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Sunday, 19 June 2016

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The gentle trade unionist


Alavi Moulana

Veteran trade unionist-turned- politician Seyed Ahmed Seyed Alavi Moulana who passed away during Ramazan on June 15, 2016 was buried at the Dehiwala Burial grounds on the following day. Tilak Jayasingha, Sri Lanka's former Ambassador to Palestine, reminded me that his uncle, Communist Party trade union leader M.G.Mendis who later became Ratgama MP would time and again say "Moulana is a gentleman with malice to none. He is gifted with the best of negotiating skills. With his pleasing manner, humour and middle path policy, he amicably solved disputes, which made workers and managements take aliking to him."

At a time when the Muslim community was identified with the United National Party, Moulana was among the first Muslims to join the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1956. He remained with the party till the end - a rare quality in local politics today, when it has become the norm for politicians to switch loyalties for perks and position.

Be it during times of prosperity or adversity, he defended the rights of workers. For example, during the tenure of late President J.R. Jaywardene who crushed trade union movements, to promote his open economic policy, Moulana faced numerous problems.

In one instance, he was attacked and severely wounded. He showed me how he was attacked with a bicycle chain and the region from his hip to the upper rib was ripped open. Those were difficult days when he faced financial crisis too. However, he didn't turn to anyone for assistance but managed on his own to get out of the difficult situation.

He did not join the UNP to tide over difficulties. After Anura Bandaranaike crossed over to the UNP, I asked him whether he would follow him. His response was "My loyalties remain with the SLFP and the Bandaranaike family, whether it is in prosperity or adversity." In Sri Lanka, political fortunes changes fast. After more than a decade and a half of UNP rule, the SLFP came to power and his patience paid off.

Born in 1930, he entered local politics, Colombo Municipal Council, early in life in 1948. In 1960, during the late Prime Minister Mrs Srimavo Bandaranaike's tenure, he was made SLFP trade union leader.

He was later appointed as a vice-president of the SLFP and senior vice-president of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya Since then, he served as Deputy Media Minister, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Minister of Labour, acting Governor for Sabaragamuwa and as Governor of the Western Province

He was also and adviser on Muslim Affairs to former president Chandrika Kumaratunga. On his 80th birthday he was honoured with the title of 'Jana Prasadiu' at a ceremony by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was a founder of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian people and played a crucial role in championing the rights of the Palestinians, exposing Israeli atrocities.

As a Muslim he played a prominent role in trying to sort out almost every issue.

May Almighty Allah accept his good deeds and reward him.

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