For civil society, SM Idris’ legacy lives on in the activism he inspired

Mohamed Idris died at the age of 93 today. — Bernama pic
Mohamed Idris died at the age of 93 today. — Bernama pic

GEORGE TOWN, May 17 — For the past 50 years, SM Mohamed Idris led an activism movement that has championed consumer, social and environmental issues.

His passing at about 5pm today was mourned by the civil society at large, most of whom had fought alongside him in various issues, but this does not mean activism against consumer, social and environmental issues will stop there.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) advisor Kanda Kumar said Mohamed Idris’ legacy will live on through the activism he inspired.

“Activism will continue. CAP and SAM will be led by a different leader after this but the work that he started and led for so many years will surely continue,” he said.

He said the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) had always worked with MNS to fight against various environmental issues.

“We share information and whenever CAP and SAM took a stance on an issue, we would support it and vice versa,” he said.

He said Mohamed Idris will be remembered as the person who gave his best all these years.

“Although this is a great loss, people shouldn’t lose heart but instead they must continue his legacy, pick up where he left off and fight environmental issues,” he said.

Mohamed Idris did not only inspire others to take action and speak up about issues, he was also the one who inspired Datuk K. Koris Atan to set up the Penang Consumer Protection Association (PCPA) about 25 years ago.

The PCPA president said he had followed Mohamed Idris’ activism since he was a teenager back in the early 1970s, by reading up on every issue the latter had raised.

“After I set up PCPA, I sought his advice on consumerism issues and we shared ideas and information,” he said.

He said PCPA was set up to create another avenue to raise issues for consumers and work alongside CAP.

“His passing is a great loss to the consumer world. He sacrificed his whole life to consumerism issues and nobody else has achieved his level of activism,” he said.

He believed that even without Mohamed Idris helming CAP and SAM, many others will continue the legacy he left behind.

He recounted how Mohamed Idris was known for his simple life and plain white kurta and dhoti that once saw him denied entry to a fancy restaurant in a hotel in Calcutta.

“He was a straightforward man and never afraid to speak his mind,” he said.

CAP secretary and SAM council member Meenakshi Raman said Mohamed Idris had inspired so many people that they will definitely carry on with his work.

“He was always telling us that there was a lot more work to be done. The best thing for us to do now is to continue his work,” she said.

Meenakshi, who is also the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman, said she first met Mohamed Idris in 1982.

“He was the one who inspired me to be a public interest lawyer,” she said.

“He was a father to all of us and the father of environmental activism,” she added.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) Chief Executive Officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj said Mohamed Idris had always been the voice for consumers.

“I am sure he has built the next generation of activists; the struggle for better consumer protection and a better environment has to be ongoing,” he said.

He hoped the issues that Mohamed Idris championed will continue to be highlighted by the next generation of activists.

“He was a beacon for others. But now we have to carry on with the struggle,” he said.

He said Fomca is working with a younger generation of new leaders.

“We have to make sure that the consumer protection struggle, the environmental struggle, the betterment of living standards of the people continue. It’s an ongoing struggle,” he said.

He also said Mohamed Idris is one of the activists who inspired others to take up the struggle and others will now have to take over.

Mohamed Idris, who founded CAP together with Datuk Anwar Fazal in 1969, died at the age of 93 today, leaving behind four children.

He was the president of CAP and SAM until his death today.

His body was brought to his home on Rose Avenue and he will be laid to rest at the Perak Road Muslim Cemetery at 10am tomorrow.

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