Tribute: Deshamanya Al Haj Bakeer Markar, an illustrious life | Sunday Observer

Tribute: Deshamanya Al Haj Bakeer Markar, an illustrious life

Deshamanya Marhoom Al Haj Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar’s ancestry is traced to Sheik Jamaluddeen-Al-Maghdoomi, an Arab who settled down in Beruwala. His father, Hakeem Alia Marikkar Mohomed Marikkar belonged to a family of physicians, so much so his ancestral home was known as Hakeem Villa which meant Veda Gedera (Home of the Physician). It is said, patients even from the Maldives visited him for treatment.

Abdul Bakeer Markar was born in Beruwala on May 12 1917 and educated at Zahira College, Colombo under the tutelage of Dr. T.B. Jayah, the Principal of Zahira College. 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 Law College, Colombo in 1940, passed out as a lawyer, had a lucrative practice and was elected President of the Kalutara District Branch of the Bar Association of Ceylon.

Since his childhood, he exhibited humble qualities which was the road to achieve greatness, and win the respect of people in all walks of life. The family history which claimed great social activity, especially, due to its ancestry going back to Medicine, made Al Haj Bakeer Markar popular in the area, irrespective of race, religion, caste or other differences. No wonder he was drawn into politics and the people were delighted to elect him as their representative.

Al Haj Bakeer Markar’s life as a politician was even more illustrious than his life as a lawyer. His upbringing and friendly mannerisms were the main reasons for that. He was first elected as a member of the Beruwala Urban Council and later appointed its Chairman.

His next step in the political ladder was to become the Member of Parliament for Beruwala. He was reelected and continued from April 1965 to March 1970. He was the Deputy Speaker from August 4, 1977 to September 7, 1978, and succeeded as Speaker from September 1978 to August 1983, a Cabinet Minister and the Governor of the Southern Province from June 13, 1988 to December 1993.

His name, which was equal to honesty and integrity in politics, is immortalized in the history of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, of 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 convenient for his son Imthiaz Bakeer Markar who inherited and possessed great qualities to be elected to serve the Beruwala Electorate as the Member of Parliament and even to serve as a Government Minister, latterly. It would be relevant to note what WJM Lokubandara stated at the Condolence Motion on Al Haj Bakeer Markar: ‘some fathers receive recognition from their sons, and some receive recognition from their fathers or mothers, but it is rare to find the son and father to be concurrently great Sri Lankan sons’.

Al Haj Bakeer Markar was an accomplished parliamentarian, and a dedicated representative of his people. His contribution to parliamentary activities were highlighted when the Condolence Motion was taken up in Parliament.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesignhe highlighted how he presided over Parliament to create new systems to deal with issues related to building relationships between the Executive President and Parliament and the manner in which the responsibilities were to be discharged to Parliament by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Similarly, there were new relations to be developed between the Judiciary and Parliament and Premier Wickremesinghe stressed that at that stage Al Haj Bakeer Markar’s interventions were crucial.

It is during his tenure the Parliamentary Consultative Committees and Public Enterprise Committee was established. All these strengthened the working of the parliamentary system. Al Haj Bakeer Markar’s impartiality was greatly admired at this Condolence Motion by Ministers Karunasena Kodithuwakku, WJM Loku Bandara, Chandrasiri Gajadheera et al, which was a salutation to his role as the Speaker of the House.

Al Haj Bakeer Markar, by not caring for ethnicity, race or religion received grand support from the Sinhala community more than any other Muslim candidate from any political group. His commitment was well observed in the fact that he educated his son Imitiaz Bakeer Markar at Ananda College, a leading Buddhist educational institution, though he had been a teacher at Zahira College Colombo at the inception of his public career. To prove the correctness of this decision, his son excelled in debating in Sinhala, like his father, becoming a trilingual. Both were impartial and strove to promote harmony among all ethnic and religious groups.

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.

Al Haj Bakeer Markar served also as a Goodwill Ambassador of the country. 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 so until his demise. He was honored and appreciated by the President of Indonesia for his assistance to the Indonesians when an aircraft crashed with Indonesians on board. Thus, not only was he a son of our soil, he was 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, now being successfully continued by his son Imitiaz Bakeer Markar. Al Haj Bakeer Markar’s services in the field of education of the Muslim Community were unique and had been appreciated even by opposing Muslim political leaders.

When all these aspects of his life are considered in a nutshell, one could observe the wholesome life of a man who dedicated himself to society, sans any discrimination, dedicated to politics, youth, religion, especially, to the Muslim community without any problems being created to other communities, and treating others as equals. Many critical socio-political issues we experience now among communities would not have subsisted if politicians followed the path tread by Al Haj Bakeer Markar.

He imagined a world better than the one he lived in and strove to make it a reality. He could therefore, be considered as an epitaph 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, regionalism, social inequality and economic issues. May he be remembered for all those great qualities, which should be reincarnated. At this instance when looking back at his life and review lessons learnt, we may easily conclude that we need many more Bakeer Markars of the make of Al Haj Bakeer Markar to mount Sri Lanka as a greater nation, sans jealousy, strife, conflict and commotion.

At the remembrance of Al Haj Bakeer Markar, I take liberty to quote the Quran, 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 respect and honour because he was conscious and cognizant of Allah, of truth, of the rational reality- “piety and fear of God”. Therefore, Al Haj Bakeer Markar’s life was a sincere collection of al taqwa for his journey beyond this life and this world. It is most appropriate that his life be emulated by current politicians, social workers and civil leaders. On a personal note, I feel sad that none from his immediate family is committed at present to carry on in a similar fashion the holy voyage, which Al Haj Bakeer Markar embarked on.

The writer is former Secretary to the President