Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 4


Wesley Muttiah (1930–2007)

As we prepared this issue for the printers we learned of the death of our friend Wesley Muttiah. It seemed right to us to include a brief obituary, even if it could not be fully researched, in the same issue as that for his long-term collaborator Sydney Wanasinghe. It is poignant for us to prepare this notice, as Wesley had always been the source we turned to for information towards the obituaries of the Sri Lanka revolutionaries, and indeed he had provided valuable clarifications and corrections into the obituaries in this issue for Wansinghe and Meryl Fernando.

Wesley’s work in preparing and publishing a central series of books on the history of the LSSP and the revolutionary movement in Sri Lanka has been described in the Wanasinghe obituary.

He was born in 1930, in Thellipallai, Jaffna. He joined the LSSP while a secondary school student in Kandy, before taking a Masters degree in Madras. On returning to Sri Lanka he devoted most of his professional career to working as an inspector in the Labour Department, enforcing the labour laws in the plantation sector. In 1952 he married Tency Fernando, and they had three children.

Following the death of their daughter, the family migrated to London, where Wesley took up teaching, until his retirement. He was an active trade unionist, and in addition was a key contributor to the London branch of the LSSP/NSSP, in which he held the posts of Secretary and Treasurer at different times. He also arranged the publication in England of the NSSP’s election manifesto.

After his retirement he was able to travel regularly to Sri Lanka to research the history of the LSSP, and also to take part in the Democratic Left Front, to the Central Committee and the Executive Committee of which he was elected. In addition he served as the General Secretary of the United Lanka Estate Workers Union.

At a commemorative meeting, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, the Opposition Leader on Colombo Municipal Council and former MP, spoke of Wesley’s self-sacrifice and dedication, and of his great abilities as a mobiliser. Hector Abeywardene, a founding member of the LSSP described Wesley personally selling many copies of the books, travelling long distances around Sri Lanka to take copies to comrades and contacts.

He worked diligently for the unification of the forces of the left, and he saw the publication of the historical studies, especially of What is Socialism? as a key to promoting the discussions necessary for unification.

He was always generous with his knowledge and time towards Revolutionary History, and his family home in North London always offered a hospitable welcome. We extend our condolences to his widow and family.

J.J. Plant

Updated by ETOL: 31.10.2011