Karpal Singh, and why we say nice things when someone dies


Sri A.K Rasa, Rasa Writes

The Tiger of Jelutong has been laid to rest. We have all seen the outpouring of respect and love at the funeral and in the social media for Karpal Singh.

It was one of those rare events in Malaysia where a leader, especially from the Opposition, received so much publicity and praise. Even his major political foes said good things about him.

Two questions pop up: One, why do we say nice things about someone when she passes away? And two, why do we often say good things about a person only after he dies and not while he is alive?

To answer the first question: I think it comes down to culture and decency. It is the decent thing to do when someone has passed on. Perhaps it is because he can no longer defend himself. Or perhaps it is because we too will die and we wouldn’t want anyone making negative comments about us when we are dead.

There could be other reasons that I am not aware of.

So, when someone dies, and you say nasty things about him (or her)  or make snide remarks, as some people did in the case of Karpal Singh, it just reflects on your cultural or religious upbringing and your values.

Perkasa Vice-President Datuk Zulkifli Noordin, for instance, came under fire for his insensitive tweets over the tragic death of the Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament.

Zulkifli saw Karpal’s death as helping clear the path for the implementation of the Islamic hudud law in Kelantan. Karpal was one of the most, if not the most, vociferous opponents to the introduction of  hudud in Malaysia as he felt it would go against the Constitution.

Zulkifli, of course, was only exercising his freedom of speech; nothing wrong in that. But when you say anything about someone who has just died, you have to be more careful.

That is why Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin told Zulkifli to “Shut up. Really, shut up.” And that reflects the type of person that Khairy is, or at least his values.

Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad of the Barisan Nasional made some not-so-nice remarks about Karpal and faced the wrath of netizens too. He has since apologised.

Prime Minister Datuk  Seri Najib Tun Razak, showed the right touch of propriety when he said of Karpal: “In politics, he was an implacable leader; in law, a committed advocate.”

“At this difficult time, our thoughts are with the families of those who have died in the accident. I extend my deepest condolences to them. We pray that the other passengers make a full recovery,” Najib added, reflecting not just maturity but a prime ministerial care by bringing in the other dead and the injured into his statement.

Others, whose political foe he had been, chose their words carefully so as to not appear as if they were praising Karpal too much or being dismissive.  Some wanted to be politically correct.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, for instance, described Karpal as a bold man who gave voice to the people and that Karpal had lived up to his role as an MP.