Tribute to comrade S. Somahsundram

Rani just texted me, shocked and sad that our comrade and friend, the tireless unionist Somasundram (Bala) passed away suddenly. She just spoke to him yesterday. The news was too shocking to be true. But finally, the reality sank in.

Somahsundram (Bala) was a veteran unionist and the Executive Secretary of the Paper & Paper Products Manufacturing Employees Union (PPPMEU) as well as a General Council Member of the MTUC. To the working class he was a true comrade and fighter, totally dedicated to the defence of their rights and well-being.

A few days ago, Soma was responding to my text seeking donations to support my service centre. He asked for the account number. He has been constantly supporting our service centre in spite of having not much to spare.

He was always a tireless fighter for workers’ rights. He was always loud and clear. He was the kind of unionist whom you know will not sell out the workers. One thing about him, is he always looks worn out. I have been told that his health had been poor in the past few years yet that did not deter him from working hard and spending long hours on his union work. I have heard of him staying up to 5 am to prepare his Section 20 cases to perfection before going to the Industrial Court the next day. His discipline and stamina were hard to match. He apologized for having to scold young activists if they didn’t have discipline. He used to say this work representing workers is a serious job.

Last month, he kept reminding me about one important matter. He said PSM should go to court to get the right to represent workers in the Industrial Court. He told me to just get a lawyer and file the case and he wanted to chip in money for that. He said people who were really helping workers should be given the right to represent workers. Of course he grumbled about the many career unionists.

PSM has lost a great friend and comrade. A person who has attended our programmes; trained and advised many of us on the laws regarding industrial disputes and union activism. In recent times, he had done training for our lorry drivers coalition as well as our contract workers coalition. He was always resourceful. He had a soft spot for non-unionized lorry drivers (in fact he had a soft spot for all workers), and was always trying to think of and suggest ways and means to organise them.

His loss leaves a big void for us, the same way when comrade Alfred and Kathaiah left us. This class of unionists were a remarkable lot with their wealth of experience, principles, and their determination to struggle come what may.

We say goodbye to this great friend of workers. PSM expresses its condolences to his family and comrades. Comrade Soma, enjoy some rest now.

Deputy Chairperson
Parti Sosialis Malaysia
11.59pm 21-2-2021

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