The Passing of a People's Warrior (Bishan Singh)

on Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dear friends,
In these last few days, there has been much bad news in Malaysia. News that makes me feel anger, disappointment, dismay and hopelessness. I felt driven to write about some of these matters and share it with you, so that you might understand that all is not right in sunny Malaysia.....and perhaps I will still do so later. However, all these pale in comparison to the news I received yesterday on the death of this dear gentleman in the early hours of the 29th of November.

Mr. Bishan Singh was many things to many people because his heart was always for the people. In Malaysia, he might even be considered the grandfather of social activism. Amongst his achievements include establishing the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (FOMCA), the Sustainable Development Institute (SUSDEN), and winning the Langkawi Award for contributions to the environment in Malaysia. He has been the tireless champion for the proper management of Chini Lake and the welfare of the indigenous peoples there. He also helped in countries like Bangladesh and Nepal. More details of his career are in the article below.

As I type this, his funeral is happening in Kuantan which is about 3 hours drive from here. I am unable to attend due to a combination of food poisoning and a work commitment this afternoon over which I have no control. So even as his many friends and family gather there to say goodbye, I thought I would share in that moment by putting this tribute on to the internet.

I have known him for a relatively short 5 years, yet he has left a strong impression. Bishan was a man of vision, passion and heart who stood by the principles of social justice and also the conservation of the environment as he recognised that the two were inter-related. He was a spiritual and intellectual giant, yet he remained a humble man. He was a great teacher and someone who invested in building up the next generation. We have served on the same committee and there were times with myself as chair as well as when Bishan was chair. While I was chair, I appreciated that he was patient, generous and always constructive with this young whipper-snapper and when he was chair, he was understanding, discerning and purposeful, which made him easy and natural to work with.

Bye Bishan, you will be missed by many.

Social activist Bishan Singh dies

KUANTAN: Social activist and environmentalist Bishan Singh Ram Singh passed away yesterday after a short illness. He was 62.

His wife Mary Wai, 66, and children Sunitha, 35, and Jeevan Ram, 33, were by his side when he breathed his last at 6.43am at the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital.

His death was listed as due to “pulmonary embolism”.

Bishan Singh had undergone a series of medical check-ups since October. His condition worsened over the last two weeks.

Bishan Singh: His death was listed as due to ‘pulmonary embolism’
The illness had not stopped him from keeping abreast with the latest developments on his favourite topics – community and social work.

To Bishan Singh, Tasik Chini – the country's second largest freshwater lake – was special in so many ways.

He had been in love with the lake since his secondary school days and wanted it to be revived.

Bishan Singh spearheaded a campaign to save the lake and received strong support from the private sector.

“My father has no regrets. He has chosen his path in life and did what he loved best,” said Sunitha.

“Just look around the house compound. He planted his own vegetables as well as tended to the garden,” she added.

Bishan Singh was president of Fomca and the Pahang Consumers Association and was a former Kuantan councillor.

He held the presidency of Sustainable Development Network and was a board member of the Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific.

He had offered his services in consultancy for more than 20 years in 22 countries.

His efforts did not go unnoticed and he was the first recipient of the Consumer Advocate Award, and most recently was named the recipient of Langkawi Award by the King.

Born on May 31, 1944, in Nibong Tebal, Penang, Bishan Singh had a Masters in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management, Manila.

Fomca secretary-general Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah described his demise as a “great loss to the nation and NGO community”.

Bishan Singh will be cremated at Bukit Ubi crematorium today.

The public can pay their last respects at his residence in A617 Taman Koperasi, Lorong Selamat 24, Kuantan, before 11am


Anonymous said...

This was an interesting man..sorry for your loss...

I linked you up to both The Cedar Chest and Tamar.

Doing mucho have been an encouragement..

Thank you,


Josie said...

I had heard of him. My niece has a Masters in Sustainable Development and is a City Planner for the City of Calgary. She also worked for the David Suzuki Foundation.

I have read about Mr. Singh. It really is the world's loss.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for your kind words. He will be missed but I am glad I got to know him. Glad you are better.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I met David Suzuki twice and listened to him talk. He too is an international treasure. I understand he has retired. I often use his daughter's address at the Rio Summit in my own talks to people on the environment.

It's nice to know that Bishan is known even in snowy Vancouver. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I am at a loss for words...I only learnt of his demise today. I will not forget this great man who provided me opportunity when no one else did. Everything I am today, I owe it to Mr.Bishan...

From the little known isles of Maldives...Salma

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