M.H.M. Ashraff’s 12th death anniversary:
Founder of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress
Leaders are born everywhere in the world and the services rendered by
them for the good of their community are many. Although such services
are remembered by the people now and then: all their names would not
became historical as that of late leader M.H.M. Ashraff whose 12th
remembrance falls tomorrow - September 16, 2012.
Twelve years have passed, it seems quite a long period. But not when
it comes to Ashraff. It seems only yesterday that he took off without
bidding us farewell, Aman Ashraff his only son, and his wife Ferial
Ashraff’s qualities of leadership and respect for bureaucracy
developed loyalty and team spirit.
Ashraff was a very kind-hearted sensitive and highly emotional
personality always with a ready smile and kind word never failing to
greet his staff, colleagues and his people, at least with a smile and at
the same time he was a leader who wanted things done correctly.
Ashraff was a deeply religious man and would commence nothing without
remembering the Almighty and seeking His guidance and blessings.
Ashraff saw as nobody did before him the politics of the Eastern
province with its predominant Muslim habitation. Before his advent,
Muslim politicians aligned themselves to the two major political
parties, He was no doubt permitted by the waves of radicalism then
sweeping across the Islamic world and the growing power of the Arab
He advocated a bipartisan approach as the only solution to the ethnic
problem in this country.
This was evident when he made a lasting speech in the last Parliament
in August 2000 on the Constitution Bill. He was one of the architects of
the draft constitution.
He wrote an open letter to the UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on
August 5, 2000 titled ‘The historic role of the UNP on the draft
constitution’ in which he appealed to the major parties to forget
political differences for the sake of the nation and to unite to solve
this burning problem without postponing it to the next Parliament and
without thinking of the next election.
Late M.H.M. Ashraff, one time Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament
and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and National Unity Alliance founder
leader, died on September 16, 2000 while on his way to his native
Amparai district in a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter which crashed in a
blaze of flames in Aranayake. It is almost 12 years since he left us
never to return.
He was the only son of Mohamed Hussain, a highly respected village
headman and Matheena Ummah whom he loved dearly. Being a son of the
Eastern soil, he was in some respects an heir to a political legacy
having been a member of the influential Kariapper family of Kalmunai.
He had his primary education at Wesley College, Kalmunai and had to
leave his home region, to pursue further studies at the metropolis.
In 1970, he joined Law College where he excelled and manifested
prowess, in the field of constitutional law by writing the first book on
constitutional law in Tamil with particular reference to 1972 Republican
Constitution of Sri Lanka.
At Ceylon Law College the natural nursery of many a political leader
he was the president of the law students Muslim Majlis and of the Tamil
Mantram and was an influential member of the student community, nearly
missing the coveted position of president of the Law Students’ Union.
In 1974, he joined the Attorney General’s Department as a State
Counsel, and worked there to get himself acquainted with the law to
become an eminent lawyer. He practised in Kalmunai. He completed the
Masters Degree in Law prior to becoming a senior minister. He was
honoured with the title President’s Counsel.
The declaration on November 19, 1986 naming the SLMC a national
political party was a milestone in Ashraff’s political career, as well
as the history of Sri Lanka Muslim politics. The symbol of his party was
the tree. The tree was planted and nurtured in the Eastern and Northern
and other parts of Muslim areas in Sri Lanka. In 1989, he entered
Parliament as an MP. In the 1994, general election he was returned to
Parliament with seven MPs from North and East.
Two SLMC MPs from the East were appointed Deputy Ministers and one
MP, the party General Secretary and present Leader of SLMC Rauff Hakeem,
as the Deputy Chairman of Committees. The SLMC played a constructive
role in Sri Lankan politics. Ashraff became Minister of Ports, Shipping,
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.
Dedication and efficiency
Ashraff, fulfilled his responsibilities as a minister with the utmost
dedication and efficiency. He had a broad, liberal and enlightened
perspective. He had a very clear understanding of his role as a minister
and the role of the bureaucracy.
He spelt out the policy and strategy of his ministry and thereafter
left it to the ministry officials to translate them into action to
produce the desired results and goals.
He was an excellent writer of Tamil prose as well as in English. His
genius was in full bloom in his poetic compositions. His anthology of
poems has been hailed as a piece of outstanding literary merit by none
other than the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who himself is a
respected Tamil scholar. M. Karunanidhi was so enthralled by the title
of the anthology of his poems that he commented on it thus, “this title
by itself is a matter for contemplation, enlightenment and ultimate
Of all these qualities and talents Ashraff wished, above all, his
literary talents to outlive him, because he valued them above all other
achievements and expressed his sentiments thus,
“Leaders never die
Haven’t I told you this?
Pardon me if I haven’t
We have walked
Along the path of God,
Now you too have to go
On the same route
In this struggle
Whether we are burnt or cut to death
The joy is the same
None of our fighters will ever die
March forward oh! fighters
There is no time to rest and watch
Waste no time
In washing this corpse
Neither water nor rose water is needed
Has your Leader’s body been
coated with the sandalwood of blood
should the smell of the same fragrance
Smell in the womb of his tomb as well
Then take this body away
Pray and bury without
Any further delay
By washing this body
At the last moment
Defy not the directives of your Leadership
Weep not and waste your time
Lift this body up
And pray and bury soon”
(From the poetry collection of the Late M.H.M. Ashraff titled ‘I and
He succeeded in installing his long-standing dream, a roof to shelter
the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, which he named ‘Dharussalam’ the house of
peace and dedicated it to Sri Lanka as a whole.
He worked hard for peace.
May Allah grant his soul