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First of all let us start by thanking all our readers for the overwhelming response to our previous article “5 Sri Lankan Malays You Should Absolutely Know About”. Your views, reviews, comments, constructive criticism and most importantly suggestions were in fact the source of inspiration for this article.
So once again, without any comparison of the significance of achievements or the service rendered to the Malay community, and also in no particular order, here are 5 more Sri Lankan Malays you should know of:
#5 Kalabhushana Title for a Dancing Maestro
‘Kalabhushana’ is a state award presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs in recognition of artists who have rendered invaluable service to the field of Performing Arts. The state awards ceremony of 2013 was special to the Malays of Sri Lanka as the famous and beloved Malay Dancer and Choreographer Tuan Rufin Saldin, was awarded the title ‘Kalabhushana’ bringing pride and joy to our community. Nazly Cassim, in his article about the awards ceremony published in February 2014 writes, “It should be recalled that his father T. A. I. Saldin too was awarded the ‘Kala Vibhushana’ by President J. R. Jayewardene not only in recognition to his oriental dancing talent but also for being a dedicated veteran of Second World War.” Rufin Saldin is a well-known figure among the Malay community of Sri Lanka for his dedication in choreographing many traditional Malay dance routines for various cultural shows and displays.
#4 The Malay Behind the First Jothi Song
A Malay Composer and Musician once composed a song by the name of ‘Mage Ran Rajini’ for a film named ‘Surathalee’. The film and the song became instant hits and the vocalist whose first song it was, became an overnight star by the name of H. R. Jothipala and the rest is history.
This composer and music maestro is none other than our beloved Mohamed Shaheed ‘Stanley’ Oumar whose mesmerizing tunes especially with his violin brought renown stage plays such as Kuveni, Thawath Dawasak, Veda Warjana, Makara, Suba Saha Yasa, Sudu Saha Kalu and Hunuwataye Kathawa to life.
Maestro Stanley Oumar also composed music for three generation of vocalists ranging from H. R. Jothipala, Victor Ratnayake, Milton Mallawarachchi and Edward Jayakody. In recognition of his mammoth contribution to film music, the Government of Sri Lanka honoured him with the title ‘Kalabooshana’ in 1995 and the national honorary title of ‘Kala Suri’ in 2003. He remains to date, the only Malay Kala Suri.
#3 The Present Commandant of the Police STF
The Special Task Force (STF) is the elite Special Forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police and are capable of fighting in built-up areas, closed quarter battle, quick reaction deployment, handling riot situations, explosive ordinance disposal, VIP protective security and peace keeping operations and the head behind all these operations at present is a Malay.
Senior DIG M. R. Latiff who was appointed as the Commandant of the STF on 18th August 2016 is known as a sincere and committed Officer who fights crime regardless of political pressure or influence.
One of the most notable feats in his gallant 38 year career is perhaps when he spearheaded Operation ‘Niyathai Jaya’ launched by the STF in the jungles of Kanchikudichchi Aru in Ampara District on 4th January 2007 to destroy LTTE strongholds and wither their influence in this jungle terrain posing threats to national security interests in Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil Sectors.
#2 The First Ever Malay Major General
Maj Gen MZR Sallay USP is a product of Isipathana College (Previously Isipathana Maha Vidyalaya) Colombo. He joined the Sri Lanka Army as an Officer Cadet in 1980.
Like most Malays, he showed a keen interest in Rugby and represented Isipathana, just like his brothers MPF Sallay who captained the Isipathana team in 1978 and Havelocks SC in 1984 and Selwyn Sallay who captained Isipathana in 1986 and represented the Police rugby team.
His love for the sport didn’t fade after joining the Army as he went on to represent the Army 1st XV Rugby Team and was awarded Army Colors for his versatile contribution alongside his team mate General Daya Ratnayake who later went on to become the Commander of the Army. He has held the positions of Secretary and Vice Chairman of the Army Rugby Committee. He was later appointed a member of Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) disciplinary committee as well.
He held the appointment of Colonel Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army Ordinance Corps from 2009 to 2014. In appreciation of his dedicated service of more than 30 years to his motherland, he was promoted to the rank of Major General on 28th November 2013 marking the date in Sri Lankan Malay history books as the day our community produced its first ever Major General of the Sri Lanka Army.
#1 The first Malay to adorn the Supreme Court Bench
Justice Maas Thajoon Akbar who played a prominent role in the educational and judicial life of the country was educated at Royal College, Colombo and upon gaining a first class division pass at the London Matriculation, won the coveted scholarship to University of Cambridge in 1897 where he did the Mechanical Science Tripos to qualify as an Engineer. However, he subsequently switched over to Law and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn.
He returned to Sri Lanka in 1905 and while practicing law, also officiated as a Lecturer and Examiner at the Ceylon Law College. He joined the official bar and became a Crown Counsel in 1907 where he received appointments in turn as Solicitor-General, District Judge and Acting Attorney General.
MT Akbar was not only the first Malay, but the first Muslim to adorn the Supreme Court Bench. He was also the first Malay to be raised to the status of King’s Counsel.
During his illustrious career, Justice Akbar made outstanding contributions towards the development of Muslim Law in Sri Lanka. He played a leading role in framing new laws on the subject of the Muslim Law of Inheritance and Law of Wakf.
MT Akbar, realizing the lack of educational qualifications of the Muslims at that time, served as the founder Secretary of the Ceylon Muslim Educational Society Ltd and was responsible for establishing the Hussainiya Boys’ School and the Fathima Girls’ School which fulfilled the educational needs of the Muslims in the Colombo district. He was also instrumental in building the Jawatte Mosque within the Jawatte Burial Grounds.