A teacher, mentor and friend remembered

Posted on April 18, 2016

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many-colours-one-dream10273374_10151977617161073_8485541953070886973_oIn the early 90’s, Bank Rakyat sued Watan, a print newspaper in circulation then, and YB Lim Kit Siang, in defamation.

The law firm that I was then with as a partner were retained to represent and defend Watan. I was the solicitor who was entrusted to handle the brief.

The senior partner of the firm, my elder brother, Adam, informed me that YB Karpal was defending YB Kit and that I would be working closely with Karpal. In fact, Karpal had been in  touch with my brother and had requested that I forward him a draft copy of our defence once the same had been drawn up, and before it was filed into court.

I was then only a few years in practice and the thought of working with Karpal gave me goosebumps. Right from my school days, he and YB Kit were my heroes.

A few days after, whilst in court, and in the court canteen with some of my contemporaries at the Bar, I proudly announced that I would be having the privilege of working with Karpal in a defamation suit that also involved YB Kit. A 2-in-1 thrill.

That same day, in the afternoon and whilst working on some cases in the office, the receptionist buzzed me to say that there was a phone call for me from one Mr. Karpal Singh of Karpal Singh & Co.

I took the call, convinced it was a prank call from one of the lawyers in court from that morning.

“Hello”, I greeted.

“Haris, Karpal here”, was the reply.

“F#@k you! Who is this?”, I shot back.

“Ha, is your draft defence for Watan done? Could you send me a copy”, was the only response I got towards my vulgarity.

Damn! I wanted to jump out of the window and end my humongous embarrassment. I hadn’t told any of the lawyers that morning about the request to sight the defence I had prepared. They would not have known this. This was no crank call. It was the one, the only YB KARPAL SINGH on the line!

I apologised profusely and explained that I thought it was a crank call from one of the lawyers from court earlier that morning, because I could not imagine that the great Karpal Singh would be on the line waiting for me. I had imagined that his secretary would be on the line and would only pass the call to him once she had me waiting on the line.

Without making any reference to my improper conduct, Karpal patiently explained to me that it did not matter who was  more senior, but the ethics practised at the Bar was that if solicitor A wished to speak to solicitor B by phone, solicitor A ought to be on the line when solicitor B took the call.

Such was the humility of this giant of a human being.

I burned the midnight oil that night so that I could send him the draft defence the following morning.

A day later, the receptionist at our office again announced that Mr Karpal was on the line. No more cock ups this time.

Karpal had called to say the defence was well drafted.

That made my day!!!!

Over the years, especially after I had gotten involved in the freedom of religion cases, whenever Karpal and I bumped into each other in court, he always had words of encouragement and advice for me in relation to those cases.

In the run up to the 13th GE, I got another call from Karpal. This time he expressed concern for my safety in relation to some of the ABU messages I had released, especially the video messages.

I thanked him for his concern but jokingly said they paled in comparison to some of his public statements and that if anything untoward happened to me, he was to blame as he had been such a big influence in how my life had turned out.

He laughed, and then explained that he made the call knowing it would be pointless, just to oblige an aunt of mine who had sought his assistance to knock some sense into my head.

“You take care, Haris”, he said.

“You too, Mr Karpal”, I replied.

I miss my teacher, my mentor, my friend.