BlogVeda Gedara Viplawaya – Revolution in the physicion’s home
Book Review by M.R.M. Fouzi
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE SUNDAY ISLAND OF 3RD NOVEMBER 2013, AND THE DAILY MIRROR OF 13TH NOVEMBER 2013
“Veda Gedera Viplawaya” ( Revolution in the Phycision’s Home) is the biography of late Deshmanya Al-Haj M.A.Bakeer Markar, written by Mr Jinasena Wimalaratna, after one and a half years of study on the life and times of late Bakeer Markar.
This book is lucid in expression, having the flow of day to day conversational Sinhala, which can be easily assimilated even by the most average Sinhala readers like me. We see the true portrayal of the un-corrupt national leader late Bakeer Markar, whose vision was “NATIONAL UNITY”. In addition to simplicity of language, the volume of pictorials as many as eighty in 39 Chapters running to271 pages, bring out the varied illustrious facets of late Bakeer Markar’s life and times.
In fact, the attractive colourful front cover of this biography illustrates in visual form his being the last Speaker of the Old Parliament in Galle Face and the first Speaker of the New Parliament in Sri Jayawardanapura, Kotte.
My review of this book, done with pleasure, gives a glimpse of what a reader of the biography will be keen to treasure and look forward to read on the life and times of late Deshamanya Alhaj Bakeer Markar, with keen interest. A must buy for Collectors of Biographies, and a precious ornament to adorn the library shelves of the Sri Lankan Universities and National Schools.
In my Book Review, I have laid emphasis on the following three vital aspects, although the book contains a series of anecdotes of much interest to those who yearn for PEACE AND UNITY IN SRI LANKA.
- STEPPING STONE TOWARDS NATIONAL POLITICS.
- LAWYER – GENTLEMAN.
- PARLIAMENTARY CAREER – PAR EXCELLENCE.
STEPPING STONE TOWARDS NATIONAL POLITICS!
Deshamanya Bakeer Markar entered the realm of politics in 1947, being elected Member of the Maradana Ward of the Beruwela Urban Council. This maiden step in politics led him to become a National figure, eventually becoming the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka and the first Governor of the Southern Province.
Gorakkanege Wilbert, an ex-employee of Beruwela Urban Council recalls his experiences in his association with late Bakeer Markar. This is firsthand information that the author of the biography Mr Jinasena Wimalaratna received from the personal interview he had with Wilbert ; which reveals the long association Wilbert had with late Bakeer Markar, from the time of his youth being afforded employment opportunity at the Beruwela Urban Council, when Bakeer Markar was the Chairman of the Urban Council.
Wilbert was employed as a Messenger at the Urban Council. It was from these days, he relates very significant aspects of Bakeer Markar’s character and personality. Not many a messenger of a Chairman of a local authority will have such anecdotes to share with the readers, especially in the modern days.
Wilbert, a dedicated worker, in this book says that his job as a messenger was to distribute electricity bills to consumers within Beruwela Urban Council Limits. In addition, he had the opportunity to serve as personal assistant in Chairman’s Office.
He adds, Beruwela as all of us knew was famed for gems and wealth. There was nothing that cannot be achieved with such fortunes. Wealth, then yielded great power. Here he speaks of an unforgettable incident that occurred during late Bakeer Markar’s career as Chairman. In the interview to the author, he says:
This is about Beruwela Massala Housing Scheme. The first ever Public Housing Scheme built in Ceylon. The building contractor was then well renowned Mr M. B. Mohamed, a sevety years old elder gentleman. On completion of this housing scheme, he arrived at the U.C. Chairman’s Office to receive his final payment. Then Oliver Fernando, an honest officer, hailing from Nallahena, Beruwela prepared the cheque for payment on instructions. When the Chairman Bakeer Markar handed over the cheque to the building contractor, he left the spot in an abrupt manner only to return in moments with a sealed envelope, attempting to give this envelope to late Bakeer Markar. On seeing the awkward behaviour of the building contractor, the Chairman lost his cool and cried out to him in anger in an unusual emotional burst saying: “GO OUT FROM HERE!” But subsequently realizing that he made a mistake offending the contractor in such harsh manner, he asked Wilbert to call back Mr M.B.Mohamed.
When the latter came, late Bakeer Markar said to him: “Forgive me. It’s wrong for me to have scolded you considering your age. But the offence you committed is much more serious. This is public money. It’s equal to robbing the till of temples and mosques”. The contractor replied saying that during his long career in the building industry, this is the first time he encountered such a bad situation and he added: “Sir, you are the only one who had spoken in such tone and words in my whole career, although I have offered cash in such manner to others”. This incident reveals the integrity, honesty and sincerity of late Bakeer Markar, even at the initial stages of his political career.Wilbert also spoke of Bakeeer Markar’s devotion to religion. It is said by him that whenever the Chairman was unable to attend mosque for his prayers, the latter performed his prayers in a small part of his office.
LAWYER – GENTLEMAN
A Senior Lawyer at present at the Kalutara Bar, Mr Y.S.Silva points out that late Bakeer Markar being always amiable, angered none and had no foes. In addition to his clean public life, in his professional level too he was looked upon with esteem, respect and honour. In fact, when he sought the position of President of the Kalutara Bar, he was contested by a then leading senior lawyer. At the Kalutara Bar, at that time there were only two or three Muslim lawyers. In the contest for election, he won the election overwhelmingly against his rival. Hence in 1951, even though he was a Muslim, he became the President of the Sinhala-dominated Bar Association of Kalutara with immense support from the majority community.
We also learn from this biography that late Bakeer Markar held the decorum of the legal profession in a prestigious manner, keeping to the dress code even on Saturdays during those days, while others wore more casual dress.
Moreover, we come to know from the author of the biography that he was loyal and sincere to his clients, indifferent to race and religion. An incident of exemplary conduct was about a client of his from Kaluwam-modara, Beruwela. His client belonged to the majority community. The petitioner was from the Muslim community. In spite of heavy pressure brought on him by the Muslims of the area against his appearance for the Sinhala client, late Bakeer Markar was steadfast in his stand; he did not take sides, neither did he hand over the case to another lawyer. Instead, he stood by his client to the end, seeking redress.
His legal etiquette is also revealed from the way he stood by his client in a case until 4.30 pm. When the sitting Judge queried from him as to when he is going to end his address, the lawyer Bakeer Markar replied: “My lord, I will address your Lordship’s Court until my client is released”. In this manner, he devoted his fulltime towards the client’s interest.
Another significant feature of his luminous legal career was how he took much interest and cared for women-clients, who filed divorce cases for maintenance. A lady with two children, who had filed action for maintenance was his client. He never charged any fee from this client. This incident is revealed to us by the then Junior Lawyer Mr. Y.S.Silva. This became an exemplary precedent at the Kalutara Bar, as lawyers took a decision to appear free of charge in such instances.
Another aspect of his legal career is his commitment and devotion to work. He was in office by 8.30 am and sees to the needs of his clients up to 4.30 p.m. This is the kind of link he developed with his clients. He gave most patient hearing with sympathetic approach to all his clients. This way he earned the respect of his clients. He was not after wealth. Although his office was daily crowded, it is said that he was not the one to go home in the evening with a heavy wallet.
Another brilliant act of his legal career was revealed when he was elected Hon. Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. After over two decades of successful legal practice, he was compelled to hand over his successful practice, as he could no longer continue at the Bar by virtue of his being elected Hon. Speaker. Then Mr Manilal Fernando was a leading young lawyer at the Kalutara Bar. In giving over his clients to this lawyer, Bakeer Markar told him: “My clients are not rich. Do not charge huge fees from them”. This shows the care and concern he had for his clients.
PARLIAMENTARY CAREER – PAR EXCELLENCE
We come to know from this biography, the elation of late Bakeer Markar to the exalted position in the Constitutional History of modern day Sri Lanka. This was really a unique situation. The writer of the biography states the fact that up to the enactment of the new Constitution of Sri Lanka in 1978, next to the President and the Prime Minister, the third citizen was the Chief Justice. But by the new Constitution of 1978, this was changed and the Speaker became No. 3 in order of Protocol.
This constitutional position came to real operation when both HE President J.R.Jayawardena and the Hon. Prime Minster R. Premadasa were overseas in 1981 to attend the Royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. As both these leaders were out of the country, the responsibility of the President came upon the shoulders of the then Hon. Speaker Bakeer Markar. He acted in the position of President, when both Hon. W.L. Wijemmanne and Hon. A.R.M.B. Attanayake had to take oaths under the Hon. Speaker as Acting Ministers of Plantation Industries, and Higher Education respectively.
The historical photos on pages 186 and 187 of this biography reveal to us these facts. As such Bakeer Markar became the only minority leader, to act for His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka.
Another significant event of his Parliamentary career that reveals his sincerity of purpose, human kindness and honesty serving public officers was, when he was the Chairman Public Petitions Committee.
Let us have a look:
An Assistant Station Master had been terminated from service in the Railways Department on charges of misappropriation. When this Officer made an appeal to the Public Services Commission, he couldn’t get relief. This matter of concern was brought to the notice of late Bakeer Markar. As he felt injustice had been done to this government servant, he was not ready to agree to the decision of the PSC. He believed that higher ups in the government service get away for deeds of omission and commission, while lower rung officers do not get justice. Therefore late Bakeer Markar was of the stern view that relief must be afforded to the victim, whom he felt was innocent. He queried from the PSC again but the PSC reconfirmed their previous position. As he was not happy with this, he sought Attorney General’s opinion on the matter. But AG’s Department was not ready to contradict the position taken by the PSC. In order, that justice should prevail, he summoned the PSC again for a discussion. At this discussion it came to light that injustice had been done to the victimized officer and consequently this officer was reinstated with back wages while the services of the offender, the Station Master who was really responsible for the misappropriation was terminated.
This shows that when injustice is done to any person, late Bakeer Markar is at the forefront to ensure that justice is administered justly to such persons.
NOTE: If you are a reader interested in biographies and can understand the Sinhala language, it is worth reading this book titled “ Veda Gedera Viplawaya”.