Subhas Anandan, fighter and lover
Singapore's most famous criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan defended some of the country’s most notorious criminals.
But he became a Singaporean citizen only in 2002, when he was 55.
For almost half a century, he was stateless.
Mr Subhas' parents brought him from Kerala, India, to Singapore when he was five months old.
In his second book It's Easy To Cry, out in stores now, he said he applied for citizenship in 1972 but was rejected for 10 years.
He tried again a few years later but there was no reply.
He finally became a citizen in 2002 — a year after winning the Legal Eagle of the Year award.
Mr Subhas showing his temporary identity card - as a Singapore citizen. PHOTO: NP FILE
He died on Jan 7 this year of heart failure. He was 67.
Known as "The Basher" for his stinging courtroom attacks, Mr Subhas had a tender side, often taking on cases for free – or pro bono – when his clients could not afford to pay him.
Among the clients: Child killer Took Leng How, triad leader Tan Chor Jin, and Anthony Ler, who persuaded a 15-year-old boy to kill his wife.
Obituary portrait of Took Leng How, who was sentenced to death for the murder of eight-year-old Huang Na. PHOTO: SHIN MIN FILE
No matter what crime was committed, and no matter the chances of winning a case, Mr Subhas would not turn clients away:
“However heinous your offence is, I think you deserve a proper defence…
"Why should anybody say that he is guilty when the court has not found him guilty yet?”
Law Minister K. Shanmugam called Mr Subhas a “legal legend” who believed strongly in giving an accused a second chance in life.
Here's Mr Subhas' candid take on communicating with the missus, the late Workers' Party chief JB Jeyaretnam, agreeing with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and more.
Is he a fighter or not-so-expressive lover? You decide.
Husband and wife enjoying a quiet moment on their garden swing. PHOTO: Mrs Vimala Anandan
In December 2008, Mr Anandan was rushed to hospital for fluid in the lungs.
While waiting to be wheeled into the Intensive Care Unit, he beckoned his wife over, saying he wanted to tell her something.
She came close and he said: "I see your face in every rose, I see your smile in every cloud" before dozing off.
Later when he asked her if she remembered what he told her, she said:
"Ya, it was so unlike you. You told me that my face is in every rose, my smile in every cloud.
"What was I to make of this? I thought you had a secret code to share with me at death's door."
"You have always accused me of not being romantic enough, but you see, at least when I thought that I was going to die, I did my best to please you!"
Admitting he was not good at expressing how he felt for her, he said the lyrics to the Ronan Keating song "If Tomorrow Never Comes" speaks volumes: "I hope when she listens to it, she takes comfort in knowing how I feel for her."
His hope for his only son
The family on Christmas Eve last year PHOTO: MRS VIMALA ANANDAN
When his son Sujesh told the parents he would read law, Mr Subhas recalled how pleased he was.
But he did not wish to put pressure on his only child, so he said:
"Do whatever you want, son. Most importantly, you must be passionate about your work to have a happy life. Otherwise it would be drudgery every day.
"My feet are smaller than yours. So don't try to fit into my shoes! Wear your own shoes!
"But above all, be a good person."
When asked if he wanted his son to go down the same route he took, Mr Subhas also told the Association of Muslim Lawyers' periodical Al-Mizan:
"Honestly speaking, I want my son to be a good human being. Whether he's a good lawyer or doctor doesn't matter to me. He must have time for people who are not as fortunate as him.
"I hope he will show the same type of compassion that I have shown to the people who are in trouble. Be helpful, not arrogant. Be there for people. That's all I want him to be."
His son is reading law at Nottingham in England and will graduate next year.
Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam in 2007. PHOTO: NP FILE
Mr Subhas appeared in court to defend then-secretary-general of Workers' Party (WP) JB Jeyaretnam, at the request of fellow partner and mentor-friend MPD Nair.
When Mr Jeyaretnam told Mr Nair not to accept the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) post for the closest defeated candidate after the 1984 General Election — as WP was against the NCMP scheme — Mr Subhas called to ask why.
The explanation did not convince him.
When JBJ was given the same offer in the 1997 General Election and accepted, Mr Subhas again called to ask why:
"(JBJ) said, "Well Subhas, circumstances change. The Council feels that I must accept it," came his reply.
"I just shook my head and said to myself, "This is the most unfair situation."
"Anyway it was a political decision that had nothing to do with me."
Mr Jeyaretnam became the first opposition MP to be elected to Parliament.
He died in September 2008 at age 82.
Mr Subhas said to The Straits Times then:
"I don’t share his views on politics but I respect him as a man who fought for his principles and was steadfast in his beliefs."
Casinos are "immoral"
People entering the casino at Marina Bay Sands. PHOTO: ST FILE
Mr Subhas visited the casino at Marina Bay Sands in June last year to help him relate better to a client's case.
What he noticed there — many unhappy faces, people spending hours gambling and some of the clients who fell victims to gambling — convinced him about casinos contributing to the ills of society.
"Mr Lee Kuan Yew was adamant that there should be no casinos in Singapore. He was right.
"However, the younger generation of leaders saw that having a casino in our country could mean a permanent source of generating income. There was little consideration for the ills of society that come with it.
"Not only one casino was built, but two! They might be making money but at what risks and costs?...I don't think gambling centres like the casinos can be of help or any good to any country.
"It is immoral for these casinos to exist."
Last words, and to the young ones...
Till the end, Mr Subhas spoke his mind, aware that he would not be "very popular with some people".
He knew others considered him a success story but their opinions matter little.
"It really doesn't matter what people think of me. It matters more what you think of yourself...
"I think my topic this time will be "Never give up" because I feel the younger ones especially tend to give up too easily today.
"Remember that some of the battles that you fight are never fought alone.
"There's always family and good friends who will be rooting for you and giving you all the moral support that you need. So never give up.
"If I had given up, I would not be writing this book. I would have just allowed myself to wallow in self-pity and the rest of the days of my life would amount to nought."
Sources: Subhas Anandan: It's Easy To Cry, The Straits Times, The New Paper, Shin Min Daily News, Mrs Vimala Anandan
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now