Deshamanya M.A. Bakeer Markar A Ceylonese deep in his heart

18 September 2018 12:10 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • His peace building initiative was purely based on genuine consensus building
  • He lived Sri Lankan most but remained an ardent Muslim
  • At Beruwala UC, he was instrumental in making Sinhala the official language

 

 

The reasons to commemorate the brilliant traits of a leader can be many and lessons to be learnt from such leadership and foresight are often invaluable. The lessons learnt become the lasting legacy, which blossoms to be emulated in the future.


This, in a nutshell, tells about the vision of late Deshamanya Alhaj Mohamed Abdul Bakeer Markar, about which we now think in terms of ‘Vision for an inclusive Sri Lanka’.


His peace-building initiative was purely based on genuine consensus building. He lived Sri Lankan most but remained an ardent Muslim.


In 1939, he joined the Ceylon Law College to pursue his legal career. He would attend lectures in the morning and in the afternoon he gave tuition to make ends meet.


The World War II disrupted his studies, as schools, as well as institutions, were closed down for over two years. He had to enlist and serve in the ARP (The Air Force Security Service), after receiving training in Hyderabad, India.

 

One Identity under One Nation – Has vision impacted positively on the citizenry? How far are we looking at his progressive outlook today?


It was in 1949, he was able to resume his studies at Ceylon Law College. He passed out as a lawyer and commenced his legal practice at the Kalutara Bar in 1950.
His initial steps into politics, was in 1946 when he was sub-warden at Zahira College, Colombo. Then Dr T.B. Jayah contested the Labour Leader A.E. Goonesinghe at the General Elections of 1946, to the State Council.


Bakeer Markar has entrusted the task of carrying out Dr Jayah’s Election Campaign, which he carried out successfully. Dr Jayah was elected Member of the State Council.


The Leadership of Dr Jayah was laudable. In the State Council, Leader of the House S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike paying tribute to T.B. Jayah’s contribution on the Soulbury Report said:


“Credit for the attainment of independence should undoubtedly go to T.B. Jayah for his historic speech in passing the Dominion Bill”.


With this kind of inspiration, experience and the taste of political nectar, Bakeer Markar pursued in the footsteps of his Political Guru Dr T.B. Jayah, to be elected member of the Maradana Ward of the Beruwala Urban Council, uncontested, in his very first attempt in 1949. This opened the avenue for him to tread successfully in the wider political arena.


At Beruwala Urban Council, he was instrumental in moving the resolution to recognize the Sinhala Language as the official language, which was voted for the majority of the members.


This was the first ever Local Government council to adopt such a resolution. Even at the All-Ceylon Muslim Organization Conference, he earnestly propagated the Sinhala language to be recognized as the Official language. In fact, for his stance, he was nick-named and affectionately called Sinhala Bakeer.


He was for the use of Sinhala language by the Muslims from his youth. As a Nation, Muslims must unite with the Sinhalese.


In his own words “Though I belonged to the minority community, I was able to enter the national and international arena only because I was able to go forward with the majority community”.


He was passionate in his noble thoughts. He believed in unity for the sake of peace, coexistence and above all for the development of the nation, with Unity in Diversity.


We are reminded of Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake’s precious words: “Ceylon belonged not only to the Buddhists but to anybody who claimed to be Ceylonese”.
His preserving efforts to serve the voters of Beruwala more effectively paid manifold dividends with his active participation and contribution made at the Delimitation Commission of Thalgodapitiya and Tittawala.


As a result, the new electorate of Beruwala was carved out, composed of a mixed population of Buddhists, Christians and Muslims.


His was an illustrious Parliamentary career, from 1960 to 1988, which was of enviable lustre.


He commenced his Parliamentary career in March 1960, being elected Member of Parliament for the newly carved out Beruwala electorate.


Bakeer Markar always thought of himself as a Ceylonese. In his address to Parliament on the Appropriation Bill on 24th August 1965 congratulating the Finance Minister Wanninayake, he said:


“I should like to do it in a more unorthodox way because I think the man to be congratulated is the Prime Minister, for he chose as Minister of Finance, a person who is Ceylonese in every sense of the word”.


Again, speaking on the Special Allowance to Plantation Workers on 6th October 1965, he spoke on behalf of the estate workers, referring to them: “If we care Ceylonese, they are Ceylonese, if the Sinhalese are Ceylonese, they are Ceylonese; if the Muslims are Ceylonese, in the same way, the estate Tamils are Ceylonese”. He believed and espoused the true spirit of equality for everyone.


These go to show his vision: One Identity under One Nation – Has vision impacted positively on the citizenry? How far are we looking at his progressive outlook today?


Bakeer Markar made contributions even to the smooth and effective functioning of democracy at the grassroots level.


During the Parliamentary debate on June 13, 1968, on the Establishment of District Councils, he submitted a memorandum to the Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development, in which recommendations were made for changes to be introduced to the Provincial Administration.

 

At Beruwala Urban Council, he was instrumental in moving the resolution to recognize the Sinhala Language as the official language, which was voted for the majority of the members.


He wanted the provincial administration to be reformed and reconstituted at District Level, to give the much needed new look.


He felt that District Machinery should be under the supervision of the Member of Parliament, nominated by the Prime Minister. This was to form the basis of the District Coordinating Committee. His victory at the General Elections of 1977 was the dazzling landmark of his political career.


At this General Election, he was returned with a remarkable majority of 27,000 votes, with a total poll of 49,000 votes. His nearest rival R.G. Samaranayake was placed far below. This electoral victory of 1977 was a historic gift to the respectful minority.


It was on August 4, 1977, he was elected Deputy Speaker. This was a short stint. He was thereafter elected to the high Office of Speaker on September 21, 1978, being the unanimous choice of the Government and the Opposition.


His name was proposed by Anandatissa De Alwis, Minister of State and seconded by M. Sivasithamparam, Member of Parliament for Nallur.


This exalted position was held in his esteem by the Speaker M.A. Bakeer Markar from the time he was elected Speaker up to the time of his resignation on August 31, 1983. He was the last Speaker of the old Parliament at Galle Face and the first Speaker of the new Parliament in Sri Jayewardenepura.


On his elevation to the position of Speaker, he stood by the great traditions and decorum of the Speaker’s Office. He did not want to be a nominal Speaker, merely presiding at Parliamentary Sessions.


The Office of Speaker was made most significant. The Mace was not any more mere symbolic, placed long before the entry of the Speaker to the Chamber of the Parliament. The Speaker’s Mace was made the due symbol of authority.


Being carried with solemnity by the Sergeant-at-Arms and placed at the appropriate place, as the Speaker came to preside at the Parliamentary Sessions.
The Speaker’s traditional robe was reintroduced, which to this day has its glamour. We have seen the majestic appearance of the Speaker and witness this being continued to this day. Dignity was restored and redefined to the Speaker’s office during his tenure. Above all, Speaker Bakeer Markar saw to it that the annual audit of the Parliamentary administration was brought under the direct supervision of the Auditor General, making Parliamentary affairs and administration transparent.
A novel constitutional aspect of his Parliamentary career was, when he was the Speaker, he had the rare privilege of presiding at the Swearing-in Ceremony of two Cabinet Ministers and as such handed over acting Ministerial appointments to V.L. Wijemanne and A.R.M. Attanayake, as acting Minister of Plantation Industries and Minister of Higher Education respectively, whilst President Jayewardene and Prime Minister Premadasa were away from the country in 1981, to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Another facet which dazzled the Speaker’s Office, while holding office, was the series of overseas official trips, which he undertook as Speaker of Parliament. He maintained excellent rapport with the diplomatic community. He was honoured with official invitations to Malaysia and attended the Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Lisbon, Portugal in 1978.


In his farewell speech in Parliament on June 9, 1988, he declared “I am proud to be a Sri Lankan, for here in Sri Lanka a man can freely worship God in his accustomed fashion”.


He strongly believed in reconciliation and coexistence. But soon we find the sad tone in his address to Parliament. He poured out.


When he said: “It is my regret that I shall no longer be with you when you add chapter to shining chapter in Sri Lanka’s history”.


He dreamt further when he said: “The time is not far off when Ceylon will sit in the Assembly of Nations, as a well- developed country and take its rightful place there and play its role”.


All these go to show that Deshamanya Bakeer Markar was Sri Lankan, deep in his heart, and was a Leader with the sincere message to all of us, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims.


Let me end with the words of Bismarck, who said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best”.


This is food for thought! 

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