A dedicated people’s representative MOHAMMED BAKEER MARKAR Deshamanya Marhoom Al Haj Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar’s ancestry is traced to Sheik Jamaluddeen-Al-Maghdoomi, an Arab settler who settled down in Beruwala. His father Hakeem Alia Marikkar Mohomed Marikkar belonged to a family of physicians whose ancestors too were physicians. He was born in Beruwala on May 12, [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



A dedicated people’s representative
Deshamanya Marhoom Al Haj Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar’s ancestry is traced to Sheik Jamaluddeen-Al-Maghdoomi, an Arab settler who settled down in Beruwala. His father Hakeem Alia Marikkar Mohomed Marikkar belonged to a family of physicians whose ancestors too were physicians.

He was born in Beruwala on May 12, 1917 and educated at Zahira College, Colombo under the tutelage of Principal Dr. T.B. Jayah. He held a number of responsible and honorary positions at Zahira, such as Editor of the College magazine, President of the college Majilis and the Literary Association.

He entered the Colombo Law College in the 1940s and had a lucrative practice. He was elected President of the Kalutara District Branch of the Bar Association of Ceylon. Since childhood, his humble qualities which I presume were the road to achieve greatness, won respect from people of all walks of life. No wonder he was drawn to politics and the public moved to elect him as their representative.

Bakeer Markar’s life as a politician was even more illustrious than his life as a lawyer. He was an elected member of the Beruwala Urban Council and later its Chairman. He was the MP for Beruwala from March 1960 and from April 1965 to March 1970. He was the Deputy Speaker from August 4, 1977 to September 7, 1978, the Speaker from September 1978 to August 1983, a Cabinet Minister and the Governor of the Southern Province from June 13, 1988 to December 1993. He even served as acting Head of State while the President and Prime Minister were out of the country.

His name, which was equal to honesty and integrity in politics, is immortalised in Sri Lankan parliamentary history, being the last Speaker of the old Parliament and, the first Speaker of the new Parliament. His service to the people was so great it was easy for his son Imthiaz Bakeer Markar to be elected to the same electorate as the Member of Parliament and even to serve as a Government Minister.

Bakeer Markar was an accomplished parliamentarian and dedicated representative of his people who did not care for ethnicity, race or religion. He received more support from the Sinhala community than any Muslim candidate. This I learnt personally from my in-laws’ families in Beruwala.His non-consideration of ethnicity, language and religion was well observed from the fact that he educated his son Imitiaz at Ananda College, a leading Buddhist educational institution, where he also showed his prowess in debating in Sinhala, like his father, going on the same path of a trilingual. He was impartial and strived to promote harmony among all ethnic and religious groups. He served the people, who trusted him.

Bakeer Markar’s morals in politics were so firm he did not want to read the Address to the Provincial Council in 1994, as wished by Colombo. I had to be involved in a tough assignment, as I remember, to adjust his stances to appease the powers in Colombo and to bring political sensitivities to normalisation. Similarly, his experiences as Governor have taught many lessons to junior Governors like me.

As a Muslim leader he was the founder President of the All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts and the Vice President of the All Ceylon Muslim League. Further he was the Chairman of the Beruwala, Maradana Mosque Jamaath until his demise.

Bakeer Markar served as goodwill ambassador of Sri Lanka. His close connections with the Iraqi Government enabled him to build a village in Eravur, and he was the founder President of the Iraq-Sri Lanka Friendship Association and remained in this position until his demise. He was honoured and appreciated by the President of Indonesia for his assistance to Indonesians when an aircraft crashed with Indonesians on board. Not only was he a son of our soil, he was also a citizen of the world.

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, with sincere objectives, which now is being successfully continued by his son Imtiaz Bakeer Markar.Bakeer Markar’s services in the field of education, towards the Muslim community were unique.

When all these aspects are consideredl, one may consider a very wholesome life of a man who dedicated himself to society, without any discrimination, to politics, youth, religion, especially to the Muslim community, treating others as equals. He imagined a world better than the one he lived in and strived to make it a reality. He could be therefore be considered as an emblem of a great personality whose principles of life should be emulated by the current leaders, especially those who try to create social commotion built on religion, ethnicity, language, social inequality and mean economic issues. May he be remembered for all those great qualities which should be reintroduced to society. At this instance when looking back at his life history and reviewing lessons learnt, we may easily conclude that we need many more Bakeer Markars to make Sri Lanka a greater nation.

Remembering Bakeer Marker, I’m reminded of the Quranic teaching in AL Baqarah 2.197, which says “Take a provision with you for your journey. But the best provision is al- taqwa which is piety and righteousness”. He deserves to be respected because he was conscious and cognizant of Allah, of truth, of the rational reality, “piety, fear of God”. His life was a sincere collection of al taqwa for his journey beyond this life and this world. It may be best if his life is emulated by politicians, social workers and civil leaders.
-Austin Fernando

Gracious and charming to all
Much has been written and will be written of Chandra Ranaraja, former Mayoress of the Kandy Municipal Council, who passed away six months ago. Her services to the Kandy Municipal Council, the Kandy Heritage City Project, to Hillwood College Kandy and its Past Pupils Association, are well documented elsewhere. But to her family, and her extended family, it is her gracious and charming presence as family matriarch that is irreplaceable.

Even though related only by marriage, Chandra Nanda (Aunty Chandra) was to me, and to all the family, an unfailingly warm and generous person. At any family function, her quietly sparkling personality was an immense asset as she made sure that she gave everyone present her time and attention. I remember a younger guest at a family gathering at our house who had met Chandra Nanda for the first time being surprised that this lady who was such a prominent person in Kandy would chat to her for a considerable length of time on mundane matters of raising children and problems with education.

Her humility also characterised her every action, and this was amply demonstrated the first time she visited us for a gathering of the clan; as was her usual habit, Chandra Nanda came into the pantry to see if she could help and met my daily helper, an elderly ‘amme’ from the village who was helping with the arrangements and inquired of her about her family and her village affairs, leaving the woman amazed as she had recognized the famous former Mayoress. What is distinctive though, is that at every function thereafter, if my ‘amme’ was there, Chandra Nanda would address her by name and inquire after children, grandchildren and ailments!

She was first and foremost a public servant and not a politician. She worked with others of different camps as long as they were committed to a worthy cause, especially if it was related to her beloved adopted city of Kandy. I remember her upbraiding a younger politician accused of stuffing ballot boxes during an infamous election that was thrust upon the usually peaceable and law-abiding citizens of Kandy, saying “this is not the way your father or mine engaged in politics!”

That she was a mother, grandmother, aunt and relative par excellence goes without saying, but it is her role as the wife of the ebullient Shelton Ranaraja that truly amazed me. Very different personalities on the outside, at the celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary, I teased him that he was lucky that Chandra had agreed to marry him; expecting a typically witty and light-hearted response, I was touched and taken aback when he replied ‘of course I am, and I honour her because she has given me five children.’

Chandra Ranaraja died as she had lived, sans fuss so sudden and unexpected her demise that her cremation was fixed at the time and day that she had had a meeting scheduled with some officials in Kandy on a city project. One of her sons-in-law said in informing us of her passing that ‘Kandy has lost its guardian angel,’ but not only the city but her family and her extended family have lost a loving and enriching presence.

-Shyamali Ranaraja

A genial Kurukkal bids farewell
Sitsabesa Kurukkal
It was with considerable sadness that I received the news in Canberra of the demise of my dear friend and Vinayagar Kovil Kurukkal “Mani Iyer” as he was fondly known. Our near 40-year relationship had both friendship and spiritualism as its foundation and consequently remained firm over those four decades

He was synonymous in all landmark events in my life and of our family. In addition he was always there to help me reach the Lord in troubled and challenging times as well.

To my long serving Hindu and Buddhist domestics he had special appeal almost as a deity.
Early in the new millennium, I invited him to accompany me on a pilgrimage to temples in South India starting from Uchchi Pillayar in Trichy. The one to the Katpaka Vinayagar Kovil in Pillayarpatti stood out as being special to us both. I framed two beautiful prints of the Lord duly blessed at that temple one of which adorned his home and the other takes pride of place in mine.
We did two such tours. Both were memorable for him as for me and we felt the strong presence of the Lord at all times during those journeys from one place of worship to another.

On hearing that he was hospitalised I kept in touch with him on the phone and spoke to him just two days before he passed away, sadly aware by then that the illness was terminal.

I said to him “Get well Aiyya because I will be there in January. We will do our third trip together “…….his voice broke and so did mine!!

I will surely miss him as I am sure will the temple and all those whom he served so diligently with his infectious smile, winning and spiritual ways.

He had a great passion for cricket and was never happier than when we were doing well in an international game. Often once the religious rituals were over he would enjoy discussing the game of which his knowledge was quite extensive.
It will indeed be quite sometime before one can come to terms with the reality that the generous and genial profile will no longer be seated with that smile, on the side step leading to the sacred dais of the Kovil, during its less crowded hours.
God drew the final curtain on his life as he inevitably will on each of ours, at his appointed time.
He is now deservedly at peaceful rest with the Lord he served so faithfully over a lifetime.
His memory will remain etched in our hearts.
My thoughts and prayers are with his grieving family.

-S. Skandakumar

She was my hero, my rock and my best mate

One year since Amma passed away. Just have to close my eyes for the memory to flood back. Tears flow easily. It was mid morning of September 7, 2015; I was so fortunate to be with her when she uttered “all white”, her final words, spoken clearly. She was three weeks short of her 88th birthday.

It was unreal seeing her so helpless, lying on that hospital bed attached to machines. As long as I can remember, Amma had been so active and energetic. A dedicated teacher for 35 years, she didn’t just teach kids. Her work with girl guides, school bands, sports, all made the five schools she was a part of, so much better. Her beauty, pleasantness and gentle kindness drew people to her. Amma is remembered with love and gratitude.

Amma spoke to us that morning. We were so happy to hear her speak. The previous day, she hardly spoke. She had asked where I was, when I left her side for few hours. I wished I never left. I told her about the crowd outside her room when I arrived two days ago. Everyone loved her and wanted her to recover. I told her that I was staying with her for the next few weeks until my sisters took over. Family and friends, waiting to see her concerned the medical staff. They said she needed rest. Amma’s condition was serious and a risk of a cardiac arrest real. Through tears, I asked them to do their best for Amma as she deserved only the best. They said it was best to keep her under observation in her own room and not take her to the ICU. My brothers and I agreed to their plan of treatment.

I don’t know of many women like Amma. She took on so much so willingly. I understood perfectly when she told me of her plan to build an education centre in her village in Ratnapura. Now all her grand kids are big, she wasn’t going to spend her retirement idling. But she never drew attention to herself and never bothered anyone. She was my hero.

Amma was also a true patriot. She told us she would never leave her country for good when we suggested that she moved to Australia after Thaththa died, as all her children have made it their home. She missed us and patiently waited for all of us to come home to visit. She was living comfortably in her Nugegoda house with a maid and a close community around her. Every day, one of her five children would phone, her best friend would visit and her nephew and neighbours kept an eye on her. It was her way of living without being a burden. We knew she was happy though she missed us.

But it all changed one fateful evening. Our Amma who raised five children had none of us to save her from an unfortunate accident. Her regular maid had also gone home and a new maid was there that night. As she had been doing for 35 years, Amma had lit the lamp for the Buddha statue in her shrine. She had meditated, locked the gate and front door and gone inside. She hadn’t even broken her routine of writing her diary. The maid said she gave Amma dinner in her room. She hadn’t noticed the lamp catching fire. When she smelt it burning, it was too late. Fire had engulfed the whole front of the house. The maid had taken Amma out through the back. How helpless Amma would have felt with none of us there to help her? Or to stop her when she quietly went inside the burning house to get the gate key, to let in people who came to help. The girl said she found Amma in the corridor dragging herself up. Both her arms had been badly burnt. When neighbours took her to the hospital, she had told them that she was ok and nobody thought it was serious. We came as soon as we heard. My heart broke to see her beautiful face swollen, both arms bandaged. It was difficult for her to talk to me.

That morning my younger brother came. We asked doctors about the surgery they planned for her. Amma saw us standing around her, she could see the colour of my dress. We were so relieved that her eyes were ok.

Amma spoke to us. With our hearts breaking, we listened.The clarity of her thoughts was amazing. She asked us to look after family. She mentioned her friends and relatives, and asked us to look after our aunt, her younger sister. My brother was trying to stop his sobs. I stayed calm. Because, I wanted to repeat everything Amma was saying, so she knew we understood all her wishes. Also, I knew she wanted us to be strong and it was the right thing to do.

We wanted her to rest. Later she asked for water and I gave her few sips. She blessed my family and others. I started massaging her feet, she uttered “all white”. Then she was quiet, sleeping peacefully. I asked her to breathe deeply. I knew she could hear me. Never thought these were her final hours. All I wanted was for her to rest and get better so we could hear her sweet voice and loving words one more time. It was not to be, as Amma never spoke again. She had a heart attack later that evening and couldn’t be revived.

I miss hearing her loving voice. I will never be able to ask her about the “whiteness” she saw. Her sweet smile is constantly in my mind. I hear her in dreams.

Slowly letting my heartache go. Lights are dimmed and my eyes are closed. Everything is quiet. Lying on my mat for the final relaxation of a regular yoga session, I follow the gentle voice of the instructor. “Take a full breath while counting to eight”. For the next few breaths, I am focused. My mind is with Amma again. I place my hand on her chest, “take a long breath Amma” but her ‘prana’ was leaving. My eyes start to fill with tears.

“Peaceful mind is peaceful heart”, comes the yoga instructor’s voice. I feel warm tears trickling in a steady flow now. They gather in my ear lobes. I am quietly crying. I can’t stop and don’t want to stop.

-Aruni Jayasekera

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.