With this note, we would like to honor and remember Dato’ Vijaya Kumar T. Chornalingam.
Dato’ Vijaya Kumar T. Chornalingam, or Viji as he was fondly known, was one of the brightest minds of the legal fraternity. He was a titan of the Malaysian legal profession and an extraordinary man.
Viji came from humble beginnings. He was the 3rd child of 7 siblings. His father T Chornalingam passed away when Viji was 17 years old leaving, a young widow who was left to raise 7 children all on her own. Viji stepped into his father’s shoes immediately. The responsibility was immense but Viji took it all in his stride. As the years passed, he helped to raise and educate his siblings. He attended every wedding, new birth or significant family event. He became the beating heart of his family.
In his passing he leaves behind his beloved daughter Suhashini Vijaya Kumar and his loving wife, Datin Shanti Rani and his siblings.
Viji graduated from the University of Singapore (now known as the National University of Singapore) and was admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya in the year 1975. He was subsequently admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Singapore in 1991.
As a solicitor, he was always sought out for incisive legal tactics and strategy. His drafting of cause papers was second to none. A wordsmith at his core, his written work was always lucid, precise and crafted with care. To his opponents his pleadings and affidavits were devastatingly impossible to answer. As an advocate, he had a deep and abiding respect for the bench. No matter the provocation or disappointment, he has never lost his temper in court. It was a testament to his abilities as a lawyer that the most difficult of cases would make its way to his desk. This was a matter of personal pride for him.
In his practice, he embodied the principle without fear or favor. There were countless times he took on unpopular clients. He was never turned away someone in need. He was always ready with a helping hand in any way he could muster. He hated bullies and would always come to the aid of those he perceived as being treated unfairly. He never shied away from a fight, even if he knew that there would be adverse consequences to himself.
Viji loved the law. He enjoyed reading the textbooks and journals that populated his library. That said, Viji saw the law as being about so much more than words written down in books and journals. To him the law was meaningless if it could not preserve and protect the dignity and well-being of human beings. He had a rare gift for connecting with people in their darkest hour. He had the uncanny ability to put anyone at ease, give them confidence and make them feel safe in his hands. Whether it was a reluctant witness, a plaintiff who had suffered the humiliating sting of discrimination or a wrongfully convicted individual who had all but given up hope for a second chance. For all of those and so many more, Viji was their bridge to justice.
He would not want to be remembered without acknowledging how central his faith was to his success as a lawyer and his character as a man. There is no doubt that the source of his strength was his faith. He was a true believer in the Almighty. He kept an altar in his personal office and every morning without fail, the first thing he would do, was to surrender himself to God and pray. He credited his success entirely to God but blamed his failings on his own imperfections.
His friendship and loyalty were legendary. He engendered trust like no other person could. It is a testament to his character that his clients eventually became his friends and his friends became his clients.
He was generous to a fault. He supported the poor and marginalised. He funded schools, temples, education and sports for the communities which he felt was underserved.
He was loved by his family, friends, employees and clients. He made it a point to raise up the people around him. Many of his former staff and employees credit him with their standing in the world today. It was all too common to hear someone say “I know Viji. He is a good man.” It is said that the measure of a man is in the company that he keeps. If that is true, then whoever kept company with Viji gained a measure of class unlike any other.
Viji set an example for all those around him through his tireless work ethic, unshakeable integrity, his deep faith in God and his intense love for his family and friends.
We thank the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee for this opportunity to remember and honor our dear Viji. We hope that a record of this memorial will be preserved as a testament to the character and legacy of a great man.