September 3 marked the 11th death anniversary of my dear brother, the late Dr. A. C. S. Hameed, former Foreign Minister and Member of Parliament.
As a Member of Parliament, he represented Harispattuwa, a predominantly Sinhala Buddhist electorate, for an unbroken 39 years. The people of Harispattuwa voted for A. C. S. Hameed from 1960 until his demise in 1999. His nephew M. H. A. Haleem has been representing Harispattuwa since 2000. The Hameed family has represented this region for 50 years, a rare achievement.
Eleven years after his death, my brother is still remembered with affection by the people there.
I was in Harispattuwa during the last general election, and wherever I went, I would meet people of all backgrounds who spoke affectionately of Hameed and remembered with gratitude his work for the community.
It may be no exaggeration to say that Harispattuwa is one of the few electorates where true democracy is practised. The people voted for the man who looked after them.
Hameed set up several organisations to help the poor of Harispattuwa and Kandy district. They were provided with such essentials as roofing sheets, medicines, spectacles, school books, as well as financial assistance for newlyweds.
To mark Hameed’s 11th death anniversary this year, 1,000 pairs of spectacles were distributed among the poor.
It is with pride that we note that career diplomats and other class officers hailing from Harispattuwa have appointments at almost all the Sri Lanka embassies overseas.
Dr. Hameed was also very concerned about the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.
When he became the first Foreign Minister, in 1997, he had the job of promoting Sri Lanka as an investment. As a result of his efforts, a number of foreign companies invested in the Free Trade Zone, giving thousands of Sri Lankans employment and bringing in billions of dollars in foreign exchange.
Before 1977, a guarantor had to sign a bond on behalf of anyone applying for a passport. A. C. S. Hameed persuaded President J. R. Jayewardene to waive this requirement. As a result, Sri Lankan citizens need produce only their national identity card to obtain a passport.Before Hameed’s time, Sri Lankan Muslims had to prove they were not of Indian origin in order to register their deeds.
My brother requested President Jayewardene to change the law so Muslims could register deeds by producing only their Sri Lanka birth certificate.
It was during A. C. S. Hameed’s time as Foreign Minister that embassies were opened in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. Before 1977, Sri Lanka had just one embassy in the African continent, in Egypt.
Hameed was also a good man to his immediate and extended family. Despite a busy schedule, he would be present at all family gatherings.
He enjoyed meeting the villagers, and knew them all by name. He made sure that whatever was promised to them was delivered. Many of us have fond memories of Hameed, holding a Cuban cigar and chatting with the people.
Cartoonists would have great fun drawing Hameed for the newspapers, and Hameed would take all this in good spirit.
The soft-spoken Hameed had no enemies, even among the politicians.
May he be granted a place in Jannathul Firdouse (Paradise) by the All-Mighty Allah.