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Sunday, 6 September 2009

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Bakeer Markar -Community oriented personality

Today marks the 12th death anniversary of former Speaker of the House the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar an icon of our times. My association with Mr. Bakeer Markar dates way back to the late forties when he inaugurated a literary association called the Beruwala Muslim Students’ Movement of which he held the presidency. This organisation was a vibrant one at that period and I recall how Bakeer Markar used to get down prominent speakers from Colombo, one in my memory being the late Mr. A. M. Ameen, a bubbling new advocate from the Law College who later became a District Judge and headed the Islamic Secretariat in Bambalapitiya. I further recall when young Bakeer Markar passed out as a Proctor, our Association feted in his honour a dinner presided over by the District Judge of Kalutara. Mr. Bakeer Markar made his services available to the government during the World War days and the Government at that time sensing his capabilities appointed him as the chief A. R. P. Warden for the Kalutara District, together with a renowned teacher of Holy Cross College, Kalutara, Capt. P. O. Fernando. So much so for his earlier days.

Mr. Bakeer Markar was a community-oriented personality and gradually built up a name in such circles, the ambition at the back of his mind was service to his fellow beings and that could be best done he thought was through the field of politics. He plunged into the political scene in the 1950s firstly getting elected to the Beruwala U.C. A further move he made in this direction was when he led a deputation from his home town Beruwala to the Delimitation Commission and there he urged that a separate electorate be carved out for Beruwala thus enabling a Muslim to be returned to the Parliament. When this was successfully accomplished he was chosen by his party as the first nominee to vie for a Parliamentary seat for Beruwala taking into consideration that Beruwala though a Sinhala majority electorate. Mr. Bakeer Markar was a popular figure not only in the Muslim community but also amongst the Sinhalese. His party’s choice proved fruitful when he was elected to Parliament in the 1960 March General Election to the newly carved out electorate with the backing of both the Muslim and Sinhala communities who reside there. His concern for Muslim representation in Parliament goes back to 1947 when he headed the Election Secretariat of the late Dr. T. B. Jayah who was then successfully elected to the Colombo Central Electorate.

The late Mr. Bakeer Markar did not let down the faith entrusted to him by the voters of Beruwala whereby he served both races with equanimity. He was well-versed in the Sinhala language and as Chairman of the Beruwala Urban Council he mainly addressed the council in eloquent Sinhala which stood to his credit so much so that he made great efforts to promote its usage in all fields in the country at large. He also turned to his own community to do the same and prodded the Muslims to learn Sinhala which he achieved success to a great extent. He even set an example by tutoring his son Imtiaz Bakeer Markar at Ananda College in the Sinhala medium the prime Sinhala/Buddhist College in preference to English and Imtiaz’s eloquence of the Sinhala language today win plaudits from many alike.

Hon. Bakeer Markar while serving his electorate with distinction also made good contributions to the Muslim community. He was a senior member of the reputed All Ceylon Muslim League and while there he was instrumental in starting the All Ceylon Union of Muslim Youth Fronts which is actively serving the community even today ably led by Attorney-at-Law Rasheed M. Imtiaz. I can vividly remember the unprecedented crowd that the late Mr. Markar mustered for the opening of the Naleem Hadjiar Stadium in China Fort Beruwala much beyond his own expectations, and the whole area was a sea of heads several deep.

This spoke well of the immense popularity of Mr. Bakeer Markar as people there were, would positively response to his beck and call, and the then Prime Minister the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake who was to open the stadium could not due to this spurge be taken in motorcade from the town to the opening as previously planned. If he was thus escorted it would have taken several hours and the entire programme would have fallen out of schedule. Even the late PM was taken back at the popularity Hon. Bakeer Markar carried and he is reported to have favourably commented in this strain.

A tragic event in Sri Lanka was the air crash at Katunayake of Indonesian Haj pilgrims returnees from Makkah in the eighties, and when the news of the crash received the ears of Bakeer Markar he keeping all his busy schedules aside rushed to the scene of the crash being amongst the first to arrive, then with the help of others organised to despatch the injured to hospital, and also to give an honoured burial for the deceased pilgrims in Negombo. In due recognition of the services rendered by Hon. Bakeer Markar and his team in the hour of need the Indonesian Government offered to build a mosque at Katunayake in memory of the dead pilgrims which stands even today as testimony.

As for the late Mr. Bakeer Markar the man, he was of amiable character, simple in all ways and the positions and power did not get into his head. Humbleness was his forte always ready to help people to solve the various problems that confront them in their day-to-day existence. His feeling for his community ran right through his veins, but also extended a similar hand of assistance and service within his capabilities to the majority Sinhala community in his electorate. I do not wish to devoid his son Imtiaz Bakeer Markar of the popularity he yields in the Beruwala electorate, but he too will admit that his father the late Bakeer Markar had laid the foundation by his tireless work for enabling him to make his mark today.

Bakeer Markar surely moved with kings and presidents but never ever lost the common touch as the popular saying goes.

-M. S. M. Waffa

 

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