The Sinhala lawmakers coming in their numbers to pay respects to the late Ceylon Workers’Congress (CWC) President Arumugan Thondaman remind us of something that needs to be changed in this country. People in power need to do more for the living rather than for the dead.
It was good to see lawmakers from all walks of life gathering in their numbers to pay respects to this great leader of the working class; the people getting to have a glimpse of the remains of Thondaman which were kept at several locations, including the Ceylon Workers Congress Headquarters in Kollupitiya.
Fingers were pointed at some of the lawmakers attending this funeral for not following COVID-19 regulations. Would lawmakers go out of their ways and even put their health at risk to give the people the late Thondaman represented-the estate workers- a better ticket to life?
The heavy weights of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna have given Jeevan, Thondaman’s son, the greenlight to contest from the Pohottuwa Party at the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The national question is being looked upon from two angles. One if the solving of woes related to the estate workers; chief among which is granting them a daily wage of Rs 1000.
But from a larger mainstream politics perspective the national question revolves around demands made by the TNA which is the main constituent party of the ITAK. The TNA in its election manifesto, released in Jaffna, demands the merging of the North and the East to ensure lasting peace. Among other demands the TNA wants the reviving of the Office of the Missing Persons and the Office of Repatriation to provide answers and justice for the war effected people.
The TNA has a way of pushing the party or alliance favoured to win any election to the wall with its demands. What might be of concerns to the Rajapaksa led caretaker government is that the upcoming Parliamentary Elections are fought in a different manner compared to the Presidential Elections and requires the support of the minorities. The TNA or ITAK influenced Tamil votes in districts like Batticaloa, Jaffna, Nuwara Eliya, Vanni and Trincomalee went to New Democratic Front candidate Sajith Premadasa and not the winner, Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the last presidential elections. Even at present the TNA or ITAK influenced block vote would be cast for the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) candidates because they share the ideologies of its leader Sajith Premadasa who is viewed favourably by the Tamil community, both within the North and East and the estate community.
But the estate Tamils don’t fall within the framework of TNA politicians. A good many of them not having land, housing and most importantly voting rights has made the problems associated with estate workers of Indian origins not the ‘baby’ of political parties, but that of trade unions. The subtle line that is drawn separating any problem from a solution related to the Tamil communities in the North, East and in the estate sector is greatly influenced by the caste system.
Given that the caste system is somewhat lesser important in shaping voting trends in the estate sector a person life Jeevan Thondaman could be the ideal person to make the estate sector view the whole voting process from a larger perspective that captures aspects like national security and an overall healthy economy.
But the young Jeevan, sporting a degree and living most of his life overseas in India and England, sees opposition from the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) which comprises the Democratic People’s Front, the National Union of Workers and the Upcountry People’s Front, which worked together to emerge the victor at the Parliamentary Elections in 2015. But the CWC came back in the Local Government Polls in 2018 and saw its representatives obtain top positions in several councils.
The contest for parliamentary slots between candidates representing the estate sector draws much interest because where the Tamil block vote from the areas most affected by the war is going is a foregone conclusion.
If the Tamil community wants to demand anything of substance for themselves this is the time to do so from their Tamil representatives who seek their vote to enter parliament.