Veteran Trotskyist, SEP Chairman Wije Dias dies aged 80

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The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), announces with great sorrow the loss, this morning, of Party Chairman and veteran Trotskyist, Comrade Wije Dias. He was a leader of the ICFI and a member of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site. He was rushed to the Jayewardenepura hospital where he died following a massive heart attack. He would have celebrated his 81st birthday on 27 August.

The death of Comrade Wije is a great loss for the SEP, in particular the ICFI as a whole and the working class in Sri Lanka, South Asia and internationally. He was an intransigent fighter for more than half a century for the Trotskyist principles of international socialism that embody the interests of the working class in Sri Lanka and around the world.

Comrade Wije was a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist League (RCL), the predecessor, and the SEP established in June 1968 to take up the fight for Trotskyism in the wake of the Lanka Sama Samaja’s (LSSP) betrayal in 1964 when it entered the bourgeois government of Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike.

Comrade Wije, then a young member of the LSSP, was a leading figure in the group of youth who opposed the betrayal and, under the ICFI’s guidance, drew the necessary political lessons and laid the RCL’s firm political foundations.

After the tragic and untimely death of the RCL’s founding General Secretary Keerthi Balasuriya in December 1987, Comrade Wije was elected to fill the post. He was the General Secretary of the RCL, the then SEP right up until the latest congress in May when he was elected Party Chairman.

Comrade Wije Dias led the Party to bring about political independence of the working class from all the parties of political establishment, its pseudo-left hangers-on and trade union agencies. Despite his age and poor health, he played a key role in charting a revolutionary socialist course for the working class and rural toilers amid the current popular uprising against the Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe governments and their agenda of austerity and repression.

His loss is particularly felt amid this unprecedented economic, political and social crisis in Sri Lanka, the sharpest expression of the global crisis of capitalism. However, his powerful political legacy lives on in the cadre of the SEP and political work of the ICFI which continue his lifelong struggle for a socialist future for humanity.

Remains of late Comrade Wije Dias lie at ‘Jayaratne Respect Home’, Kanatta Road, Borella to pay last respects from 9 a.m. on Thursday, 28 July to Saturday, 30 July. Cortege leaves ‘Jayaratne Respect Home’ at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 30 July for Borella Cemetery; ‘funeral gathering’ at 3 p.m. and cremation at 5 p.m.

Deepal Jayasekera, SEP General Secretary