By S Munusamy
COMMENT M Sugumaran, who is fondly known as Sugu, is the son of Munisamy Maniam and Sinnamah Sinniah. He was born on April 28, 1961, the second child among seven siblings of parents who are estate workers.
Sugu could only afford to study until Form Three. Even though he only achieved lower secondary education, Sugu went on to become a technician and he continued to assist his parents to tap rubber.
He has been actively involved in social work in his rubber estate since he was 15. He was then very much taken up by the work done by Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj and M Sarasvathy, both of whom are now languishing with him as detainees under the Emergency Ordinance.
Sugu was among the pioneers who began the ‘Kalvi Kuzhu’ or Education Programme for the Poor, in 1986 when he was just 25 years old. He brought in many of his friends and family members to be involved in the programme, including Nathan, Thilaga, Maniam and myself.
By then, he had actively organised tuition classes for primary schoolchildren in five estates around Sungai Siput.
At the age of 30 in 1991, Sugu got married and has been blessed with three children – two girls and a boy. The year he got married was also a defining time for him, for he became a member of Alaigal, a grassroots organisation serving the poor and marginalised in Perak.
Sugu’s main goal was to champion the rights of estate workers, which had been trampled for far too long. He engaged relentlessly in pushing for, among others, housing rights, monthly income for estate workers, land rights and farming rights for farmers in Sungai Siput and in the surrounding locations.
Sugu was many times apprehended by the police but he is so driven by his causes that nothing deters him from campaigning to ensure human rights for every single person who has been marginalised.
In 1998, at the age of 37, Sugu took another step forward by becoming a member of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) in the Sungai Siput branch. When he turned 47 in 2008, Sugu was appointed chairperson of the branch. On June 4, PSM held its annual congress in Sungai Siput and Sugu was elected as a central committee member.
Sugu is also popular among members of PSM because of his ability to sing very well. He is able to perform the songs of struggles with his clear voice, some of which became instant hits among his listeners.
And since 1986, Sugu has untiringly hosted the ‘Titisan Peluh’ (Drops of Perspiration) programme in conjunction with the annual Workers’ Day celebration on May 1.
No matter how involved he is in his work for society, Sugu has never neglected his role as a father. He gives his full attention to the education of his children, their financial needs and welfare.
It has been almost a month since Sugu was detained under the draconian Emergency Ordinance. The reasons for his detention are unbelievably ridiculous. His family is anxiously awaiting his return, and it is truly remarkable see the collective strength his family has summoned in confronting the crisis.
We call on the government to release unconditionally the six political detainees from PSM. This draconian law must also be abolished. – Mkini
S MUNUSAMY is a member of Parti Sosialis Malaysia.