As a fellow lawyer, it is my privilege to pen a few words of an elder and illustrious figure in the legal profession who in his time adorned the legal and political portals with equal felicity and acceptance. Deshamanya Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar, born in 1917, was a devoted and practicing Muslim, loved by the Sinhalese and treated with respect and affection as one of them. This was the measure of the distinct honour bestowed on this esteemed gentleman. This epitomized the popularity of this humble son of Sri Lanka who would have indeed been a role model for us to follow in these difficult times.
It is indeed a source of gratification to us that his son, Imtihiaz, who has also followed his footsteps in the twin professions which the father chose, shows the same qualities of fellow feeling and love for all Sri Lankans drawn from the different communities. Bakeer Markar Senior, represented the Beruwela constituency in March 1960 and was Member of Parliament for Beruwela from April 1965 to March 1970. He was Deputy Speaker of Parliament from August 1977 to September 1978 from which he rose to be Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka from September 21, 1978 to August 30, 1983 which is a singular honour for a Muslim.
His political laurels did not rest there. Bakeer Markar went on to be Minister from 1983 to 1988 and throughout his life continued to remain a bridge of peace between the Sinhalese and Muslim communities. Educated at Zahira College, Maradana, he began his legal career at the Sri Lanka Law College in 1940. Unfortunately, this was interrupted during World War II when he was compelled to take up duties in the Civil Defence Services. When he returned to law, he had an extremely lucrative practice and went on to become President of the Kalutara District Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
He was founder President of the All Ceylon Union Muslim League Youth Front and additionally was also awarded the Vice Presidency of the All Ceylon Muslim League. Subsequently, he became Chairman of the Beruwela Maradana Mosque Jamaath and discharged each and every one of these duties with equal aplomb. Bakeer Markar was internationally renowned and countries in the Middle East and Far East held him in high esteem as he proved to be a great Ambassador of goodwill for Sri Lanka. He went on to excel in international relations and established close connections with the Iraqi government.
Through this connection, he built an entire village in Eravur, in the Eastern part of Sri Lanka. He was the founder President of the Iraq-Sri Lanka Friendship Association and remained in that position until his demise. He was fortunate that he did not witness the dismemberment of Iraq which would have grieved him immensely. He hailed from Maradana in Beruwela and as historically revealed, the early Arabs who arrived in Ceylon (Sailan) built the first ever Mosque in Ceylon, Masjid-Ul-Abrar. Markar took great pains in renovating Masjid-Ul-Abrar with the help of his village Jamaath. In doing so, he was careful in preserving the shape of the original architectural beauty of the Mosque.
Due to the perseverance and study he put into his study and practice of the law, he had clients both Sinhalese and Muslims flocking to him. Legends are many of the several instances where he appeared for Sinhalese clients in cases filed against persons of his own community, thereby following astutely the commandment in the Holy Quran that 'one must stand up for justice' even against one's own kith and kin. Like it is said, he never wavered from the courage of his own convictions.
Markar unerringly following in the footsteps of his political guru, Dr. T.B. Jayah blossomed into one of Sri Lanka's most senior and well respected politicians. He displayed the wisdom which our leaders of yore possessed in good measure - to give wise and mature leadership to the community without fracturing the delicate relationships which had been built up for over 1,000 years among the Sinhala and the Muslims. In our constitutional history, he has a very special place - the only Speaker of Parliament who has acted for the Head of Government and Head of State.
Honesty and sincerity were his strengths. His singular vision at national and personal level was to serve his country and he fulfilled this with true commitment. He will be remembered always as one of the great statement of our time. Today, the Bakeer Markar Centre for National Unity, an organization that promotes the vision of the late Deshamanya M. A. Bakeer Markar continues to uphold and sustain that vision. May Almighty Allah grant him Jennathu Firdouse!
Fifty one years ago on September 17, 1963, Rev. Father Berrawaerts S.J. passed away at Fatima Retreat House at Lewella in Kandy after a long and distinguished service to the church as well as to the poor people. Born on August 21, 1872 in Belgium to a wealthy and aristocratic family, he was ordained a priest on September 1890 in Belgium. Fr. Berrawaerts was one of those priests who preferred to work in Sri Lanka known as Ceylon at that time. He arrived in Ceylon in 1905 and was posted to the National Papal Seminary at Ampitiya in Kandy.
The seminary and the Ampitiya English School which were founded by Fr. Berrawaerts made Ampitiya a well known Educational centre. For nearly 50 years, he was the Principal of the Ampitiya English School and this was a period of great selfless service to the less-affluent students. The fees were very low and the privileged students had free education. Spiritual and welfare activities were such that he provided a sick room miniature hospital to students who fell sick during school hours and those who suffered injuries while playing.
In the sick room he functioned as the Doctor, nurse, attendant and the labourer, for no work was low to him. His spiritual care, sympathy and compassion for the students was incomparable. He visited the sick room to nurse the students twice at 7 p.m and at 4 a.m from a distance of about half a mile over a hillock, with a lantern in his hand. He selected teachers to the seminary very carefully. He would often observe them teaching in the classrooms. He was a disciplinarian of the highest order and no student was permitted to waste away his time during school hours. He was keen to see that students who came first in the class in terminal tests pose for a photograph with him. This was to encourage them to reach higher standard. He encouraged boys to participate in sports, with the results that boys of Ampitiya College become famous as good long distance runners in Sri Lanka.
Fr. Augustine equipped the school with its own Dental Clinic. The school had its own western instrumental band and every year on the King's birthday, there was a drill display and a march past. He gave every encouragement for cadeting and the school came out with flying colours in several competitions held island-wide.
Generation of students who were enriched by his paternal and compassionate care owe him a great debt of gratitude in the formative years of their lives. In recognition of his great service, the old boys of the school participated in a Holy mass and a memorial services on September 13, 2014 at the Retreat House, Lewella.
Deshakeerthi A.W.M. Makeen commonly known as Makeen Hajiyar, who had been the lifetime Trustee of the Panadura,Thotawatha Masjids, a popular industrialist and an indefatigable social worker, left this world at the age of 81, on August 4, 2014. Born on April 4, 1933 he lived with the proverbial 'lengthy hands', being the second male child of S.M. Abdul Waahid Hajiyar and Azeezumma, from a popular family of Thotawatha in Panadura. Makeen had his early education at the Thotawatta school at that time and subsequently attended St. Johns' College at Ratnapura.
Thereafter he stepped into the business industry and proceeded courageously facing many barriers. He shone as an icon both locally and internationally after succeeding in his industry with self confidence and valued strength. His popularity gained the presence of the Sri Lanka President, ministers and locally distinguished icons to his door step for condolence at his funeral. Makeen was a self confident, strong and kind-hearted person even though he had a slight-tempered personality, with a unique and a majestic appearance. He helped the poor to fulfill their basic needs. He wished that people in his village must start the holy month of Ramazan without any problems in their needs. Therefore he never forgot to provide them and to serve them every year.
His services were not limited to his native village but spread and included other areas too. He helped the people without seeking popularity for himself. Also he served the public without making much notice and not being noticeable to others, in different aspects such as education, medical assistance and monthly providence etc. He provided scholarships to deserving children and helped and motivated students to pass their G.C.E. Examinations. He assisted the people to fulfill their electricity and drinking water requirements. He started two part time Hifl Madrasa and renovated the Quran Madrasa.
He was in the forefront of religious, social and cultural movements of the Muslim community in particular and Sri Lankans in general and his contributions have been valuable. His father and siblings took part in the administration of the Thotawatha Masjids at that time and it was fitting that he follow in their footsteps. The whole village including the school Madrasa and Masjid administration made a rapid development. Soon afterward he was elected as the life time trustee. He used to say 'salam' to everyone at the monthly meetings of Masjids administration. He used to have contact with all the administrative members from low to high.
He had a great attitude to have conversations and discussions with everyone, making them surprised. He was pleased to provide free uniforms to Madrasa students and compliments to Ulamas and teachers. He was a well wisher to his company staff from the low level and provided for their children's education too. A.W.M. Makeen Hajiyar never stepped back in getting to know about his native villagers, when meeting them. He always wished that his gifts must be delivered to the right person at the right time. So he used to write the name and what he provided along with it.
Today, only his good deeds and memories remain. His wife Abdul Raham Marikkar Bindhi Saahira assisted him in his good deeds. His sons Milfar Makeen and Miswar Makeen along with his family, supported Makeen Hajiyar's path of social service.
Mahamaya Girl's College, Kandy, lost one of her most illustrious principals, N.K. Pilapitiya, on June 20, 2014. She was an energetic lady who to the end led a very active life. Even after her ultimate retirement to Ukuwela, Matale, she did not quietly fade away from public eye but stayed in touch with society at every given opportunity.
Therefore, it gave the greatest shock and extreme sadness to all who knew and loved her to hear of her sudden demise on the eve of her 82nd birthday. To all 'Mayans' who knew her, she was not only a principal but a dearly loved and much respected 'mother' who at every turn showed them the correct path and the right way.
Mrs Pilapitiya came to 'Mahamaya' as its new principal on January 1, 1981 bringing with her many years of teaching experience and administrative experience as a principal. This exposure had made her not only a very capable and a determined officer but also gave an aura of majesticity to her personality. Mayans at that time were certainly in awe of the way she carried herself.
Her biggest challenge at Mahamaya was not just to maintain the good name of the great Buddhist institute for female students in the hill capital, but to ensure that the standards did not drop by even one iota. With extreme confidence she faced this challenge keenly watched by Mayans all over the world. In no time, with great assurance she garnered ready support from the important triangle of parents, teachers and students to enhance and uplift the image of the school to a new level.
Her crowning glory came very early in 1982 when Mahamaya Girls' College, Kandy, was chosen as one of the 18 National Schools from the entire island. The same year Mahamaya proudly and grandly celebrated its Golden Jubilee.
The foremost place being always given to education and academics at Mahamaya, during Mrs. Pilapitiya's time the GCE Ordinary Level and Advance Level pass rate rose very high resulting in a great increase in the number of students entering universities. Along with this improvement there was considerable attention, support and encouragement given to aesthetics, sports and extra-curricular activities. That brought out excellence in all-island meets, musical and dance events, knowledge quizzes and debating contests.
At the same time, being a unique school for Buddhist girls, she noted the need to improve the level of English proficiency. This was swiftly addressed by reviving the English Literary Society and adding Music and Drama to it. This was tasked with conducting the weekly students' gathering once a month in English. That gave a great boost to many girls, more conversant in Sinhala at that time, to confidently converse and work in English with ease.
Each Monday morning at the school assembly Mrs. Pilapitiya's clear and strong voice would resonate over the school ground without the aid of a microphone. With extreme care given to discipline, everyone was on their best behaviour be it standing straight, forming a line, or bowing their heads in unison. Any mishap or misdeed would be quickly noticed and swiftly corrected either with a smile, stern look, reproach or a reprimand. Never could one hide from her keen and watchful eye! Her feet being a great asset, she was seen more on her rounds rather than in the office. No one knew where she would spring from or at what time. That kept everyone on their toes and the errant were always caught unguarded.
During Mrs. Pilapitiya's 10 years' service at Mahamaya, she greatly improved the infrastructure. In fact she was well known for that feat wherever she went. The first of the many three-storied buildings of today, four well equipped science labs and the most urgently needed auditorium were all built during her time. With clever and close interaction between the school and its parents, she gained much support to improve all areas of the school with great efficiency and completed every task in time to a very high standard.
As the head of the Past Pupils' Association she realised the great need for a branch in Colombo and spearheaded its formation in 1984. To this date, the Colombo Branch believes that if not for her steadfastness, that could have been only a wonderful idea. Mrs. Pilapitiya looked for support for the school from the Colombo Branch and for the care offered by older sisters in Colombo to the young school girls especially when they came to Colombo for numerous official events. With great dedication her forethought is still being carried out by the Colombo Branch.
After a well spent decade at Mahamaya she left in 1990 to take up the position of Additional Provincial Director of Education of the Central Province. Despite her extremely busy schedule she constantly kept in touch with the school taking part in all its functions and activities, giving advice whenever needed or requested.
After retirement from public service in 1995, Mrs. Pilapitiya joined her own school, Musaeus Girls' College in Colombo, as its principal. She waved her magic wand and cast her own spell there too for the next 14 years. She talked of that time with great pride. Leaving Musaeus in the late 2008 she set herself the task of writing the story of her school. After years of research and writing she brought out the book, The Tale of a Mud Hut in 2012 in her 80th year. That indeed was a personal tribute to her Alma Mater!
The Colombo Branch of the Past Pupils' Association was extremely fortunate to enjoy her services as its Patron throughout and to the very end, be it for a variety entertainment, fund raiser, get-together or a day's outing.
Her last official function with them was to grace their 30th anniversary celebrations as its Chief Guest in March this year.
Very few people could boast of a well lived life of eight decades and Mrs. Pilapitiya will easily find her place amongst them as an independent, confident, successful educationist.
Many female students in Sri Lanka gained much through her and blossomed under her care and guidance. She truly was a beacon to women as a just, strong, confident, happy and a caring person.
To cultivate and continue with all the qualities that have been inculcated by 'Madam' will surely be the best appreciation her students could offer her.