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A firm believer in democracies:

Deshamanya Alhaj M A Bakeer Markar

by Rasheed M. Imthiyaz
(National General Secretary, All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts)

"We Muslims shall extend our hands in friendship to all communities of this country whom we regard as being of one nation, so that together we can march forward".

This is the voice of late Deshmanaya Alhaj M.A. Bakeer Markar, the last Speaker of the old Parliament at Colombo and the first Speaker of the new Parliament at Sri Jayawardanapura, Kotte and the renowned Muslim leader of our motherland.

Today is the eighth remembrance day of the late Alhaj M.A. Bakeer Markar, the man who dedicated his life to national unity. He was born on 12th May 1917 at Hakeem Villa, Maradana, Beruwala as the son of the famous businessman and Ayurvedic physician, late Hamkeem Alia Marikar Mohamed Marikar and of Mrs. Rahila Umma Marikar.

He was educated both at St. Sebastian's School of Hulsdrof, Colombo 12 and Zahira College of Colombo 10. He was the favourite student of Dr. Tuan Burhanudeen Jaya, then principal of Zahira College and Sri Lanka's best known educationist who later became a veteran Muslim political leader of the nation.

The late Alhaj Bakeer Markar first entered politics in 1950 when he was elected uncontested as a member of the Beruwela Urban Council. During the first year of his tenure he became the Chairman of the Council, which seems to be a record in local government politics.

Thereafter he continued to be a member of the Beruwala Urban Council for a long period representing his people. He implemented various programs for the development of the area.

At the March 1960 general election he contested the Beruwela constituency under the United National Party moving from local politics to national politics and was elected as the first Member of Parliament to represent Beruwela.

However, the Parliament was dissolved in April 1960 and he contested the general election held in July 1960. People of Beruwala re-affirmed their confidence in him and was re-elected as a Member of Parliament to represent them. At the 1970 general election he lost his seat by a small margin, but was able to retain the seat with an overwhelming majority at the general election held in 1977.

On August 04, 1977, Bakeer Markar was elected Deputy Speaker of the National State Assembly and was elected unanimously as the Speaker of Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. As the Speaker he discharged his duties in great style with his tri-lingual command to the utmost satisfaction of the Members of Parliament.

On August 31, 1983 Alhaj Baker Markar, for reasons best known to him, resigned from the post of Speaker and on the same day was appointed Minister without Portfolio.

He was in the legislature for sixteen years and more then five years as Speaker and five years as Minister. In 1988 he was appointed Governor of Southern Province and sworn in as Governor before President J.R. Jayewardane at President's House on June 15, 1988.

One of Alhaj Bakeer Markar's greatest achievements was establishing the 'All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts. This is the coordinating body and leading Muslim youth organisation representing Muslim youths all parts of Sri Lanka. He was the founder president of this union.

During his life time he formed more than 500 Muslim youth fronts spread throughout the island. He devoted most of his valuable time to establishing this movement, a unique one and he visited almost every Muslim village and familiarized himself with Muslim youths to achieve his goal.

Alhaj Bakeer Markar was also loved by the Tamil community of our motherland. He was the last political leader from the South who visited the Jaffna peninsula. Jaffna Municipal Council accorded a civic reception.

The Mayor of Jaffna, community leaders and almost all Tamil parliamentarians of that time and distinguished people of the peninsula graced the occasion, honouring him.

Though Alhaj Bakeer Markar hailed from a minority community he earned the goodwill and respect of all communities. He represented a predominantly Sinhalese electorate in which members of his community from only 26% of the population. He was loved by the Sinhala people all the time.

Alhaj M.A. Bakeer Markar's elder son, Alhaj Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, former Minister of Mass Communication is carrying forward the vision of his father. He established the 'Bakeer Markar Centre for National Unity' (BMCNU) and served the nation to build unity and harmony among all communities of Sri Lanka.

Alhaj Imthiaz Bakeer Markar also actively participated in all activities of the All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts make the vision of late Bakeer Markar a reality.

It is worthy to quote here the words of Deshamanaya Alhaj M.A. Bakeer Markar. He said, "I am a firm believer in democracies and rights of man. It fills me with grief to see the hardships and circumstances beyond people's control. I am particularly happy; therefore, that Parliament in discharging its duties to the nation has not lost sight of the individual whose final court of appeal is Parliament."

"I am a Muslim and proud to be one, I am proud to be a Sri Lankan, for here in Sri Lanka a man can freely worship God in his accustomed fashion. Islam regards all mankind as one. He is to be most respected who best serves God and man. We Muslims extend our hand of friendship to all communities whom we regard as being of one nation, so that together we can march forward towards that one divine event to which the whole creation moves".

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