Tuesday, August 03, 2010
On the 4 August,2007, our dear friend Wesley, parted from us leaving an empty space among his friends, all those who loved him, and had come to know him well.
Looking back at what a fiery political party LSSP was, and what it represented to Wesley, one feels sad that Tissa Vitarana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara are only the remaining embers of a dying fire.
If Wesley was there today he would still have refused to believe that, he would have rather said that they are like the glow of an ebbing sun that announces its rising again, like the LSSP coming back again to revitalise socialism in the uncertain political scene of Sri Lanka, where the people have not given up their resolve to weather the storms to chase political uncertainties, to await the hopeful message of Socialism that LSSP once brought to the historical political scene of Sri Lanka in the nineteen thirties.
That was the political commitment of Wesley. He sought no name, gain, or public applause. He was satisfied being in the background, doing his utmost to bring the message of the LSSP where ever he found himself. He was a dedicated “Samasamjist” who kept LSSP vigorously alive from his youth to end of his life .
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 the memories and the work left behind.
Wesley did not seek to convert any one to LSSP. But when speaking to those he met, his loyalty to the party and the principled attachment to socialism showed in his convincing arguments such that, those who listened understood that LSSP has more to it than what they had thought , and did not hesitate to accept an invitation to a meeting he organised.
That was Wesley , whether in Matale where he was working as a Labour Officer, or in UK where he was a teacher, and a Student member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.
In Matale, his work took him to the tea plantations, where he came in contact with the poor, then neglected 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, at his own expense, and with the help of his friends, set up workshops around Nuwaraeliya, and Talawakele 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 " concept from him, giving himself selflessly to the cause of LSSP. He would willingly sacrifice even his own personal aspirations for the cause of the Party.
When he started organising the LSSP Group in London, he was preparing for the London Bar Examinations from the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn. But organising the LSSP Group took most of his time. He therefore had to choose between the Organising of the London LSSP Group, or preparing for the Bar Examinations. He chose the former, hoping to do the Bar Examinations later.
He was dedicated to the cause of LSSP, but significantly not as a political activist, but a loyal party member to promote the party among the people. Unfortunately, the LSSP lacks members like him today , and that is why the LSSP is in a sorry state, slowly fading in to oblivion.
Wesley stood by the Party giving his time and energy, through out its different phases of existence. Even when every thing seemed bleak, and the future of the party uncertain, Wesley did not relent his enthusiastic support, he intensely believed in a resurgence of the LSSP.
Wesley was a Christian not merely because his father was a Pastor, but Jesus was for him the symbol of the suffering poor exploited by the owners of the wealth and capital, LSSP was a way out for the mass of the poor people exploited by the rich and wealthy, to rise above their seemingly hopeless conditions of existence.
Wesley was always present as a member of the LSSP, to gather the sympathisers for a meeting, at an informal party, at his home or some place, to talk about matters relating to the LSSP , and inform them of the role they have to play to have a different political system that embraced the working class without any ethnic difference.
In the context of the sad state into which the LSSP has fallen to-day , one bitterly feels the absence of the people of the calibre of Wesley to revitalise the LSSP and keep it alive , organising workshops, lectures, and meetings to attract the attention of the sympathisers and well-wishers of the party. Wesley believed that if LSSP is to find its rightful place in Sri Lankan politics, it has to be with the people all the time not just during elections, to fold camps afterwards, until the next election time.
Wesley 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), " Socialist Women of Sri Lanka" (2006), and "Colvin R de Silva: Selected speeches and writings", (2007).
These books tell the story of a wonderful political adventure, at times romantic, some times tragic , and often of an absorbing interest, about those who wanted to change the attitude of a people who were allowing themselves to be exploited by those who owned the land and wealth.
It also tells how the people, despite their cultural traditions and religious fervour were inspired by the pioneers of Marxism in Sri Lanka, and changed their way of thinking forcing the existing political system to accept principles of socialism.
This recorded history of the left movement of Sri Lanka will stand a monument to the memory of Wesley Muthiah.