Thursday, July 31, 2008
Commemorating the First death Anniversary of Wesley Muthiah
On the 4 August,2007, one year ago our dear friend Wesley, parted from us leaving an emptiness amidst those who loved him, and all those who had come to know him well. A memorial to Commemorate his life and work will be held in London by his family on the 9th August,2008.
More often, people are taken for granted when they are living and active. But once a person has departed, we begin to see him differently, for what he was in reality, we question, we begin to see what is missing since he had left us, and we measure him from his work, and memories he had left behind.
Wesley seemed to be a man in a hurry, a man who did not waste time with small talk, but came strait to the subject he had in mind, and walked away cheerfully as he came, leaving behind an indelible aura of his endearing personality, friendly disposition, and his inert goodness.
That is how I remember him, when I met him fifty years ago in Matale. He spoke to me about socialism, and having gauged my interest in what he had been talking, and being assured of my political sympathies, invited me to his home to meet a few of his friends with whom he proposed to form a LSSP Group in Matale. He was able to generate the enthusiasm of every one present and the Matale LSSP Group , thanks to him, took wings that day. It turned out to become an active group.
Wesley was a Labour Officer, in Matale, and his work took him to the tea plantations, where he met the poorest of the poor in Sri Lanka- the Tamil Estate Workers. The contact with these poor people, gave meaning to his political work. He was determined to help them to rise above their suffering. He organised the Matale Estate Workers Union, with a liaisons officer. as a contact man between the Estate workers and the LSSP Group in Matale.
Even after leaving Sri Lanka, Wesley did not forget his dear Estate workers. He collected Sewing machines, type writers, and computers, and with the help of his friends, set up workshops in the upcountry to help the children of the Estate workers.
Wesley was a socialists, who did not seek fame, popularity, political position, financial gain or self aggrandisement. He was a selfless man- a kind we rarely meet. He had taken away the “ I , and Me “ complex, giving himself selflessly to the cause of LSSP. At the time he organised the LSSP Group in London, he had been admitted to the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. He had to read for his Bar Examinations, but the organising and keeping alive the LSSP Group, left no time to prepare for Examinations.
He was dedicated to the cause of LSSP, and stood by it unwaveringly through out its different phases of existence. Even when every thing was bleak , Wesley was looking forward to a resurgence of the LSSP.
Marx’s dictum that the religion is the opium of the masses, was taken out of context by the forces against Marxism to make it unpopular. But Marxism stood for a political system that could alleviate the suffering of the poor masses. The world has changed and the Church has evolved. When the Roman rich sought entertainment, throwing gladiators into arenas to meet their death, Jesus spread the words of love and peace to the poor Romans. Significantly, Jesus performed miracles for the benefit of the poor.
Wesley knew to separate religion, from politics. He was a Christian not merely because his father was a Pastor, but because he felt the Presence of God. He did not take issues with any religion. Once when I said that Buddhism dos not believe in a self, he turned to me with a smile and said, “I breath therefore I am”.
He with his gentle ways, was able to bring his Church to the cause of socialism. His beloved wife, had even organised needlework, and language classes to the poor members of the congregation of their Church in Sri Lanka. He had introduced traditional decorations, and drummers to Church Ceremonies.
Socialism was in his blood, it came from within him. It made him frank, honest and likeable. He was comfortable in a socialist surrounding, wherever it was. He once came to France, along with his wife to attend a Festival Organised by the French Workers Union. He came with a load of books written in English. When I told him that the crowds at the Festival will be mainly French, and books written in English may not interest them, he laughed at me, and took the whole load of books to the Festival Ground. Before, the lunch hour was announced, Wesley had not only sold the whole load of books, but had also made a number of contacts, who had given their addresses to him, asking him to send the book by post !!
He was an endearing person, to my knowledge he made only friends, and no enemies. He would hardly say a harsh word, though he liked to tease others, and laugh when they take offence ! He did not impose his point of view. He accepted criticism of the LSSP, and gave possible reasons for the errors committed by the Party. However, if the criticism was not justified he would quote from books, relate incidents and go all out to prove that the criticism was not justified.
The greatest contribution of Wesley, not only to the LSSP and the Left Moment of Sri Lanka but also to future generations of politicians, historians, and students, is his writings. When the Public Records Office of London released the secret files documenting Britain’ s persecution of Ceylonese anti-war freedom fighters, Wesley conceived the idea of writing the history of the LSSP and the Left Movement in Sri Lanka.
He contacted late Sydney Wanasinghe, a fellow member of the Party and got him interested in his projected. This partnership, resulted in the issue of the first book, “Britain, World War 2 & the Sama Samjists”, in January,1996, followed by, “ Bracegirdle Affair” (1998), “ We Were Making History”, (2002), “The Case for Socialism”(2004), “Two Languages One Nation-One Language Two Nations” (2005) and “ Socialist Women of Sri Lanka” (2006).
These works will stand a monument to Wesley’s dedication to the cause of LSSP, and the Left Movement of Sri Lanka.
His beloved wife Tencey- patient and devoted stood by him through out his long service to the cause of the LSSP and the Socialist Left Movement of Sri Lanka. Later on he had the support of his two affectionate sons Ninesh and Romesh, and then his two daughters-in-law Nina and Geeta. He was a happy grandfather, and adored his grandson Rawishan.
May he Rest In Peace.