the loss of someone you jailed without trail or … someone you tried to jail with made up evidences.

    His God rather takes him away before you can have him jailed. This is a tsunami of many races that Umno cannot impede from happening ! I hope this is a warning to you of things to come and the feeling of the people.

    • It is said that Deepavali or Diwali is a celebration of death. After the devil is defeated, there was light over darkness. That is how it would be for Malaysia when BN is defeated.

  5. After this the euphoria by DAP L|LKS and son will end. Anwar will go to jail, PAS will will split with DAP and Pakatan due to hudud and DAP will be left alone to lick its wound

    • Anwar will go to jail and become even more well-known throughout the
      world as a political prisoner of a disgraceful, kleptocratic regime,
      PAS will “agree to disagree” with DAP and
      DAP will go from strength to strength.
      My scenario is more realistic, no ??

    • BM lackeys are the complete opposites of the great man. No principles at all. No matter, they will loose their jobs once BN is no more. Time for them to close shop.

    • Mukriz Mahathir will become (leader) of Malaysia for 1000 years. forever and ever. Amen. Mahathir will retire with (his wealth) in designated island

  6. I could not be at Dewan Sri Pinang in the morning but went straight to the crematorium after church. Again I sympathies with his family. The Tiger’s funeral had become a public affair. I do not know if his family had anticipated this or was prepared for it. I am sure by the end of the day, they would be completely exhausted. As far as I can recall, Penangites had never seen a funeral like this. What a grand sent off.

  7. Well written. You really captured the moment. This man has to be respected. He spent his whole life swimming upstream in the pursuit of justice against all sorts of adversity. He could have had an easy life not standing up for the common man and joined the establishment in exploiting the poor, but doggedly stood up for those who had no voice REGARDLESS of race.
    You have to respect his dignity when standing up to overwhelming resources of the state using all the dirty tricks in the book.
    Although seeing so much support from everyone gives me hope, he will be missed.

  8. In the thousand more appropriates and which comprises and drawn from mostly members of Pakatan and their followers

    • Ananars, did you see bus loads (BeeEnd style) of pretentious people ferried to the venue of Karpal’s funeral procession?

      Did you see haram money handed out to the multitude at Dewan Sri Pinang?

      Many walked under the hot sun, many with umbrellas to wait patiently to bid the Tiger goodbye.
      Some like this frail Indian lady reached our from the roadside & wept softly just to touch the hearse to say a personal prayer + final goodbye (this broke my heart to tears).

      And I didn’t hear a word of “DAP” in the air except genuine, passionate shouts of “Karpal Singh, Tiger”. Even the super bikes roared like Belum rainforest tigers. You should be there to taste the truth & genuine outpouring of love for this man.

      Go get a suntan.

      • He and Gopal should get out more. They don’t even know their own political master’s stance at times. This is what you get when the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. Even Gopal’s infinite wisdom doesn’t include mind reading. Haha.

  9. THIS procession IS NOT COMPLETE UNTIL THEY HOIST KARPAL’S PICTURE UP THE STAIRS OF PUTRA PERDANA ON THE NIGHT Pakatan takes over Putrajya…

  10. Another sign that Gerakan (UMNO Baru’s local ma chai)
    and BN are well and truly kaput in
    Penang. The people of Penang have awakened !

    • Its not a state funeral. State funeral must be endorsed by the Federal govt and it has not. The state govt is bending the rules to make it a state honour funeral which is wrong and to make a hero out of him for their political mileage

      • No one said it was a Federal State funeral. The funeral was official only to Pulau Pinang. Even the Governor gave his blessings and paid his respect. Nice try with your bluff.

      • Your comprehension of english is definitely suspect, a state funeral is what it is & the Penang Government has the right of call.

  11. Thank you Sdr Karpal Singh, Tiger of Jelutong. We will not forget what you have done for this nation and the oppressed.
    Our thanks also to his beloved wife and family, who had to share him with the people of Penang all these years…right up to his last farewell. It must have been heartbreaking not having the last few precious moments together with your loved one in privacy. May you find true comfort in your grief, and the peace of knowing that the Judge of the whole earth will do right.

    “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8

    • Yes, I saw the ashes escaping through the stack. Many recorded a picture of that with their devices. The Tiger has left.

  12. Jelutong no need By Election. Clear cut 100K preference for justice to continue.

    Gerakan be reminded your deposit will be donated to the welfare and grooming of Tiger Cubs to roar in Parliament !!!

    • Jelutong need no by election but Bukit Gelugur certainly need one. The tiger has already been slayed in Jelutong in 1999 by Gerakan slayer Lee Kah Choon. That tiger was not wounded but slayed to death. Karpa; moved to Bukit Gelugor not as the tiger. If he is still the tiger wounded, he would have stayed on in Jelutong to fight another day but he did not. Thus to continue and brand him as the tiger is illogical.

      • In 1999, the penang people chiak sai chiak ka pa pa. The consolation is they are all awaken now, except you Ananars …

      • Jelutong & Bukit Gelugor used to be together. Bukit Gelugor was a state constituency, ask Anil. What about Lim Chong Eu then? He lost & fade away from politics. Apa macam? Ah yes, you must be from MIC. What happen to Semi Value who lost to a doctor? Wanna listen to the song

        So how now Ananar….

      • Kee “chik”,
        SP Seenivasagam not that lucky……..Ipoh langs made sure that SP pay kaw kawwhen PPP joins BN. Ipoh has always been an opposition stronghold except for 2 terms. Guess which DAP candidate lost in Ipoh……She is now a hot star in DAP……Hahahaha!

  13. Local Chinese papers eg today’s KwangHwaJitPoh carry tributes/write-ups/photos of Karpal’s legacy.
    I can’t read chinese but don’t mind buying one to look at Karpal’s past photos/tributes ! Shame on NST with just one page little reporting without photo we all know why !

  14. What comes from the heart, reaches the heart.

    Look at all those people, Karpal. A life well lived. Respect that has been truly earned. We shall all miss you, but God has a greater plan for you.

    Thank you for all the personal sacrifices you have made for the people.

    • Anil is right. None has since such vast procession of people as in the Karpal Singh one. Of course, Anil has mentioned another hero. One that’s closer to me, the passing of DR Seenivasagam. Hehe, now you know what “lang” I am. Hehehe! This ceylonese tiger is lagendary. Too bad, he’s met his Maker long before I was born. “Lat” will tell you about the legacy of this man. Well run & the cleanest town in Malaya/Malaysia. Town council houses built with council money meant for the poorer folks.

      Anyway, Karpal too is a commendable man. Again, I am wee bit disappointed that it’s not really state funeral per se but with folks thronging the streets to bid farewell to Karpal……..It’s as good as the real state funeral. Now Karpal has joined the ranks of P Patto, Fan Yew Teng & 3 ex malaysians who helped to set up DAP……….Devan Nair, S Rajaratnam & Toh Chin Chye

    • “Tua-liap lang e chhut-sua, pun bo an-ne lau-juah” said an Ah Pek standing beside me.
      (Even VIPs’ funerals didn’t get such a huge crowd)

      Such passion, love & trust expressed on this farewell for Karpal Singh reflects a genuine reciprocation for a personality (fighter) who fought with his heart & principles, consistently over the years.
      I can still remember Bruce Lee’s funeral which also garnered such passionate expressions from his fans. He’s a fighter in martial art schools, competitions & on movie screens, both for real as well as for entertainment.
      Both are fighters, but This Tiger of Jelutong fought for real against all odds for Malaysians.

      When I heard the shouts of “Karpal Singh, Tiger” & the thunderous revving of multitude of bikes in the streets under a hot sun, I believe the indomitable spirit of the Tiger of Jelutong has finally blossoms in the many hearts of the young & old for years to come.

      I noticed the picture of young Karpal Singh with turban on a street (Honda?) bike has become an icon of a fighter for the common people.

      “Bo tua-liap lang, pun an-ne lau-juah”

      • Singh is king & King is singh……….Well, in the 50s & 60s, you have Seenivasagam brothers & then follow by folks such as Karpal Singh……Don’t forget V David, P Patto & Devan Nair (went back to singapore of course)……Who’s next?

      • loose74, PM Najib rightly said Karpal Singh was a formidable opponent.
        He probably had looked with cold sweat into the eyes of a tiger. Just like looking into the eyes of Justice Bao! (J. Bao is a legendary black face official in China’s Song Dynasty and the Chinese symbol of justice).
        The next formidable Tiger could be his son, Gobind Singh Deo.

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