|Saturday, 2 February 2002|
Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel's 103rd birth anniversary
by M.H. Amit
My association with Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel commenced when he signed as witness to my marriage to Dr. T. B. Jayah's daughter in 1940. T. B. Jayah was then a Member of the State Council.
Members of the State Council of the minority communities fearing Sinhala domination consequent to formation of the pan Sinhala Board of Ministers had combined to establish an organisation among themselves called the Minority Group. The Leaders of the Group were G. G. Ponnambalam, T. B. Jayah, Peri Sunderam, I. X. Pereira, G. A. H. Willie representing the Jaffna Tamil, Muslim, Indian Bharatha and Burgher communities.
Dr. Kaleel though not in the State Council was a prominent Member of this Group. To strengthen the minority representation in the State Council, this Group put forward its own candidates at by-elections to contest those sponsored by the pan Sinhala Board of Ministers.
In 1942 A. E. Goonesinghe was unseated in an election petition being found guilty of corrupt practice. To the Colombo Central seat the All Ceylon Muslim League put forward Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel. He defeated comfortably his main opponent Jinendrasinghe and was sworn in as a Member of the State Council.
At this time too there was a serious ethnic problem with G. G. Ponnabalam demanding a fifty fifty representation for the minorities in any future Legislature which D. S. Senanayake vehemently opposed.
The problem was finally resolved by an understanding entered into by D. S. Senanayake with T. B. Jayah and Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel.
This understanding enabled the passing of the Soulbury Constitution by a two third majority in the State Council and thereafter the formation of the United National Party.
A somewhat similar solution for the North East conflict is possible which while ensuring the Unity and Territorial Integrity of Sri Lanka meet the aspirations of the Tamil people without endangering the rights of the Sinhala and Muslim people in a merged North East region.
In 1945 Dr. Kaleel suffered his first heart attack and was ill to join the Muslim League Delegation, which gave evidence before the Soulbury Commission nor was he able to attend the inaugural Meeting of the United National Party.
In the 1957 General Election he gave way to Dr. T. B. Jayah, who was elected as Second Member of the Colombo Central Multi Member Constituency and was appointed as Minister of Labour and Social Services in the first Independent Cabinet of D. S. Senanayake.
T. B. Jayah resigned his seat and his portfolio to take appointment as Ceylon's First High Commissioner to Pakistan. In the by election that followed Dr. Kaleel defeated Dr. S. A. Wickremesinghe of the Communist party.
When Dr. Kaleel contested the General Election of 1952 and 1956 I was out of the country.
In 1952 he was appointed as Minister of Labour and Social Services in Dudley Senanayake's Cabinet, which post he continued to hold under Sir John Kotelawela's Cabinet.
In 1956 he was defeated by thirty five votes by Themis, a postal peon. When I returned to Ceylon in 1957 I resumed my close association with him.
He was then the President of All Ceylon Muslim League and I was soon re-elected as one of the Joint Secretaries.
In the General Election in March 1960 Dr. Kaleel was elected as the First Member for Colombo Central and was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs in Dudley Senanayake's Cabinet. This Government did not last being forced to resign on its defeat in the Throne Speech.
In the subsequent General Election in July 1960 the United National Party was defeated though Dr. Kaleel retained his seat as third Member. He declined to contest the General Election of 1965 giving way to Faleel Caffoor.
When Dr. Kaleel returned from England having completed his medical studies to start his private practice in Colombo. He often related to us an amusing incident which occurred in the early years of his practice.
A foreign religious dignitary a Guest of N. D. H. Abdul Caffoor had fallen ill with Malaria. Dr. Kaleel was summoned to attend on him. He prescribed Quinine and a tonic.
The patient had taken only the tonic and not the Quinine as it was bitter. A couple of days later the dignitary died. It was widely felt that Dr. Kaleel had killed him through his negligence.
The following day when he went to the Dispensary, there was not a single patient to consult him.
He gave up the practice and joined as Registrar of the Medical College. After a short stint as Registrar he reverted to his private practice and built up a wide though not a lucrative practice amongst the poor people of Maradana.
His charges were extremely reasonable based on the capacity of the patient to pay. In due course through experience he acquired considerable diagnostic skill.
We must honour him on 103rd year birth anniversary which falls tomorro 2002.
Produced by Lake House