7 September marked the 14th Death Anniversary of the late Deshamanya Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar who was the first speaker to preside at Sessions in the present parliament building after it was shifted to Kotte.
Born on 12 May 1917, the late Barkeer Markar was the son of Hamkeem Alia Marikar Mohamed Marikar a famous businessman and physician in Beruwala, and Rahila Umma Marikar. He received his early education at St. Sebastians School Hulftsdorp and finished at Zahira College Maradana where his subsequent life in politics was influenced and moulded by the famous educationist/politician Dr. T.B.Jayah.
The late Barkeer Markar served his country and people in many positions. It was as if he had inherited the attributes needed for public service by birth. During his life he was a teacher, lawyer, politician and administrator ending his service to the nation as the Governor of the Southern Province.
He passed out as a Proctor in 1950 and built a healthy practice at the Kalutara Bar. He was well known in the Kalutara Bar for his sincerity, patience and integrity. He was a humble person who always strove to give his best to his clients.
In the same year he also commenced his political career being elected uncontested as a member of the Beruwala Urban Council. Here he rose to become the Chairman of the Council in the first year of his term.
He was elected to Parliament as a member of the Beruwala constituency in 1960 and was elected Deputy Speaker in August 1977. A few months later he was elected speaker. He continued in that position until he was made a Minister in 1983. In 1988 he was appointed as the Governor of the Southern Province.
A soft spoken individual Alhaj M.A. Barkeer Markar was a true democrat and strove to ensure that the parliament discharged its duties to the nation and the public in a fair and just manner. He favoured nobody and carried out his duties justly and impartially. Records indicate that his commitment to his work won him praise from all sections in parliament. It is said that his tri-lingual command of language enabled him to discharge his duties to the utmost satisfaction of the members of parliament. He worked hard to uplift the Muslim community and is credited with the establishment of the All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts. This became the coordinating body and leading Muslim Youth organisation representing Muslim youth in all parts of Sri Lanka. At one time this movement had over 500 youth fronts under it. Realising the importance of media he commenced the publication of a tabloid by the name “Dawn”. This paper was published both in English and Tamil. His son Alhaj Imtiaz Barkeer Markar later went to become the Minister of Mass communication thus carrying forward his late father’s vision.
He was a close friend of our family and would invite us to lunch at Mumtaz mahal the then speaker’s house at Colpetty. The Parliament was housed at Galle face at that time and it was a treat to be later entertained in the speakers gallery followed by tea with the speaker. He was an unassuming man and conversations with him were very informative and we as teenagers were quite honoured to be entertained in this manner.
It was this simple but great quality in him that earned him the good will of a predominantly Sinhala electorate which elected him several times to represent them in Parliament.