Plus - Appreciations

He was a true son of Sri Lanka, loved by one and all

M. A. Bakeer Markar

It is seldom that people commemorate the characters of men, after their demise. Those, who are remembered by most in that capacity in all times, are certainly considered as “martyrs” in some esteemd portals. I will not hesitate to rank the late Deshamanya Al-Haj M.A. Bakeer Markar of Beruwela, as one of the most noble characters, who deserves to be commemorated by all, irrespective of ethnic differences.

He was born in 1917, received his primary education at St. Sebastian’s School, Hulftsdorp and had his higher education at Zahira College, Colombo. He was from a respectable family of Beruwela, where his father was a successful Ayurvedic physician, who instilled the importance of education in the mind of his son and his nephews.

At Zahira College, he came under the guidance of late Dr. T.B. Jayah, who was the Principal of Zahira and held a number of responsible positions, such as Editor of the College Magazine, President of the College Majlis and the Literary Association, all with excellence.He acquired the art of public speaking and was eloquent in all three languages.

Hence, he was selected to “second the vote” of thanks to the Governor of Ceylon, Sir Andrew Caldecott, at the College Prize giving. He also proved his patriotism to the motherland, by joining the Civil Defence Force during 2nd World War days.

He entered Law College in 1940, and passed out as a proctor of the Supreme Court. He was a respected lawyer in Kalutara Courts and established a reputation for his sincerity for the cause of his clients. He enjoyed a successful legal practice in the courts of the Southern Province.

When he entered politics, he was able to come into contact with two eminent and veteran Muslim politicians of high calibre, who influenced and strengthened him.

He began his political life as a member of the Beruwela Urban Council in 1950. In 1960 he was elected as MP Beruwela. Again in 1965, he was re-elected to the same constituency. In 1977, he was elected as MP for Beruwela, with an overwhelming majority. In 1978, he was elected as the Speaker of the House. He remained in this position until 1983. In 1983 he was appointed as a Cabinet Minister without portfolio. Thereafter, in 1988, he was made the first Governor of the Southern Province and continued in this post till 1993. His name is immortalized in the Parliamentary history of Sri Lanka, being the last Speaker of the old Parliament and, the first Speaker of the new Parliament.

He was an accomplished parliamentarian and truly, a dedicated representative of his people. He was impartial and strived to promote harmony among all ethnic groups. He served the people, who trusted him. He also notably supported the move to make Sinhala the Official Language of Sri Lanka in 1955.
One of his striking qualities was his loyalty to his party. He was sincere in his commitment, his courage to defend righteousness, and his simplicity, in his dealings with all men, irrespective of race, religion or party affiliations.

“Honesty and integrity” were the hallmark qualities of late Bakeer Markar. Youth development and fostering the youth for community development and service, was another aspect, which he actively promoted. He founded the All Ceylon Muslim Youth Front, which is now being successfully continued by his son Mr. Imtiaz Bakeer Markar.His services in the field of education, towards the Muslim Community were unique. He dedicated himself to enhance the standard of education amongst all the youth of Southern Province. His great contribution was more felt by the Sinhala community and that is why, he was elected to Beruwela constituency, where a majority of Sinhala people live.

He had a “taste for elegant sartorial perfection”, and loved to dress well. Everyone, irrespective of race or religion considered him, as a true son of Sri Lanka.

May he attain Jennath-ul-Firdouse.

Deshabandu M. Macky Hashim

He built bridges between all communities in the whole country

Dr. Abdul Cader Shahul Hameed’s 11th Death Anniversary was on September 3

In 1956, Dr Hameed actively got involved in politics and joined the United National Party (UNP). He contested Akurana (Multimember Constituency) in 1960 and since then he was consecutively re-elected in eight elections, counting 39 years in Parliament without a break-a rare distinction for a Parliamentarian in Sri Lanka.

When the UNP won the General Election in 1977 under the leadership of the late J. R. Jayewardene, Dr. Hameed was appointed as the Foreign Minister, a portfolio held by the Head of state from 1948 – 1977.
In 1977, Akurana constituency was changed to Harispattuwa (multimember constituency), reducing about 3,500 Muslim votes and attaching them to the Yatinuwara electorate.

He was loved by all in Harispattuwa which had a majority of 86% Sinhalese community votes and only 14% Muslim votes. Dr. Hameed was a true believer in democracy and served the people who voted for him, all communities alike. In 1970, only eight members of the UNP were elected in the country and he was one of them and went on to become the first MP in 1977 by winning with a majority of 25,000 votes.

He worked from his heart without any bias for the benefit of Harispattuwa. Roads were constructed connecting all the villages, new double storied schools were built in the electorate, water and electricity facilities were also provided.In addition jobs were given to many whether in teaching, the railway, harbour, foreign employment and other government departments.

He also built a ‘Seema Malaka’ on the Mahaweli Banks at Haloluwa and two ‘Bauddha Mandala’, one in Katugastota and another in Alawathugoda. He made special donations to the Buddhist temples, mosques, Hindu temples and churches in Harispattuwa, building a bridge between all communities in the country and in Harispattuwa.

Before 1977, our country had a closed economy policy. In 1977 when it became an open economy under President Jayewardene, Dr. Hameed met most heads of state around the world to bring in investment to the country. This resulted in the setting up of hundreds of factories by foreign companies, creating thousands of jobs for all Sri Lankans. Even today, most of those factories still function in Sri Lanka.

Before 1977, we had one or two embassies in the West Asia and Dr. Hameed realized the job potential there. At that time there was also a restriction in issuing of passports in Sri Lanka and he made this easier so that anyone who submitted their Birth Certificate and National Identity Card could apply for a passport.

During Dr. Hameed’s period as Foreign Minister, he opened up Embassies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Libya, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea etc. With the help of these Embassies especially in West Asian countries, thousands of Sri Lankans were able to get jobs and even today it is one of the highest modes of foreign exchange, bringing millions of dollars to Sri Lanka.

Dr. Hameed was an educationist at heart. In 1956, he formed an association “Central Ceylon Muslim Assembly’’ comprising educated and business people, to look into the needs of the Muslim community in the Central Province. A deputation of this assembly led by Dr. Hameed met the then Minister of Education, Dr. W. Dahanayake under S.W.R.D Bandaranaike’s government and put forward 39 requests for the Central Ceylon Muslims and out of those, 19 requests were granted.

Two of the main requests worth mentioning are that any school which had 50% Muslim students should be named Muslim Vidyalaya, which was earlier named as Tamil Vidyalaya. The second request was to set up a Muslim Training College in Kandy. This too became a reality with the training college coming up in Heerassagala. Until then Muslim teachers from the Central Province had to go to teacher training colleges in the south or north east.

The Government of 1970 also restricted Muslims from registering their deeds, as they had to prove that they were citizens of Sri Lanka. Dr. Hameed made an appeal to President Jayewardene and he made an order that the Muslims too could register their deeds by submitting their Birth Certificate.

Dr. Hameed was the Chairman of the Ministerial Conference of the Non Aligned Movement (1977 – 1979). He visited many countries in Asia as an envoy of the United Nations to solicit support for the UN Conference on new renewable sources of energy. He also served on the UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Studies for 10 years.

He was a proponent of greater understanding among South Asian nations for the resolution of common problems facing the people of the South Asia Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC). In 1981, he inaugurated the first meeting of Foreign Secretaries of South Asian Countries held in Colombo to explore prospects for SAARC.

Apart from serving as Foreign Minister for 12 years, he also served as Minister of Justice and Minister of Higher Education. During his term as Minister of Higher Education, two Vice Chancellors were gunned down and a tense situation prevailed in the Universities. However, he succeeded in calming down what could have been a volatile situation.

From 1994 – 1997, he served as the Chairman for the UNP. In 1978, the South Korean Hanuk University conferred an honorary Doctorate in Political Science on Dr. Hameed. In 1990, the Sri Jayawardenapura University also conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Dr. Hameed. He always found time to write, a hobby since childhood. He authored and published four books after taking up active politics.

They are, Foreign policy perspective of Sri Lanka, Selected speeches 1977 – 1987; In pursuit of peace on non align movement and regional cooperation; The Owl and the Lotus - in English/French and The spring of love and mercy – a spiritual book of poem. He was also actively involved in trying to find a solution to the decade-old ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. He earned the trust of both parties, the Sinhalese leaders and the Tamil Tigers, as they knew he was sincere in his efforts to bring about a solution.

It is interesting to note some of the thoughts expressed by some of the leaders of our country after his demise including that of Adele Balasinghe. An article, titled “Skills of negotioations”, by Prof. G.L.Peiris that appeared in th Daily News in 2006 stated, “the Late Shahul Hameed was above all a man of great gentleness and compassion. He was a true friend. He talked and walked with characteristic gentleness which pervaded the entirety of his personality. His word was his bond.

These are qualities which he upheld in all aspects of his life and politics was no exception. There was also one other guiding principle which illuminated the whole of Dr. Hameed’s political career. He believed from the very fibre of his being that political power if it is to be justified must be applied towards purposes which are beneficial to the community at large. He had no use whatsoever for the trappings of political power. ’’

Bradman Weerakoon in his article to the Sunday Times, dated September 2, 2001, described A.C.S Hameed as a courageous man of peace. He will always be remembered for the sustained effort he made towards negotiating a political settlement to the ethnic conflict. He was centrally involved in at least three major attempts made during the 15 years to resolve Sri Lanka’s intractable armed conflict through negotiation namely the Indo – Sri Lanka agreement of 1987, the Premadasa talks of 1989 -1990 and the all party conference of 1990 – 1992 of which he was Vice Chairman.

Dr. Rajitha Senarathne, in an article in the Sunday Times said, ‘’more than 35 years ago, when I was graduating from Student activism to mainstream politics, there was one person whom I loved to listen in Parliament. I admired his wit, lucid language and style in putting across the hardest argument with ease , catching his opponent off the mark with cunning and diplomacy.

That was A.C.S. Hameed, the rotund politician from Akurana with a small physique and a large intellect. Hameed had been a master at conflict resolution throughout his political career. In fact, his diplomacy made him the only political leader from the South to meet the LTTE leader Prabhakaran to date. Hameed was not only an International Diplomat competent in handling foreign delegations and conflicting issues, but also a very local homegrown politician”.

Adele Balasingham in her book, ‘’The will to freedom’’ , described Dr Hameed , “although small in physique, Mr. Hameed in my view was a man of great stature, whether it was his patience that contributed to his skilled diplomacy or his years as a Foreign Minister that had fostered his infinite patience. My knowledge of him was insufficient to decide, but certainly patience was an admirable characteristic of Mr Hameed, it made him a wise man. Also his intellect was as sharp as a razor. When Mr Hameed sat down at the negotiating table, he came well armed with specific objectives and a well thought out strategy to achieve them. Indeed, he planned his argument as if playing a game of chess”.
May the Almighty Allah grant my Brother ‘’Jannatul Firdous’’.

A.C.A. Ghafoor

Beloved cousin who always put his extended family first

Piyalal Premakumara Thammanagoda

We will forever cherish the memory of Piyalal Premakumara Thammanagoda of Kadugannawa. He passed away in June 2011, aged 87. The passing away of Welegedera Appachchi (or Mâma), my father’s oldest cousin, marks the end of a special era in our family.

He embodied the ideals of loyalty, hospitality, and constancy – a particular moral way of being that few emulate in an age where the urgency of the present tends to undermine our ability to be constant, especially in our relationships.

My late grandparents and my great-grandparents, according to my father, appreciated Welegedera Appachchi’s sense of loyalty to his family. He used to often remind my father that his mother died when he was just three years old. My great-grandfather brought him to our ancestral home in Kadugannawa, where he grew up to be an indispensable member of the family.

He had the opportunity to join his younger brothers in Colombo and follow his father by joining the Ceylon Government Railways. But my great-grandfather wanted him to remain in Kadugannawa to manage the family estate and oversee the bringing up of the younger cousins.

My father and his sisters remember that it was Welegedera Appachchi (Aiyâ to them) who would drop them off at boarding school, and faithfully pick them up for the holidays and accompany them to the tea estate where my grandfather worked.

My grandparents would have drawn found great comfort from having Welçgedera Appachchi by their side. Quiet and unpretentious, Welegedera Appachchi never talked about the personal sacrifices he must have made for the sake of the family. He married at the late age of 37. His sense of loyalty had made him ensure that his younger cousins were able to take care of themselves before he moved on to start his own family.

Welegedera Appachchi’s home was an open house, where a delicious meal was available any time of day. There was no such thing as “an inconvenient time” to visit him. Although somewhat reserved, he conveyed warmth and affection in his smile.

He would often rise as early as 3 a.m. to help his wife with the cooking. He took great pride in his culinary achievements, especially his stuffed chilies and caramel pudding.

When my parents moved to Kadugannawa, following my father’s retirement, Welegedera Appachchi would often drop by with food. It was his way of welcoming my father back to his ancestral home and making sure he did not feel lonely.

Over the years, Welçgedera Appachchi did his duty by his immediate and extended family. He was a constant presence at any family occasion – accepting recognition in his unassuming way, and showing no dismay if overlooked. His constancy marked Welegedera Appachchi as a man of distinction.
We will miss you, Welegedera Appachchi, as will your beloved wife Lalitha and your children Kumari, Amila, Samudra, Lakmali, Kanchana, and Chandana. May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Asha, Bishan and Sanjeeva

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