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Thousands pay their respects to veteran Sri Lankan Trotskyist Wije Dias at his funeral

On Saturday, nearly a thousand family members, comrades and well-wishers gathered at the Borella Cemetery in Colombo, from all parts of the country, to pay their last respects to the late comrade Wije Dias, President of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), the Sri Lankan branch of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

The pallbearers of the coffin of comrade Wije Dias [Photo: WSWS] [Photo: WSWS]

The coffin containing Wije’s remains was carried to the cemetery by a solemn procession of 500 people, including SEP members and supporters, who walked the two kilometers from the funeral home. The Internationale was played throughout the march.

Wije Dias died on the morning of July 27 of a massive heart attack, just a month before his 81st birthday. His body remained at Jayaratne Respect Home in Borella, Colombo, since Thursday morning for those who wished to pay their last respects.

He was a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), the predecessor of the SEP. After the untimely death of Keerthi Balasuriya, the founding general secretary of the LRC, in December 1987, Wije assumed the responsibility of general secretary until last May, when he was elected to the new post of party chairman.

For three days, nearly 2,000 people from all parts of the island came to pay their respects, including SEP members, supporters, family members, artists, intellectuals, workers and students. Groups from the North and South as well as Central Plantation Districts turned out for the funeral despite severe transport disruptions caused by a severe fuel shortage.

Part of the funeral procession [Photo: WSWS] [Photo: WSWS]

Comrade Wije’s death and funeral was reported with photos on several private and state television stations in their prime time newscasts with brief commentary on Wije’s political role. Major Sinhalese, Tamil, and English newspapers also ran major stories that all referred to Dias as an uncompromising fighter who devoted his adult life to Trotskyism, and mentioned the SEP and its relationship with the ICFI.

the DailyMirror, a widely circulated English-language newspaper, titled its report “Legendary Trotskyist Wije Dias no more.” the Sri Lanka Mirrordeclared: “The deceased Sri Lankan Trotskyist icon”.

The funeral procession led by party members dressed in red attracted the attention of many people on the side of the roads. A banner at the front of the procession displayed his photo with the inscription ‘Our revolutionary salute to comrade Wije Dias, president of the SEP, the Sri Lankan section of the ICFI’. Members of action committees for health, education and plantations carried banners with messages of condolence.

The entire funeral was streamed live on the SEP’s Facebook page which had an audience of nearly 1,000 people, including from the United States, Europe, Australia, India, the Middle East and from several other countries. So far, more than 3000 people have watched the video and nearly 450 people have shared it. Many people, including members of sister SEP parties, commented, adding their messages of condolences and revolutionary greetings.

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