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Third Death Anniversary : SLMC, NUA Leader M.H.M. Ashraff

by Ashraff A. Samad

Late M.H.M. Ashraff, one time Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and National Unity Alliance founder leader, died on 16th September 2000 while on his way to his native Amparai District in a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter which crashed in a blaze of flames in Aranayake.

He was the only son of Mohamed Hussain, a highly respected village headman and Matheena Ummah whom he loved dearly. Being a son of the Eastern soil, he was in some respect an heir to a political legacy having been a member of the influential Kariapper family of Kalmunai. He had his primary education at Wesley College, Kalmunai and had to leave his home region, to pursue further studies at the metropolis.

In 1970 he joined Law College where he excelled and manifested prowess, in the field of constitutional law by writing the first book on constitutional law in Tamil with particular reference to 1972 Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka.

At Ceylon Law College the natural nursery of many a political leader he was the president of the law students Muslim Majlis and of the Tamil Mantram and was an influential member of the student community, nearly missing the coveted position of President of the Law Students' Union.

In 1974, he joined the Attorney General's Department as a state counsel, and worked there to get himself acquainted with the law to become an eminent Lawyer. He practised in Kalmunai.

He completed the Masters Degree in Law prior to becoming a senior minister. He was honoured with the title President's Counsel.

Ashraff saw as nobody else did before him, the political potential of the Eastern Province with its predominant Muslim habitation. Before his advent, Muslim politicians aligned themselves to the two major political parties, the UNP and the SLFP. He advocated a bipartisan approach as the only solution to the ethnic problem in this country.

This was evident when he made a lasting speech in the last Parliament in August 2000 on the Constitution Bill. He was one of the architects of the draft constitution. He wrote an open letter to the UNP Leader and present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the 5th of August 2000 titled 'The historic role of the UNP on the draft constitution' in which he appealed to the major parties to forget political differences for the sake of the nation and to unite to solve this burning problem without postponing it to the next Parliament and without thinking of the next election.

The declaration on November 19, 1986 naming the SLMC a national political party was a milestone in Ashraff's political career, as well as the history of Sri Lanka Muslim politics. The symbol of his party was the tree. The tree was planted and nurtured in the Eastern and Northern and other parts of Muslim areas in Sri Lanka. In 1989 he entered Parliament as an MP. In the 1994 general election he was returned to Parliament with 7 MPs from North East. Two SLMC MPs from the East were appointed Deputy Ministers and one Mp, the party general secretary and present Leader of SLMC Rauff Hakeem, as the Deputy Chairman of Committees. The SLMC played a constructive role to install the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga government in a hung Parliament. Ashraff became Minister of Ports, Shipping, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

Ashraff, fulfilled his responsibilities as a minister with the utmost dedication and efficiency. He had a broad, liberal and enlightened perspective. He had a very clear understanding of his role as a minister and the role of the bureaucracy. He spelt out the policy and strategy of his Ministry and thereafter let it to the ministry officials to translate them into action to produce the desired results and goals.

Mr. Ashraff was a very kind hearted sensitive and highly emotional personality always with a ready smile and kind word never failing to greet his staff at least with a smile and a nod but at the same time he was a leader who wanted things done correctly and was a stickler for correct details.

Ashraff was a deeply religious man and would commence nothing without remembering the Almighty and seeking His guidance and blessings.

He was an excellent writer of Tamil prose as well as in English. His genius was in full bloom in his poetic compositions. His anthology of poems has been hailed as a piece of outstanding literary merit by none other than the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who himself is a respected Tamil scholar.

M. Karunanidhi was so enthralled by the title of the anthology of his poems that he commented on it thus, "this title by itself is a matter for contemplation, enlightenment and ultimate enjoyment."

Of all these qualities and talents Ashraff wished, above all, his literary talents to outlive him, because he valued them above all other achievements and expressed his sentiments thus,

"If someone would like to be remembered, by posterity

My answer would be

Not as a leader of the SLMC

Not as a founder of NUA

Not even as President's Counsel

But as a humble writer

For I firmly believe

That everything will die

Except my writings

It is my desire that

I should continue to communicate

Through my writings

Even after my death.

He succeeded in installing his long-standing dream, a roof to shelter the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, which he named 'Dharussalam' the house of peace and dedicated it to Sri Lanka as a whole.

He worked hard for peace.

"May Allah grant his soul "Jennath Firdouse"


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