Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 May 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

M. H. Mohamed

With the numerous articles of very sincere and most deepest appreciations of my revered maternal uncle. I have been inspired to also write and express my profound and deep feelings on his demise.

He passed away peacefully on May 26, which incidentally was my 57th wedding anniversary.

The bond with my uncle grew from my formative days, where we grew up together and brings to mind fond memories. My late elder brother Fahmy and I had the privilege of entertaining him when he came to England.

When he visited England, while he

was the Mayor of Colombo, a year after my marriage to my wife Jean, we discussed with him about a spiritual elder we knew, who was living in Grosvenor Square in Hyde Park.

My uncle was keen to meet him and we arranged for a meeting. At this meeting this spiritual elder referred to uncle as a special person and said he was much loved by his late father.

He told uncle that he would have a long and healthy life and will always achieve high political recognition in his home country.

He also told him since he was gifted with a ‘special’ life, he should at all times follow the religion and help the followers of the religion, more than what his political positions warranted.

This spiritual elder said my uncle’s religious relevance was more important to him than his political life and achievements. This was perhaps the commencement of his contribution to the Muslims.

When I returned to Sri Lanka in May 1965 to assume duties as his first private secretary in the Ministry of Labour Employment and Housing, he was requested by the then Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake M.P. to overlook and attend to the religious affairs of the Muslims.

It became my task to assist him to draft documents on the performance of Haj by the Sri Lankans and their visiting Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The Haj Committee of the YMMA and other bodies were duly recognised and formalised.

My late father Haji M.A. Razak and his his closest colleague M. Falil A. Caffoor M.P., were included as members as they were providing the travel passages and facilitating the groups each year for the performance of Haj.

 Having moved closely, I found that as he had some special protection, whatever matter he handled, he was successful and richly rewarded. During trade union disputes and strikes, his dealing with leaders of various trade unions was made simple.

The reawakening of the World Muslim Congress in Karachi by the dynamic efforts of the late Dr. Hajji Inamullah Khan and the late Grand Mufti His Holiness Amin al~Hussaini was one such meeting and my father introduced my Uncle to Dr. Haji Inamullah Khan when he visited Sri Lanka.

This introduction opened many doors to Islamic connections and contacts in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen, Dubai, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and East Pakistan and other places.The late Dr. Haji Inamullah Khan appointed my uncle to the World Muslim Congress {Motamar} and they were inducted as founder members of the World Muslim League {Rabitha} in the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

With these connections, my uncle opened Sri Lanka to Islamic nations.

I am certain that his demise will create a void and I hope and pray that this will be resolved soon to continue the excellent work he did over the past six decades.

I visited him regularly, when I visited Sri Lanka. During his tenure as Speaker, he visited us in New Zealand. I made his visit an important occasion as the Maori in New Zealand officially welcomed him in the City of Rotorua. He was also taken on the Lake of Rotorua. He was the first overseas Speaker to receive this honour. My wife and I and my family were honoured by his visit to New Zealand.

 I always considered my uncle a ‘Moomin’, because during his lifetime, he acted in a noble and revered manner. 

I am convinced that he has been richly rewarded with Jennathul Firdhous.

Mohamed Iqbal

Innocent Fernando

This may sound like a eulogy in part, but it is hopefully much more than that. It is intended as an appreciation of the life of an exceptional human being; someone who was a dedicated public servant, good sportsman, a much sought after friend to many, a doting husband to my mother and above all a loving and caring father. Other than reading up on a Pope bearing that name and a good Nigerian athlete of the 90s, I cannot recall coming across anyone bearing the name of my father, Innocent (Fernando) and the name suited him.

His father was a modestly successful businessman and his mother a housewife. My father grew up with three other brothers with a major part of his early education at St. Mary’s College in Negombo. He was a very good footballer at school and natural progression saw him play for the Jupiters Football club of Negombo, which was the only outstation club to challenge the might of the Colombo based ones in the 50s and 60s. I recall him telling me, when I was quite young, that he had missed out on national selection by a mere whisker but was gracious and modest enough to point out to me the man whom he could not outdo as a forward, a York club footballer. True honesty was a lifelong ideal to which he lived up to and passed on to his two sons.

He then joined a Kachcheri office in Puttalam and while serving there applied for and got the opportunity of working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, around 1962. And as they say, there was no turning back for him.Messrs. Sir Razik Fareed, W. T. Jayasinghe, H.M.G.S. Palihakkarra were some of the stalwarts of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps whom he worked with while honoraries A.C.S. Hameed, Ranjan Wijeratne and the incomparable Lakshman Kadirgamar headed the ministry at various stages of his illustrious career.

A few days after my father’s passing, when Mr.Palihakkara paid a visit,he told us something we did not know. We got to know that my father had been quite emotional on some burning issues concerning foreign relations and would even go on to press his superiors to take immediate action whenever the situation got serious. I knew he was a tireless and passionate public servant and never reneged on his duty. So rarely did he take time off work that I am quite certain my mother would not have been all that pleased. But we were acutely aware of his dedication and loyalty to the foreign ministry and his work. He served in Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Switzerland and Canada on long term stints but was called on and off for delegate visits to South East Asia, Australia and even in Sicily, Italy. I remember that we were quite alarmed when he said he was going to Sicily, not once but twice for a difficult court case during the height of the ethnic crisis. Long after he had retired and by then physically less comfortable, he still pined to be back at work at the ministry or related and it was only our intervention that prevented him from doing so. Of course we were not inclined to see him take a fall or something worse in trying to commute daily to work. So he continued with his lifelong passion - reading up on current and world affairs. He also would called up his former superiors and colleagues and either reminisce or get word on developments.

As a truly loving and caring father he gave my brother and myself life lessons that formed the very core of our growing up years. Honesty and modesty were ingrained in us early in addition to respect and care for all human beings be of any walk of life. Even after he was well into retirement and in his 70s, whenever I took time off work, he would inquire well before my superiors got to know, why I would be at home and not at work.

I then had to explain to him that either I was unwell or I had to attend to a domestic matter. He then would want to know whether I had informed my office. Such had been his loyalty to his duty that he wanted his sons also to abide by the wonderful, highly esteemed code of responsibility he had aspired for and lived up to throughout his remarkable career and indeed his life.

The lasting memory I will have of him would be of him humming songs of CT Fernando and his ilk, to himself, for he was a very good social get-together singer. He also loved listening to Jim Reeves, Nana Mouskouri, Boney M and those great Hindi singers of the 50s and 60s.

Innocent Fernando was indeed a man for all seasons to my family and I am certain to his relatives and many friends. As one of our very close family friends said to me, “ A chapter in our lives has come to an end ”. We will always miss our dear father who was a shining light to all of us. The emptiness that we feel can never be filled except by the wonderful memories he left behind. Quoting a few lines from a Jim Reeves rendered gospel classic he loved;

“ Across the bridge there’s no more sorrow
Across the bridge there’s no more pain
The sun will shine across the river
And you’ll never be unhappy again ”

Farewell dear father till we meet again. May his soul rest in peace in the haven of God.

- Roshan Fernando



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