Thanks to CS for sharing this beautiful post. Indeed, Karpal Singh is such an exemplary character in his life. May there be more like him in this world.
IN MEMORY: KARPAL SINGH, TRUE HUMANITARIAN
This has nothing to do with the Malay Bible. But I can’t help but feel a sense of loss with the passing of colleague at the Bar and friend, Karpal Singh. So, here’s how I remember him.
It must have been around 1985 when I was helping a convict on death row who had become a Christian while in prison. Liew Weng Seng was sentenced to death under the Internal Security Act for possession of a firearm. At the Federal Court, Liew was unrepresented and proceeded to tell the court that he was guilty and did not wish to appeal his death sentence. When court was adjourned, his family tried to pass him a bible but was prevented from doing so by the prison warders. A commotion ensued and made the news the next day. When I read the report, I thought, “Hey, this guy is a Christian and he had just told the court to go ahead to hang him.”
I called the office at Pudu Prison and arranged for an appointment to see Liew. When we met, he confirmed that what the newspapers reported was what happened in court. I listened as he told his story of how he got into crime. It was a pitiful story of a boy growing up in the slums and being influenced by the gangs. Soon he was committing crimes. The law caught up with him. Possession of firearms was a capital offence. Liew was not yet 30 as he faced the gallows. Since his case was over, I offered to write a petition for pardon on his behalf to the King. I would not charge him any fees. It was a favour to a fellow Christian. Liew agreed. Over the next one year, I would visit Liew. As he spoke no English or Malay and as my Chinese was vitually incomprehensible, I always brought along a Chinese pastor with me to encourage and minister to Liew.
One day, Liew’s family called me. They said the prison had called to say that Liew will be hanged in 3 days time. I told them I would do what I can. I called the prison and then the palace to find out what happened to Liew’s petition for pardon. Eventually, I was told that it was rejected and the court had issued a warrant for his execution. I went to see Liew with his family. It saddened me that our friendship over the past year was coming to an end. Liew said that he had made his peace with God and he was not afraid. I asked him if he would consider doing some good with his death by donating his organs. He agreed. Over the next 2 days, I went to the General Hospital to find out the procedure and paperwork for this sort of thing. On the eve of his execution, I came to see Liew one last time and gave him some papers to sign to donate his organs. I bought him a meal from the prison canteen. Then we said goodbye and I told him we will meet again one day.
I arrived home late in the afternoon, went to the backroom of my house and laid down on a bed. I did not want my wife and child to see the tears I shed for Liew. In 12 hours time, Liew will be taken from his cell (at 5.00 am the next day) and be hung by the neck till he was dead.
Suddenly, my wife walked into the room and said, “Karpal Singh is here to see you.”
I went to my front door and saw Karpal Singh and another lawyer, Ngeow Yin Ngee, standing at my front door.
“Are you Liew Weng Seng’s lawyer?” asked Karpal.
“Yes,” I replied.
Karpal then explained that he was the lawyer for 2 convicts who were scheduled to be hanged at the same time with Liew. Karpal’s clients were found guilty of assassinating the Chief Police Officer of Perak. They had waited for him at a traffic junction in Ipoh and shot him to death when he passed by. Karpal said that he had filed a court case raising some legal technicality and had obtained an ex parte stay of execution from Judge Hashim Yeop Sani (ex parte means that the order was given after hearing only one side; later, the Judge would re-hear the case from both sides). When Karpal went to Pudu Prison to serve the order for the stay of execution, he was informed that there was a third man to be executed, Liew.
“Come with me,” Karpal said, “we’ll go to my office and prepare the papers and get a stay of execution for your client as well.”
It must have been about 6.00 pm when we drove back to Kuala Lumpur in Ngeow’s car. We reached Karpal’s office past 7.00 pm. He then started to dictate to his clerk who typed furiously on the typewriter. I gave them Liew’s details. I was still in a daze. All the time, Karpal worked at preparing the papers like a man consumed and trying to beat a deadline. We must have finished the paperwork at about 9.00 pm. It was 8 hours to the execution.
“Let’s go see the Judge,” Karpal said.
The first place we went to was the home of Madam Harwanth Kaur, the Senior Assistant Registrar to Judge Hashim. We bundled her into the car and four of us drove to the home of Judge Hashim in Petaling Jaya. We reached his house at 10.00 pm and Karpal banged on his door. We were let into the Judge’s living room.
“Judge,” said Karpal as he handed the judge a stack of papers, “there is another man due to be hanged tomorrow. Can you give a stay of execution for him as well?”
“The Attorney-General will jump!” sniggered Judge Hashim as he signed an order for the stay of Liew’s execution.
We then left the Judge’s house and drove to the High Court at Kuala Lumpur. It was 11.00 pm when we arrived. The courthouse was in total darkess and tightly shut. We found the security guard and Harwanth ordered him to open the court doors. Four of us went into the registry section of the court house. We were looking for the court seal. The court order although signed by the Judge was no good without the seal of the court imprinted on it. The four of us fanned out to look for the court seal. It was a stroke of good fortune that we found the court seal in a short time. Harwanth sealed the court order and handed it to Karpal. We left the court house but first we had to send Harwanth back home. Her job was done.
When we arrived at the gates of Pudu prison at 12.30 am the next morning, there was a crowd of reporters surrounding the huge metal prison door. Karpal banged on the doors. A warden poked his head out and said, “All of you please stay out. Only Mr Karpal, Mr Ngeow and Mr Lee can come in.”
Karpal duly served the order for a stay of Liew’s execution on the prison director. The next day, the papers reported a sensational last minute rush to save 3 men from the gallows.
Within a week, we were back in Judge Hashim’s court. The Attorney-General, Abu Talib Othman, did jump and he made an application to the Judge to set aside all 3 stay orders. Karpal argued the case with his usual brilliance. I cannot remember the legal point. All I can remember was that it was never argued before. Karpal had no previous court decisions to rely on. It was like going back to school to see Karpal at work and the lesson: “Think outside the box.” At the end of arguments, the Judge set aside the 3 stay orders clearing the way for the men to be executed under a fresh warrant. Karpal appealed to the Federal Court. Again, it was dismissed.
Let me pause awhile. Throughout this time, Karpal did all the work for Liew’s case, paid for all the court expenses and made sure I was always present to take part. He never once talked about payment. It was as if he was meant to do this.
A few months later, warrants of execution were issued again. Judge Hashim had ruled that the High Court could not order a stay of execution. It must be ordered by the Attorney-General who was the chairman of the Pardons Board. Karpal made appeals to the Attorney-General but it fell on deaf ears.
On the eve of the execution, Karpal summoned Ngeow and I to his office. It was about 8.00 pm when we got there. Karpal did a lot of things at night as he would be in court the whole day doing more than one case per day. He suggested we go to see the ambassadors of the European countries to seek their help to persuade the government to delay the executions. Karpal had discounted the US ambassador as the Malaysian government under Dr Mahathir was hostile to the US. However, the government had good ties with the Europeans.
We went to see the German ambassador. He informed us that the European embassies have a system where they would appoint one of the European ambassadors on rotation as a representative to speak to the Malaysian government on behalf of the rest. At that time, the French ambassador was the chairman. So, off we went to the French ambassador’s house. I cannot remember the conversation as it was a long time ago. But the ambassador told us that he was not able to help.
We went back to Karpal’s office at midnight. 5 hours to the execution. Karpal was wracking his brain to think of something. I was exhausted and had almost given up but I hoped that Karpal would again pull something out of his hat. How about this? No, won’t work. How about that? On and on we went. At about 2.00 am, 3 hours to execution, Karpal said that there’s nothing more we could do. He asked us to go home. A few hours later, Liew and the other 2 convicts were dead.
Lawyers can be the most heartless of men. Society had a reason for calling lawyers sharks. Its because we thrive on the misfortunes of others. Most lawyers I met are in it for the money. They have no heart for their clients who they see to be nothing more than a source of income. Karpal was not like that. In my encounter with him over Liew’s case, Karpal demonstrated true humanity and a genuine care for his clients. Whatever their crimes were, he saw them as human beings and felt a sense of responsibility for them over and above the call of duty.
Karpal Singh was a true humanitarian. We will miss him.
Thanks to the author who took time and trouble to share with us what a great man he was - Karpal Singh - the true humanitarian.
Thanks to CS for sharing this beautiful post. Indeed, Karpal Singh is such an exemplary character in his life. May there be more like him in this world.
It is a sad day today as one of the greatest sons of Penang, Karpal Singh, has been put to rest.
However, the Tiger will always remain in the hearts of many Malaysians who love him, especially Penangites, including myself.
Thank you, YB Karpal Singh, for being such an exemplary Malaysian towering over others.
Thank you for your kindness shown to me. That you remembered me during my darkest hour and asked Jagdeep to give moral support is an act of kindness from a sincere heart. I will never ever forget that as long as I live.
My tears roll for you...in remembrance of your greatness.
Today, Malaysians paid their final respects to the late Malaysian icon Karpal Singh at the Dewan Sri Pinang in a state-honoured ceremony before his cortege left for Bukit Gantung where he was cremated.
Thousands, including family, friends, politicians from various parties and the public whose lives have been touched by Karpal in one way or another have thronged his house in Jalan Utama, Penang since his shocking death in the wee hours of the morning of April 17.
Karpal, who would have turned 74 in June, died in a tragic car crash along with his beloved helper J Michael Cornelius, 39, near Gopeng exit along the North-South Highhway.
The Bukit Gelugor MP who had an illustrious career in law and politics for 40 years, leaves behind his beloved wife Gurmit Kaur, five children, and ten grandchildren.
Malaysiakini gave a live report of the funeral proceedings from Penang.
2.55pm: As the ceremony comes to a close, the crowd eventually disperses.
2.35pm: Karpal's body enters the furnace. Despite pleas from the family, the crowd refuses to leave.
2.33pm: Tempers flare as the crowd of people refuse to make room for Karpal's family as they prepare to move the coffin into the furnace.
Karpal's youngest son Man Karpal was seen grabbing a mobile phone belonging to a woman and smashed it against a wall in frustration.
2.30pm: People who managed to get into the crematorium compound are performing the final rites.
Jagdeep Singh sternly requests photographers to stop taking photos because Karpal's wife wants privacy at this final moment.
Many refuse to leave the facility, although some people have left to in anticipation of a traffic jam.
1.35pm: Lawyer Sukhindarpal Singh, who is waiting for Karpal's cortege to pass along Jalan Farquhar says, "Today is the people's funeral. People from all walks of life have come to pay their respects.
"They are not paid (to come) or organised into buses," he quips.
He says he has known Karpal since they were both kids, adding, "He was really down to earth. A people's man."
1.30pm: Traffic jams are reported in the vicinity of the route, which has grown into a 2km long procession.
From Malaysiakini's observations, there have been almost no traffic police on duty to control the traffic flow since this morning.
Instead, the Penang state government's volunteer squad is helping to manage the heavy traffic along the route.
Meanwhile on another matter, DAP says it will be organising memorial services at the state level all week beginning with Penang on Tuesday, up till May 2 in Negri Sembilan.
The national level memorial event will be in KL on April 24 and details will be announced soon, it says in a statement.
1.23pm: The procession passes by the DAP headquarters and is now on its way to the crematorium. Traffic is heavy along the route.
12.47pm: The cortege stops at St Xavier's Institution, Karpal's alma mater. The band plays the school anthem.
12.30pm: The procession reaches the second historic stop at the State Assembly Hall. Crowds along the route hold banners and DAP flags, and keep chanting, "Karpal Singh".
12.23pm: Outside, Karpal's constituents and voters from Island Glades under the Bukit Gelugor seat express disappointment they could not enter the Dewan earlier.
Meanwhile one woman comments, "We need to vote again. We heard his daughter might be standing for elections. It is okay, she looks smart."
As the van carrying his cortege passes by, Karpal's son Gobind reaches out to shake hands with the public, saying, "Thank you, thank you," as the people continue to chant his name.
12pm: As the cortege makes its way around the four significant stops, crowds line the roads with some clapping and chanting "Karpal Singh! Karpal Singh!".
There is a massive traffic jam.
Famous blogger Anil Netto estimates the overall crowd at 20,000.
At present it is going around the Penang High Court and the superbikes convoy leads in front.
11.50am: Karpal's cortege leaves the dewan accompanied by the St Xavier's Institution band playing 'When The Saints Come Marching In'.
11.47am: The crowd in the street start clapping and chanting "Karpal Singh" when his cortege is carried out from the hall
11.30am: The Sikh community gathers around Karpal's coffin to say their final prayers. His grandchildren all dressed in white gather around.
Karpal's remains will leave soon for Batu Gantung for cremation, but not before he journeys around significant spots of his life: the Penang State Legislative assembly, St Xavier's Institution, his legal office in Jalan Green Hall and the Penang High Court on Jalan Faarquhar.
His family prepares to leave, and they close the glass top of his coffin.
The guests also start to exit.
11.30am: This morning the notorious Raja Bomoh of the MH370 coconut stunt fame weighs in on Karpal's accident saying it was the result of having disturbed the spirits of Gua Tempurung in the immediate vicinity of the accident zone.
Last night opposition members spotted the shaman at his antics again at the area.
"Passed by Km 302 and saw Raja Bomoh doing his stunt at late Karpal's accident scene.
"I was too shocked to do anything," tweeted Gelang Patah MP's political secretary Dyana Sofya Daud.
PKR legal affairs bureau chief Latheefa Koya also tweeted last night, "On our way back, we passed the accident scene, and saw Raja Bomoh doing a jampi with a bunch of leaves! Seriously, what is going on?"
11.30am: Law See Lam (right), 75, says he has been with DAP for 49 years and is sad at the loss of Karpal.
Hailing from Sepang, Selangor, he says being wheelchair-bound has not stopped her coming to pay his last respects to an old friend.
"I feel sad. I have been long friends with him.
"From the beginning of DAP, I have been a member," he tells Malaysiakini.
11.27am: The Penang governor leaves the hall but public is no longer allowed to enter.
The ceremony will proceed with the state government and representives from political parties and organisations paying last respects.
Earlier the crowd is asked to make way for the governor to leave.
When they refuse to budge from the front of the entrance, state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh pleads with the public, "Please, please move aside. I know how you feel, but please, we need you to move aside."
The hall has been open to the public for about two hours, and an estimated 7,200 members of the public are estimated to have entered to bid farewell.
11.11am: Everyone stands to allow the governor to pay his last respects. The various organisations then pay their respects one by one.
Each bows three times before the coffin in respect.
11.13am: The governor and the whole Penang state exco pay last respect to Karpal Singh and take a group photo.
10.30am: A minor commotion happens when DAP members start distributing Karpal posters and not everyone succeeds in getting one. A young man shouts,"Why have everyone gotten it except me?"
10:51am: 100 cyclists from seven Penang cycling clubs will ride from Dewan Sri Pinang to the crematorium in Batu Gantung.
G Club Penang president Lim Seh Guan says it is their way of paying tribute to Karpal.
"We feel sad for the loss of Penang's favourite son. We are here to share the family's grief.
"They are not alone. We are with you (the family)," he says.
10.56am: Penang Governor Abdul Rahman Abbas arrives with his wife. They pay their last respects. The session for the public will pause for awhile.
Guan Eng then presents his eulogy.
"The rakyat has lost a fearless 'tiger' with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak, defenceless and dispossessed.
"But it is his fighting spirit that stands out. You can detain Karpal physically but you can never detain his spirit," reads Guan Eng's eulogy.
He ends it with Thomas Jefferson who said that "when the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny".
"Throughout his life, Karpal showed us how not to fear the government," says the CM.
10.50am: Though Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is supposed to start his eulogy at 10.15am, it has been postponed as the crowd is being allowed in to finish paying their final respects.
However, due to the sheer size of the crowd, officers are quickly ushering the public, who try to steal a few seconds to look at Karpal's face.
10.15am: The crowd swells to approximately 10,000 and many are still waiting to go in.
PSM secretary general S Arutchevan has managed to enter with his entourage of 20 members. Aliran president Francis Loh and former president P Ramakrishnan are also inside the Dewan, waiting to pay their respects.
Guan Eng's political secretary and Air Itam assemblyperson Wong Hoi Wai says Penang Governor Abdul Rahman Abbas is on his way.
"The crowd will be allowed in until he arrives," Wong says when asked if the time for the public to pay their respects would be extended.
10am: One hour more to go before the coffin departs, and the crowd waiting to get in grows impatient. Rayer, who was sent to address the problem, says the crowd has been split in two rows, on the left and right of the building.
"It is under control now," he says.
Some members of the public are complaining that DAP members are crowding the place and not allowing the public to come in.
Others who have given up coming inside are taking photos of the crowd lining up to pay respect to Karpal.
Some have been queueing since 7am but not been given opportunity to enter to pay their respects.
The crowd is shouting and clamouring to be allowed entry, but the officers say the crowd is too large to accommodate.
9.45am: Anti-lynas activist Wong Tack arrives and is seated where the MPs and assemblymen sit.
A woman has fainted outside and is being attended to by an ambulance. Another was brought into the Dewan as she was going to fall. She is seated near a cooler and is attended to by several DAP members.
People are saying that the crowd, in the thousands now, are more than when a state funeral was held for former CM Lim Chong Eu, in 2010.
9:35am: Many in the crowd outside are feeling dissatisfied and there is some pushing and shoving.
A man with his wife from Malacca tells Malaysiakini he has been waiting for an hour to get into the hall.
Several officers and DAP members are seen trying to calm the crowd and pleading with them to be patient.
9.20am Anwar Ibrahim arrives. He hugs Guan Eng and shakes hands with Karpal's sons Jagdeep Singh Deo and Gobind Singh Deo who are standing in front of the coffin.
9.15am: Penang High Court judge Mohd Zaki Mohd Yassin is seen with lawyer Ranjit Singh Dillion. They sit at the front row.
NGOs and organisations are told to register at the counter outside so they can pay respects collectively. State agency officers begin to pay their respects.
9am: PKR de facto leader and parliamentary opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is on his way to pay his last respects. He should be arriving soon.
Several members of the courthouse and lawyers are seen among the crowd.
As the public look solemnly over the glass top of Karpal's coffin, some have tears in their eyes. A senior with her walking stick almost breaks down in tears as she is escorted out.
An elderly man stops by and cries "Karpal Singh" twice and gives him a scout's honour.
The public starts shaking hands with Karpal's family as pass his cortege, but are reminded not to so as not to hold up the many, many more waiting outside.
9:07am: As hundreds flood the outside of Dewan Sri Pinang to pay their last respects the situation turns a little chaotic, with some pushing to get in and shouting, "Open the door" while others shout back, "Don't push!"
Seri Delima assemblyperspon RSN Rayer is despatched to control the situation.
8.45am: The public, starting with DAP members start to pay their final respects.
As they walk around Karpal's coffin, they are seen putting their hands together in prayer, while some offer flowers.
Outside the Dewan, the crowd jostle with one another to come closer to the entrance. MPs and assemblypersons from Pakatan and Karpal's family members have taken their seats on both sides of the cortege.
8.15am: Karpal's cortege arrives. The emcee announces for people crowding the pathway to the Dewan to make way.
The St Xavier's Institute band has begun playing the song 'When the Saints Come Marching In' as his cortege is being carried in.
8am: The crowd has grown to about 1,000.
DAP members including Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his father Kit Siang are already inside the Dewan, waiting for Karpal's cortege to arrive at about 8.15am.
The public will be allowed in by 8.30am. People have queued to await the arrival of the casket.
Among the crowd is lawyer M Visvanathan who arrived in Penang at about 5am to pay his last respects.
He says the government should declare this a national day of mourning because such is the impact of Karpal Singh's legacy.
"The younger generation needs to fill the giant footsteps left behind by Karpal. We are all merely wearing small shoes unlike him.
"He walked the talk and lived by his principles, he was deep rooted in fair and right (against) wrong. That made him stand out among the rest.
7.50am: The vehicle which carries Karpal's cortege departs from the house followed by hundreds of cars, motorbikes and cyclists.
7.30am: Dewan Sri Pinang is already teeming with people, waiting for his cortege to arrive at 9am. The cortege is to leave Karpal's home at 8.15am after final prayers there.
A big white truck with the banner 'Sdr Karpal Singh Dalam Kenangan 1940 - 2014' is seen parked on the side of the Penang Civil and Magistrate Court, on the right of Dewan Sri Pinang.
Facebook photos AT THIS LINK.
Like many, I belong to the generation who grew up hearing the great name and deeds of Karpal Singh who fought tirelessly for a just Malaysia that would adhere to constitutionalism at all costs.
The fact that I had never met the man personally did not stop me from developing a profound admiration for his fighting spirit. In the past 15 years especially, the borderless Internet has made access to news and information far easier, and I enjoy thoroughly watching Karpal’s public speeches and listening to his uplifting messages that he was hammering home.
Most importantly, coming from a generation when legal practice was highly respected and in which lawyers and judges must work strenuously, arduously and judiciously to prove their worth, Karpal has clearly left a deep imprint in Malaysian society.
In any mature and healthy parliamentary democracy, the tragic and untimely passing of an outstanding lawyer and also a formidable parliamentarian who has contributed tremendously to upholding the true spirit of law and constitution as well as to the democratic process would rightly deserve a full and proper acknowledgement by the state, and parliament would be recalled so that fellow lawmakers could have an opportunity to pay tributes to an experienced and well respected statesman.
But Karpal was not born in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada or New Zealand but Malaysia. Be that as it may, one can take comfort in the fact that the Tiger of Jelutong himself would have no regret being born a true son of Malaysian soil and fighting a good fight for a country that he held dear.
Karpal’s powerful legal arguments, unshakeable sense of principle, impeccable command of the English language and, needless to say, sacrosanct adherence to the secular basis of the Malaysian consitution are largely unmatched by others. Without belittling those who are in the legal fraternity, the Tiger is indeed a tough act to follow.
It is already public knowledge that Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh have been the twin pillars of the Democratic Action Party. With Karpal's departure, Kit Siang’s journey to a better Malaysia has become all the more lonely.
Karpal’s role in Malaysian politics can never be underestimated. Despite the readily available young blood in the party, I would say none has his acute sense of constitutionalism and legal insight as of now. As Malaysia is on the verge of democratic change, a senior and experienced lawmaker who is fastidious - almost to the point of being dogmatic - about the rule of law would be badly needed, whicn makes the untimely demise of Karpal all the more lamentable.
Never partisan and communal
What distinguishes Karpal from other politicians - be they from the BN or Pakatan - is that he is never partisan and communal in terms of political view. One hardly heard him talking about ethnicity, race or religion, for his leitmotif has always been the constitution, the constitution and the constitution.
And it is this unassailable conviction and unswerving determination that prompted him to support Mahathir Mohamad in curtailing the powers of the monarch in accordance with the constitution back in 1993, their political differences notwithstanding. And the same Karpal would have no qualms in chastising PAS whenever the latter was (and still is) bent on implementing hudud.
As for those who are quick ot accuse Karpal of being anti-Islam, they would do well to know the man once represented a group of Muslim girls in Singapore who wanted to have their headgear on in school. As far as Karpal was concerned, it mattered not if one was Muslim or else, or Chinese or Indian, but whether one's rights were enshrined in the constitution. Bravo!
I must admit I myself have in the past misunderstood Karpal when it came to the Islamic state issue, criticising him for seeking to upstage his coalition partners by tackling the PAS leadership head-on.
In retrospect, it is clear that the presence of Karpal in Pakatan has been a wonderful and immense blessing to the country, for only he would have the valour to speak up when the politicians and the masses were on the wrong side of the constitution. It is this unique quality that has earned him the respect of both Mahathir and Nik Aziz Nik Mat, PAS’s spiritual leader.
Yes, I am truly wrong to have once considered Karpal to be in the same league as other political publicists, but I am certain the good man would just laugh at me and move on to the issues that should deserve his utmost attention.
Rest in peace, Karpal. You have given your best and will be sorely missed. We are doomed to failure as a nation if we do not rise up against the bigots and safeguard secular constitutionalism as you have valiantly done. I will mourn now no doubt, but I will make sure I emerge stronger, braver and wiser thereafter.
After all, being proud of and thankful to you is not enough, for your biggest legacy would be that we all become inspired by you to take up the cause and fight on fearlessly for a better Malaysia. So long!
Written by JOSH HONG who studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.
BBC news about his death
Times of India: Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Only the Bible sold more copies than his book
The Independent: He was considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century The Independent has slides on his life.