“The song has ended but the melody lingers on…”
Our beloved Dean Salleh passed away on 17 February 2022, leaving behind a gaping hole in our hearts and in the Personal Injury and Property Damage (PIPD) bar. A well-spoken and highly talented lawyer, Dean’s blazing tenacity and grit were a sight to behold in court.
A gentleman of the highest order, Dean’s bustling energy and eagerness in running to hold doors open and pulling out seats for others is a fond memory for many.
On his vibrant personality, Mr Teo Weng Kie observes:
“When I think of Dean, I think of Life. His passing will never change that for me, and for many others.”
Dean believed passionately in helping the less fortunate and set aside many hours to help the less privileged in the community. He was also actively involved in charity work and spent many weekends supporting the aged, sick and disabled at various charities. He also donated generously to worthy causes.
In Dean’s own words,
“I believe that with privilege comes duty, and not a sense of entitlement. If I am privileged, then I owe a duty to those who are not privileged. If I have two arms and the person next to me has just one, then I am privileged and I owe the person next to me a duty.”
On his significant contribution to the PIPD bar, Ms Renuka Chettiar recollects:
“I first encouraged Dean to join the PIPD committee two years ago. Though he was initially hesitant and was unsure if he could contribute to the committee, he proved himself invaluable with his readiness to share his insightful views and eagerness to volunteer. With his suave and unique personality, he successfully moderated the PIPD Virtual Huddle 2021. He was quite simply, one of a kind, and he will be missed dearly.”
To Dean, every single file deserved his one hundred percent dedication and effort. Being a perfectionist, his work was his life and soul and was a reflection of himself. His fiery passion and commitment to work were encapsulated in his immaculate submissions. Yet, despite the hundreds of tireless hours he poured into his work, he never hesitated to share his knowledge with his peers, often taking it upon himself to conduct additional research to answer a question from a fellow practitioner.
The loss is keenly felt by his boss and mentor, Mr Mahendra Prasad Rai:
“I have known Dean since 2015 when he joined Cooma & Rai as a Junior Associate. He was a strategic thinker, a visionary, innovative and creative. He contributed much to the development of the firm and was a darling of the clients.
The untimely and sudden demise of Dean came as a shock and it would take months before the reality sinks in. A deep sorrow fills our hearts. Dean suddenly closed the door of life and departed from this world.
His loss reminds me of what Albert Einstein said – “The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.”
Dean was a man who gave. He gave much to his work, profession, friends and family. His life was exemplified by brilliance, diligence, honesty and hard work, values that inspire emulation.
In his career as a lawyer he worked with passion, integrity, and energy. By his death, all the people who knew him will miss a highly intelligent, vibrant individual with a rare friendliness and charm of personality.”
Remembering his impeccable work ethics, his “favourite judge”, Mr David Lim (former District Judge) notes:
“I will always remember Mr Dean Salleh as a very courteous and conscientious lawyer. Always dapper in his appearance, Mr Dean had his clients’ best interests at heart, was courteous to his learned friends, and was always dutiful and respectful to the Court.
“It’s been a pleasure appearing before Your Honour …”, he would often tell me before leaving the room after the hearing.
Likewise, Mr Dean, it was a pleasure having you appear before me on those many occasions.
May the Almighty rest your soul and embrace you in eternal love, light and peace, and take dear care of your loved ones until they should one day reunite with you again.”
A kind and generous soul, Dean never hesitated to help someone in need. A fellow member of the PIPD bar, Ms Constance Paglar, reminisces one such occasion when Dean came to her aid:
“My experience with Dean showed his humility and grace. I had fallen down a flight of stairs on my way to court. After arriving in court, my foot swelled up such that I could not put any weight on it. When Dean saw me in such distress, he immediately jumped into action to procure a bandage for me to control the swelling and to stabilize my ankle. He didn’t think twice about seating himself on the floor and very gently took hold of my foot and rested it on his knee before wrapping it up with the bandage. Later at the hospital, the triage nurse asked if I had already been to a clinic because my foot looked like it had been bandaged by a doctor!
I was truly touched by Dean’s actions.
He kept checking up on me many months after that, telling me he was glad I was alright. Dean was a gentle and thoughtful person. He is missed.”
Mr Anthony Wee, the lawyer against whom Dean conducted his first trial, recounts:
“When I think about Dean, I think about the three impeccables. Impeccable manners, impeccable filial piety and, most importantly, impeccable hair.
What differentiated Dean from other young lawyers was his willingness to listen to criticisms and learn. There wasn’t a shred of defiance when told where he could have done better.
The last time I met him was in December 2021 when Dean walked past the pub I was in. We had a chat and took a group photo. We promised to catch up. It was a promise I had to break.
Dean. A young lawyer taken away too early by the sharp knife of a short life.
Take care my little brother till we meet again.”
Dean was also highly regarded by his peers:
Mr Suang Wijaya, who was interning at the same firm that Dean was training at in 2014, remarks:
“Although I did not have the privilege of working with him, I came to know him as a warm and caring person, with a strong sense of justice and work ethic. I was heartbroken to find out about Dean’s departure.”
Forming an unlikely friendship over food, Ms Shehzhadee Abdul Rahman recalls:
“I first met Dean at a Law Society event seven years ago. He was ahead of me in the buffet line, turned to me and then offered his spot in the line to me. We became good friends since.
Dean was the most unique individual you would have ever met. He was this human walking encyclopaedia, if there ever was one. He was generous too and was always quick to share what he knew.
Dean was also an extremely encouraging and positive person, who spoke highly of everyone. He had a way of making anyone speaking to him feel like they were the real MVPs. He really was, this ray of light amongst us.”
Mr Fendrick Koh notes,
“I had the opportunity of working with Dean on a matter. Dean was easy to work with and I thoroughly enjoyed exchanging legal views with him.
Dean’s enthusiasm about life is something which I will miss dearly and cherish.”
Dean had worked as a relief teacher temporarily before embarking upon his legal career. One of the many students he had inspired, Mr Muhammad Rusydi, shares a tribute to his beloved teacher:
“Mr Dean Salleh.
You were my hero when I was 15. You were my role model when I was 16. After that, I’ve always wanted to grow up to be exactly like you.
Extremely kind. Well-mannered. Courteous. Super Generous. Awesomely Brave. You were a Teacher, but you decided to be a Lawyer so that you could help others even more.
I remember sitting in the library when I was 15. Alone. Weird. Excluded. You always came by the library to accompany me. Listen to my nonsense about Star Wars, poetry, fantasy, pure rubbish. Never once have you judged. You always listened.
How heart-breaking it is to know that you have returned to Allah S.W.T.
In’sha Allah, you will be rewarded with a place in Jannatul Firdaus for all the good deeds you’ve done.
Oh Allah, please grant him Jannah.
Oh Allah, please please grant him Jannah.
Oh Allah, please please grant this man Jannah.”
Dedicated to Rusydi and to all of Dean’s loved ones, here’s a poem very astutely penned by Dean himself, 12 years before his own passing:
I am here today
But I’ll be gone tomorrow
Don’t cry for me
If you must,
Just plant a tree
Therein will grow or fall my shadow
For all to see
Wipe away your tears
I was not meant to be
I know too much
And it grieves my heart
When I am gone
The leaves will carry
What was a part of me
I hope you see
That I just was not meant to be.
Promise me that
Once in a while
You will think of this one
Gone too early
Lest I be lost.
– Dean Salleh, 27 July 2010
The greatest pain lies not in death, but in having to live on.
Happy Birthday, Dearest Dean. We miss you.
إينا لله وإنا عليه راجعون
Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
Indeed we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.
Advocate & Solicitor (and a dear friend)