Mrs. Mashmoon Lye was born on June 18, 1908, and passed away peacefully on June 18, 1990.
She was the first woman member of the Colombo Malay Cricket Club and the All Ceylon Malay Association - both premier organisations of the Malay community.
Mrs. Lye helped these institutions in numerous ways by organizing get-togethers and bringing the womenfolk into the limelight, helping them find employment, seek higher education and learn various skills like hair-styling, cookery, dress-making, music, oriental dancing, and so on.
As a further step towards helping her community, she thought of a way to ameliorate the conditions of the less fortunate. She decided that if each member of the association and others were to collect “a rupee a day”, a good amount would be collected over a year and a start could be made to render much assistance to the less fortunate around us.
Thus in 1953 was born her idea of establishing a “Rupee Fund”. A few pooh-poohed the idea as coming from a lady unacquainted with finance and administration. But others saw her vision. She decided to go ahead with her project to help the less fortunate and make her idea a reality. With the support of many members, she formed the All Ceylon Malay Association Rupee Fund. Hard work over three years met with recognition from many government departments. The then Governor-General, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, invited her to hold a meeting of the general committee at Queen’s House (now President’s House). A rare honour indeed. Another venture was a Milk Feeding Centre, where over 300 undernourished children gathered every morning for their glass of milk. Her thoughts turned to talented students who could not continue their higher studies for financial reasons.
She established a Higher Education Scholarship Scheme in 1959 to provide scholarships for such students. Many of the beneficiaries are serving the nation as doctors, engineers, architects, agriculturists, accountants and technicians. The scholarship scheme continues. Mrs. Lye was one of the first Muslim women in Sri Lanka to emerge from the traditional role of housewife to get involved in service to the community.
In 1967, she and her husband B. Zahiere Lye, a former Appointed Member of Parliament and founder of the Padang Complex Colombo 2, visited Malaysia as guests of the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahaman, to attend the 10th Merdeka anniversary celebration. One of the popular newspapers had a special article about Mrs. Lye with the heading, “She’s Mother to Ceylon Malays”, giving prominence to all she had done to lift up the community.
History was created at the Padang Complex, Colombo 2, in March 1973 when Malays unveiled her portrait for her signal services to the community.
Although she is no more in our midst, her life’s work for the community in general and for the poor and needy in particular will live for ever in the memory of the many families whose lives she touched.