The ninth death anniversary of M. H. M. Ashraff falls
Kingmaker of the East
Nine years sounds quite a long period, but not when it comes to
Ashraff. It seems only yesterday that he took off without bidding us
farewell. Aman his only son, a young man with his adorable Zahara, by
his side brings but Ashraff to life. The humility, genuine warmth, and
secrecy in generosity in abundance, is truly Ashraff in Aman.
M. H. M.
However it is, but sad even after this long period, certain aspects
and attitudes of Ashraff, which when singled out, is alien to the great
leader, but being further distorted to suit certain hidden agendas of
some. Those were traits of Ashraff during an era almost a decade ago to
suit but a particular situation or region.
It was his intellect and gentility combined with a long term vision
for his people; which made him a charismatic leader of the Eastern
Province in particular, and the muslim community of Sri Lanka in
general. He vehemently believed that unity amongst the Muslims in Sri
Lanka is the stepping stone of a long walk ahead, towards the identity
with dignity of the minority Muslims of the country.
The tree of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress which registered as a
political party in 1986 should be wide and full to shelter all his
people; he believed. He took meticulous care in designing it. Detailed
scrutiny was done of many a picture of trees before the final Congress
Symbol satisfied the founder of the party, Ashraff. So fervent was he on
his cause to unite his people under the shade of one tree, before taking
the long walk ahead. United we march and thus we achieve heights, was
the secret motto. And he indeed achieved it as all know.
Ashraff, who by then had had already won Ferial’s heart over,
continued to admire the versatility and comfort levels maintained by his
beloved with other communities. He was envious of the ease she had with
It troubled him that though highly intellectual and academically
placed as well-being enterprising that the Muslim Easterner lacked this
ease, which hindered bridging the cultural gap in the nation. He wanted
that East for his Eastern Muslim brethren. This was a very common topic
amongst the small group, from his standards but quite a number to feet
at late night, that used to meet up at ‘Hira’ in Kalmunai in the early
It cannot be achieved in a day, he knew. But he took it upon himself
to bring about the change, for the rightful recognition and identity of
his people. A challenge that had had many a hurdle. Burning of the
midnight oils, many a day by this single man was the secret behind the
success of the Muslim Congress.
He had to inculcate in his people that one’s fort should be strong
before venturing to distant land. As such the unity amongst ones won
community was a must. It sounded racial; dictatorial. But, it was simple
strategy for the long walk ahead. He came out jubilantly with winning
nine seats in the Parliamentary Elections in 1994 and was the kingmaker.
His people finally had a voice. Exhilated though he was, he knew his
responsibility by his people. They cannot be regionalized forever. The
time had come for the united community under the shelter of the tree to
venture into national levels. He was there to lead. He was there to
guide. And of course, he was there to keep check. His people need no
longer have qualms about interacting with the neighbouring Sinhalese, or
the Colombo elite. They were united and it was strength. There was no
Thus emerged NUA, the National Unity Alliance. He proudly took his
clan along and the mingling of cultures and communities. What followed
was smooth and sleek. The symbol Dove of NUA spoke it all.
His people rightfully gained wings to fly free finally. The SLMC, the
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, is it needed now, the founder contemplated.
Do we need regional politics further? Not really so. The true father was
there to lead with wings won over. So let it be only NUA in future.
Revere the Tree that gave you shelter all these days but, now spread
your wings and fly high, Ashraff said. So in the year 2000, NUA contests
nationwide and jubilantly wins 11 seats.
This is a long story cut short of a vision achieved. But sadly
Ashraff leaves before he could truly convince some of the non Muslim
brethren, who still eyed him with unease. He departs before the Nation
truly recognized the nationalist in him. The Sinhala tutor, who used to
come over to the official residence of the then Minister Ashraff at all
odd times, would bear witness of the fervour with which he wanted to
master the Sinhala language.
But Ferial remains. Ferial who hears Ashraff’s soul cry; who knew the
Ashraff who put his people before every thing else. She cannot leave
without making Ashraff’s dream a total reality. She owes him; a man who
wanted the best for his people and the nation as a whole. Ferial knows
Ashraff recognized and respected the strength in her.
She doesn’t need a banner or a poster with him in the back drop to
remind her commitment. It’s innate and thus Ferial Ashraff plays the
role she got to, with humility and commitment.
She knows where she is heading. It would be the ultimate dream of
Ashraff for his people but done her style, and pace. May Allah Almighty
grant her strength and courage in her humility to guide those who want
unity to be strength.
May Allah Almighty grant brother Ashraff. ‘jennathul firdhouze’ and
accept our ‘duas’ during this Holy Month of ‘Ramadhan’ to continue, a
united community with an identity within an undivided Sri Lanka.