Rest in Peace Mr Ramakrishnan Ramasamy (10th June 1965 – 4th December 2020)

by corybas

Very rarely in our lifetime we have the privilege to cross paths with ordinary persons who showed extraordinary qualities. Mr Ramakrishan was a such a person. Over and over again he would demonstrate courage, self sacrifice and determination to help those in need. He would jump at the chance of joining rescue work without hesitation , putting others before self. Whenever there was a natural disaster locally or abroad ,we knew it would only be a matter of time before he would get called. He would ready his rescue gear, hop onto his trademark MVFRA vehicle and drive off , akin to a general riding off to battle.  Whenever locals found themselves in tricky life threatening situations like being marooned on the wrong side of a raging river, being lost in the woods , Mr Rama would be amongst the first person they would call.

Very rarely we get to meet persons with such foresight about the environment it was almost uncanny. Mr Rama was a man way ahead of his time. In 2001 he had already advocated the urgent need to protect our water catchment areas and rivers from contamination , 20 years earlier than the current call for river protection in other states . He had also advocated the need for good agricultural practices and the avoidance of banned pesticides . He predicted that there would come a day when rainfall would become scarce and he started projects to harness water from the clouds. At that time we were all a little skeptical. Now no longer.

Very rarely we get to meet persons who fought for what they believed in so fiercely. Mr Rama believed passionately about protecting the forests and woe betide anyone who cleared our highland  forests illegally. After verifying his facts he would complain to the relevant authorities and if no action was taken he would highlight it fearlessly and for a brief period of time all hell would break loose in Cameron Highlands.

Very rarely we get to meet a real life hero. Mr Ramakrishnan Ramasamy was that man.

Mr Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, REACH president since its founding 20 years ago, passed away from a heart attack at his home in Brinchang, Cameron Highlands on the 4th of December 2020. He was 55. He left behind his beloved wife, Dilip Kaur, his beloved brother Anbalagan ,beloved sisters Hemalatha and Kalayarasi  and beloved nephew Sivendra and an army of friends, fellow rescuers, environmentalists and mountaineers to mourn his passing. Mr Ramakrishnan was born in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands in 1965. His grandparents were amongst the early settlers in Cameron Highlands. His maternal grandfather came from Tamil Nadu ,India and settled in the tea estate in Sg Palas in 1929. His paternal grandfather found refuge in Brinchang after fleeing from the Death Railway in Burma during the start of World War 2.

Mr Ramakrishnan did his primary schooling in Convent School, Tanah Rata and secondary schooling in Sekolah Menengah Sultan Ahmad Shah. In school he excelled in sports particularly long distant running, football and hockey. From 1987 to 1988 he represented Pahang in hockey and later represented Malaysia in steeple chase 3000m at the SEA games. He was also active in the Scouts movement at school and this continued even after he finished schooling. From being a Rover Scout in 1984 he eventually became a National Headquarters Commissioner. He won many medals of excellence which culminated in the Pingat Pahlawan, one of the highest awards, for saving a person’s life in Nepal.

In 1997 he was part of the Mount Everest expedition team . He was the first Malaysian to scale the peak of Annapurna IV in Nepal which is at 7525 m above sea level.

In 2003 he joined MVFRA ( Malaysia Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association) and later MISAR( Malaysia International Search and Rescue). As a lieutenant in both these societies , he participated in many search and rescue operations locally and abroad . The local missions included flood relief operations in various states namely Terengganu, Kelantan, Perak, Johor, Pahang and Perlis; rescue missions in landslides such as the mud slide disaster in Pos Dipang,  landslide in Sungai Ruil in Cameron Highlands ,landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa and the Sabah Earthquake. His international missions included the Iran earthquake(2003) ,the tsunami at Acheh ( 2004),the Peru earthquake ( 2007), the SzeChuan eathquake (2008), the Phillipines typhoon ( 2009 ) the Bangkok Floods (2011) and the Acheh earthquake ( 2017). Mr Rama was also very active in training the younger members in rescue work

In 2001, as a result of extensive development and rampant illegal land clearings in Cameron Highlands , Mr Rama together with concerned residents and with advice from WWF, formed REACH, a local environmental NGO. Through REACH, Mr Rama highlighted issues of illegal forest clearings in almost the entire of Cameron Highlands, stretching from the North to the South. They included  massive clearings in Blue Valley, Kampung Raja, Kuala Terla, Pos Terisu, Batu 49, Gunung Brinchang, vicinity of Taman Sedia Tanah Rata, Ulu Merah in Ringlet, Shum Yip Leong, Bertam Valley and Pos Menson. In spite of multiple death threats received including live bullets in the mail, tampering of his 4 WD vehicle, he persisted in raising these issues . He fought fiercely to uphold what he believed in -“to safeguard the environment for future generations.”

Through REACH too, Mr Rama and his team succeeded in the publication of the book * Wild Orchids of Cameron Highlands” in 2009. Pictures of 313 local wild orchids were showcased in the book out of a total of 606 species documented. Mr Rama always believed that the natural beauty of Cameron Highlands should be documented and shown to the world. In 2014, REACH succeeded in publishing the book ” Montane Birds of Cameron Highlands”. 102 out of 177 species of Birds in the checklist for Cameron Highlands are showcased in this book.

Mr Rama will be greatly missed by all of us here at REACH but his environmental work continues, albeit with a different style, for there can only be one Mr Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, the hero of Cameron Highlands.