KOTA KINABALU: Activist SM Muthu, a leading figure in Sabah’s environmental scene, passed away on Sunday (June 30) after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 75.

He actively championed conservation causes until a few months before his death.

Muthu, who took an uncompromising stand on issues affecting the state, incurring the anger of certain quarters, soldiered on in the face of opposition to his convictions.

Questioned by police and even sued for bankruptcy, Muthu stood by his beliefs and was unwavering when issues heated up.

His unyielding stand on environmental issues including coal plants for power generation, developments at Tanjung Beach and Likas Bay here, as well as indigenous and social rights, gained him the nickname “Green Man”.

Former Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) president Wong Tack said Muthu truly lived up to that sobriquet.

“He was firm and courageous. He would come forward (and raise) issues when others were reluctant.

“Muthu did not compromise and was always focused on protecting Sabah’s environment for future generations,” said Wong, who described Muthu as a brother who stood by Sepa through tough times on on environmental issues.

Muthu was with the Sepa team, led by Wong, that successfully opposed the setting up of the coal power plant in the 2010s.

Wong’s successor at Sepa, Alexander Yee, said Muthu worked tirelessly to be the voice of the Sabahans in creating environmental consciousness among policymakers.

“He spoke his mind and was never one to beat around the bush. You did not need wisdom to listen to him because he usually made his case clear and easy to understand.

“But you needed the courage to accept what he had to say, and that was usually the tough part.

“I am glad our paths crossed and also saddened to hear of his passing. I will remember him as a voice for Sabahans and the conscience of our policymakers,” Yee added.

Apart from environmental issues, Muthu was known to work with youths, supporting them in various activities.

Social activist Amy Dangin described his passing as a loss to the state.

“Sabah has lost a good human being. Uncle Muthu all this while has been passionate and vocal on environmental and political issues.

“For any rally or peaceful protest, he (would be there) to support the voices of the young and there have been times when he even did it alone. What was important was the truth,” Dangin said on Facebook where many paid tribute to Sabah’s Green Man.

Muthu, from Teluk Intan in Perak, came to Sabah as a young teacher in the early 1970s.

He passed away at his home in Kingfisher Park here at 5pm on Sunday, leaving behind his wife Mary Lau Mee Yin and children Dr Anand Nainar and Michele Nainar.

Muthu’s last rites will be held at the KK Hakka Funeral Hall at 9am on Thursday (July 4) and he will be cremated at the Tionghua crematorium here.