An inspirational statesman | Daily News


23rd death anniversary of Al-Haj M.A. Bakeer Markar falls today

An inspirational statesman

The 23rd commemoration day of statesman Deshamanya Marhoom Al-Haj Mohamed Abdul Bakeer Markar falls today, September 10.

It is indeed my privilege to write this appreciation about Deshamanya Marhoom Al-Haj Mohamed Abdul Bakeer Markar who adorned honesty and sincerity in his political and personal life. He was a prominent lawyer and a formidable politician whose clean political career was highlighted when I read his biography and the Parliamentary Hansard which proved his clean political journey. His importance was expressed in the condolence speeches of Members of Parliament when the Condolence Motion was taken up in the Parliament after his demise.

Ancestry & Education

Deshamanya Al-Haj M.A. Bakeer Markar was born on May 12, 1917 in Beruwala to a respectable family whose ancestry comes from Sheik Jamaludden –Al- Maghdoomi – the pioneer Arab settler who settled down in Beruwala. His father Hakeem Alia Marikkar Mohamed Marikkar belonged to a family of physicians. So, the house of Bakeer Markar - “Hakeem Villa” in Beruwala is still popularly known as “Veda Gedara” (Home of the Physician).

Bakeer Markar received his primary education at St. Sebastian’s School, Hulftsdorp and then joined Zahira College, Colombo for his secondary education under the tutelage of Dr. T.B. Jayah, the Principal of Zahira College at that time. Dr. T.B. Jayah was one of the well-respected politicians and a Muslim leader who fought for the independence of Ceylon together with a majority of Sinhalese leaders. Bakeer Markar unerringly followed the footsteps of the late Al-Haj Dr. T.B. Jayah to become a politician. His wise and mature leadership displayed peace and harmony among communities which had been building up for over 1,100 years.

As a brilliant student, his contribution to college activities as the Editor of the college magazine, and the President of the College Majlis and the Literary Association was admired by everyone in the college. He developed himself as an excelled debater during inter-house debating competitions at the college and as the Speaker of the College Majlis which gave him experience to become a prominent legal professional and the Speaker of the Parliament. He passed his London Matriculation Examination and then entered the Law College, Colombo in 1940. Unfortunately, his legal career was interrupted due to World War II. Then he was selected to go to India for civil defence training. He passed out as a lawyer in 1950 and reserved his position in the legal profession as a prominent lawyer. Then, he was elected as the President of the Kalutara District Branch of the Bar Association of Ceylon.

Social work & Political Career

His humble qualities, honesty and sincerity led him to gain the respect of people of all ethnicities regardless of religious beliefs, faiths, caste, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. His interest and vision in social activities made him dragged into politics by the people as their representative.

He started his political career as a member of the Beruwala Urban Council and later became its Chairman. His service as the Chairman of the Council was appriciated by the people of the area and they chose him as the candidate for the Parliamentary Election. Al-Haj Bakeer Markar was the first Member of Parliament to represent the Beruwala constituency in March 1960 and continued from April 1965 to March 1970.

He was the Deputy Speaker of Parliament from August 4, 1977 to September 7, 1978 and succeeded as the Speaker from 1978 to August 1983. Al-Haj Bakeer Markar deserved his name in the Parliament history being the last Speaker of the Old Parliament and the First Speaker of the New Parliament in Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte. Later, he was appointed as a Cabinet Minister and the First Governor of the Southern Province from June 13, 1988 to December 1993 after the Provincial Council system was constitutionally established in the country. In our constitutional history, he has a very special place - the only Speaker of Parliament who has acted for the Head of Government and Head of State.

Nation builder

As a practising Muslim, he was able to win the hearts of other communities, especially the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community all over the country because of his respect and affection to other communities. He made a vital and enduring contribution to the unity of our country promoting ethnic harmony. Throughout his life, he showed how to live with other communities respecting their religious faiths and cultures. His role as the founder President of the All Ceylon Muslim League Youth Front and the Vice president of the All Ceylon Muslim League was vital in building relationships between Sinhala and Muslim communities.

Goodwill Ambassador

Al-Haj Bakeer Markar was an internationally-renowned illustrious statesman. He showed remarkable statesmanship when he represented the country as a goodwill ambassador. He was welcomed by the leaders of those states with great respect. He was able to establish a tight bond with those countries.

His skills in maintaining international relationships were able to achieve many economical beneficiaries to the country. For instance, as the founder President of the Iraq - Sri Lanka Friendship Association, his close relationship with Iraq under President Saddam Hussein’s Government enabled him to achieve more economical beneficiaries to the country. Iraq was one of the top countries which bought Sri Lankan tea during this period.

Historical proof

Al-Haj Bakeer Markar hails from Maradana, Beruwala where Masjidh -Ul - Abrar Jummah mosque is located. Masjidh-Ul-Abrar Jummah mosque is considered the first mosque built by early Arabs who arrived in Ceylon - the Arabs called ‘Sailan’. The ancient Arab architecture of this mosque proudly represents the history of the Muslims in Sri Lanka. The history of this mosque goes back to 920 AD.

History revealed that the early Muslims (Arabs) originally settled in the coastal areas of Beruwala for their business purposes using ‘Ruwal’ types of wooden ships from this ‘Bay’. According to some relevant histories, the name ‘Beruwala’ may have evolved from these two words ‘Bay’ –‘Ruwala’ which means the dropping or folding of the sails by Arab Muslims who arrived by wooden ‘Ruwal’ ships in the Bay. The mosque displays the original Arab architecture in the building and Al-Haj Bakeer Markar had a keen interest to preserve the real ancient architecture of the mosque in every renovation processes.

Continuous vision

Today, the organisation, the Bakeer Markar Centre for National Unity actively involves in promoting the vision of the late Deshamanya M.A. Bakeer Markar and it continues to uphold and sustain that vision. His son Imtiaz Baker Markar’s re-entry to the Parliament-2020 is enabling him to proceed with his father’s vision in the country.

In 1992, M.A. Bakeer Markar was awarded the title ‘Deshamanya’ (Pride of the Nation), for his service to the country - which is the second-highest National honour awarded by the Government of Sri Lanka. To commemorate this exemplary Sri Lankan leader, a commemoration stamp was issued on June 25, 2008 in his honour.

Honesty and sincerity were his strengths. His singular vision on both National and personal levels was to serve his country and he fulfilled this with true commitment. He worked comfortably with all religious leaders and community leaders for communal harmony. He will be remembered always as one of the great statesmen of our time. In his long political career, he firmly stood with a clear vision to serve the Nation until his demise on September 10, 1997.

May Almighty Allah grant him Jennathul Firdouse – Aameen!


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