I am ready to face challenges at any time - Jeevan Thondaman | Sunday Observer

I am ready to face challenges at any time - Jeevan Thondaman

“Appa has never coached me in politics nor has he compelled me to do anything in my life. People who are scared to face challenges undergo pressure. I am ready to face any challenges at any time,” says Jeevan Thondaman, son of late Arumugan Thondaman in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Excerpts:

Q: As the son of the late Minister Arumugam Thondaman, tell us about yourself

A: I had my early education in Colombo. When my Appa (father) was appointed as a Minister, due to security reasons he thought it would be safer for us to study in India. So I continued my school education in Chennai and moved to Malaysia for higher studies. Thereafter, I did my LL.B in London.

Q: How do you describe the late Minister Arumugam Thondaman?

A:For the estate workers Appa was like a father. But for us family members we felt he belonged to the community as he was their leader.

Q: What would you say about your father as a family member and what was your relationship with him?

A: To be honest, I have lost my best friend more than a father. Appa was always a simple and good-humoured person.

I have never seen much difference in how he moves in and outside his family. He treated everyone in the same manner and for him the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) was very much his family.

Q: Can you recall what he said to you on his last day?

A: Actually on his last day we were joking with each other. Finally he called out my name, ‘Jeevan’! The echo of those words still ring in my ears.

Q: Has he ever told you that one day you should take to politics or that you should continue his position?

A: He has never coached me in politics, nor has he compelled me to do anything in my life. But I remember, soon after I returned from London I spoke to Appa once regarding unemployment issues in the estate sector. I asked him, why can’t we do any changes to resolve this issue. At that time he told me, “If you want to make changes, you have to change first. If you wish to, you can contest the election. But keep in mind that you should be honest.”

Q: You are still grieving the loss of your father and suddenly the Ceylon Workers’ Congress has recommended you as their Nuwara Eliya district candidate. How do you feel about this?

A:I don’t feel as though I’m going to inherit a crown. If the people believe that I would solve their problems, they will vote for me. I believe, rather than merely making promises we should make them come true in real life.

Q: Are you ready to contest the upcoming election or are you under pressure by your party members?

A: Pressurised! Why should I be? People who are scared to face challenges undergo pressure. I am ready to face any challenge at any time.

Q: How does your mother and your two sisters view your political intervention?

A: When Iyya (great grandfather, the late Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman passed away, Appa took every one of us to a room and told us to be brave. That’s exactly what my Amma and my sisters have told me. They are my strength. They always advise me to pursue my dreams.

Q: How old are you? Where would you be in the next five years?

A- I am now 25. I have many plans for the next five years but I don’t wish to reveal them now. Everything can change with time and according to the situation.

Q: Can you briefly tell us how the ‘Youth Front’ started and your engagement with it?

A: That was not a new thing to the Ceylon Workers’ Congress. It was already there in an inactive mode. As I said earlier, when I returned after my studies, something that I noticed was a big gap between the leader and the people. I wanted to fill that gap. As a single person it was an impossible task. So I took over the Youth Front and initiated it. At last we were able to fill the gap successfully. And through this Front we were able to help and support the youth in several ways such as sports, jobs, education, scholarships and so on. I am happy for that.

Q: What are the posts you have held in your political party, the CWC?

A: I was the Deputy General Secretary of the party. I then resigned from that post and am now the General Secretary of the Youth Front.

Q: Do you continue with the hope that you will be appointed leader of your party?

A: It will be decided on by the National Council of the CWC. I don’t have any idea regarding that. But definitely whoever is appointed to that position cannot replace Appa.

Q: When is the next National Council meeting of the CWC?

A: I have no idea. I am just a member of the party. The General Secretary of the party will decide that.

Q: You are ‘born with a silver spoon,’ is it possible for you to understand the distress and pain of the estate workers who suffer amid leech stings?

A: I don’t accept that one’s economic status alone could measure his maturity. I may have been born with all the luxury but I am aware of the pain and distress suffered by the people. It differs from person to person. Appa spent his 30 years of life in politics and the final 30 minutes with me. Nobody would understand that pain. So what I wish to say is every human being has a different pain. Without a doubt I can say that I am feeling their distress.

Q: Your father’s final wish for a Rs 1,000 wage hike for estate workers, will it become a reality?

A: Of course. I just won’t let Appa’s final desire to be only a dream. After his demise, the Prime Minister told me to continue the discussions with the companies. I told them, and the companies have agreed to continue the discussions. The Government is also supporting us. So I believe we can make it happen.

Q: What are the major changes you expect to bring about among the youth in the estate sector?

A: I wonder why only teaching appointments are allocated to the estate sector and why these youth confine themselves to the Arts stream. I would like to see many lawyers, doctors and engineers from the estate sector. What I have gathered is there are many talented youth without sufficient guidance.

Q: At a young age you are entrusted with major responsibilities. Are you ready to face the challenges?

A: The whole world is calling for youth to enter politics. So here I am!

Q: Who is your role model in politics?

A:In politics I have learned many things from my Iyya and Appa, but I would like to act in my own capacity according to the times and the situation.

Q: How do you view your cousin, Sendil Thondaman’s growth in politics?

A: Of course, he is doing well in politics. Talking about the family, he brought me up. But when it comes to the party, I won’t give priority to my family members, I will treat everyone alike.

Q: As a youth apart from politics what are your interests?

A: I like to explore, read, and travel.

Q: There was a criticism in social media on the day of your father’s cremation that the CWC and their supporters had defied quarantine law. What is your comment on this?

A: I know, that day when we were moving with Appa’s body all the people on the road were wearing face masks and maintaining social distance. But when we were moving to Pussellawa via Gampola, his supporters suddenly forgot to observe social distancing and started to move towards our vehicle weeping.

I then climbed the vehicle, put my hands together and signalled everyone to maintain their distance. Finally, they listened. Appa has worked for all, Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese for the past 30 years.

The people were overwhelmed by grief at his demise.

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