The Story Of The Man Who Served Karpal Singh Till The Very End

You may have seen him in countless photos of Karpal Singh but Michael Cornelius was literally the man behind the Tiger of Jelutong. He spoke less, but his loyalty and devotion to Karpal Singh spoke volumes about how much he cared for his boss.

Cover image via Gobind Singh Deo

Michael Cornelius, whose full name is Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, is seen pushing his boss, Karpal Singh, on his wheelchair from a courtroom

Michael was a loyal and devoted personal aide to YB Karpal Singh.

Image via Keow Wee Loong Photography

Michael Cornelius was a man who spoke less, but his loyalty and devotion to Karpal Singh spoke volumes about how much he cared for the Tiger of Jelutong

A file 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.

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The name Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu may not be as famous as the man he was serving - renowned lawyer Karpal Singh - but his sacrifice would remain in the annals of Malaysian history for his devotion to his master or boss.

It would suffice to say that Michael was literally the man behind Karpal since the 39-year-old, would push his boss around in his wheelchair wherever he went, including to the Parliament.

When Michael first joined Karpal, he was very shy and would gently attend to the late lawyer

Court reporters first saw him several years ago as he carefully pushed the wheelchair and gently attended to the late lawyer. Michael was very shy back then and would only smile to the reporters who constantly approached Karpal for his comments outside the court premises.

As time went by, the 39-year-old could be seen taking on more responsibilities as a crucial member of Karpal’s caregiving team

Over the months, Michael, 39, could be seen taking on more responsibility as a crucial member of Karpal’s caregiving team — even taking calls from the media on behalf of the busy lawyer.

Despite the growing importance in role, Michael remained an unassuming person and was very helpful to reporters who wanted to find out the whereabouts of his boss.

Michael was born and brought up in Vellore, Tamil Nadu in Southern India

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Hailing from a poor family in Vellore, Tamil Nadu in southern India, Michael leaves behind a wife, a son and a daughter.

It was the DAP veteren himself who had personally hired Michael after meeting him in a hospital in India in 2005, the year Karpal Singh was paralysed

Karpal Singh up into the air by family and supporters after the announcement that he had won the Jelutong parliamentary seat.

Image via The Star

Michael met Karpal in a hospital in India while the latter was undergoing medical treatment in 2005, the year the former DAP chairman and Bukit Gelugor MP was paralysed as a result of a car accident. Michael then agreed to return with Karpal to Malaysia as his assistant.

Karpal’s daughter Sangeet Kaur Deo said Michael was a ‘faithful servant to his master’ and stayed with him even in death.

Michael practically "gave his life for Karpal" working around the clock 24/7 and was very happy to serve the veteran lawyer

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According to M. Mageswari, a reporter with The Star, on one occasion when he asked Michael about his duties to Karpal, he beamed and said: “I have to take care of him as a baby.” Michael added that he was very happy to serve the veteran lawyer.

"Without Michael, attending to his every need, and Gurmit (his wife), Karpal would not have been able to live the life," said Karpal's biographer Tim Donoghue

Michael celebrating Karpal's birthday

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To call Karpal, one would have to go through Michael as the latter would answer his boss’s calls and put it to his boss’ ears.

During Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy case in 2013, Michael had requested to have a photo taken with a journalist to show his wife and two children in India

Michael with Karpal

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“I want to show it to my family. I know reporters here. They will be delighted,” he said happily, adding that he could not wait to see his loved ones for Christmas.

The sacrifices of Michael for Karpal were great, as he seldom return to his hometown in India and even when he did return to India, it was for a short two weeks

Michael with Karpal during GE13

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In an account published by DAP’s The Rocket, Michael was described as “ever faithful till the end” and according to Piasau ADUN Alan Ling Sie Kiong, had “looked after him (Karpal) so well.” Ling had recounted his encounter with Michael while chambering at Karpal’s legal firm in 2009. “He (Michael) was often so busy that he once requested me to help him send money to his family in India. His only time of rest was travelling in the car with Karpal,” Alan related.

According to Ling, Michael was also a devout Christian and was often seen carrying a bible with him. “Michael was often carrying a bible wherever he went. When I was married and after my victory in the Sarawak state election in 2011, he sent me some gifts and congratulatory cards with bible verses in it to inspire me.”

A thoughtful and warm-hearted person, Michael would always send warm wishes during the festive occasions

The last message he sent to a reporter for the Tamil New Year on Monday read: “Every little SMILE can touch somebody’s heart. No one is born HAPPY, but all of us are born with the ability to create HAPPINESS. Love to u all. Happy New Year. Rejoice. Yb Karpal singh (assistant) Michael.”

Remembering Michael for his services, Karpal Singh's son Gobind Singh Deo posted this photo on Facebook

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"Remembering Micheal who gave his life for YB Karpal Singh. We will always truly appreciate your sacrifices for our father and family. Thank you Micheal. We will really miss you. We also convey our deepest condolences to his family. The remains of Micheal will be sent back to India this weekend." — Gobind Singh Deo.

Karpal Singh had previously described Michael as his "shadow" without whom he would be in trouble

The cover photo that Michael uses on his Facebook page

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“He has to wake up every few hours and turn me as I cannot sleep in one position for long… the poor fellow has no life, he has to take care of me all day and even sleeps in the same room,” Karpal had related in the interview.

Karpal also said of Michael: “If he’s not around, I’m in trouble!” A friend of Karpal’s also remarked that “God was great in wanting Michael to stay with Karpal to help him in heaven”.

Michael, who last saw his family over a year ago, had also expressed that it was hard for him to leave Karpal’s side. “Very hard for Boss because others don’t know how to carry him,” said Michael, who has never seemed to mind, and was in fact, happy to serve.

Even as Karpal Singh is remembered for his contributions to many, Michael cannot be forgotten for the sacrifices he made for one man. Our condolences to Michael and his family.

Michael Cornelius was the man behind the Tiger of Jelutong as he would push Karpal Singh's wheelchair wherever he needed to go.

Image via

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