Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Haleem Ishak

Haleem Ishak passes away - Island Thu Sep 25 2003

Forner SLFP Member of Parliament for Colombo Central, Haleem Ishak passed away yesterday. He was 74 years at the time of death.

The late Haleem Ishak worked closely with late Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike to strengthen the party at times of crisis.

He was a fine contributor in Parliament and spoke on selected subjects.

Haleem Ishak was a politician respected by all communities and all parties in an outside Parliament.

His funeral took place in Colombo yesterday. (PG)

AppreciationHaleem Ishak - (I)

The passing away of Mr. Haleem Ishak, a politician of distinction on 24th Sept. 2003 brought sorrow, sadness and grief to the thousands who rushed to his residence to pay their last respects and to the many others who walked behind his bier to the Kuppiyawatta Muslim burial ground where his last remains were laid to rest.

Mr. Ishak began his political career being elected to the Colombo Municipal Council as a member of the Kuppiyawatta East Ward in 1962. He was the only SLFP member elected to the CMC out of 46 others from other political parties. Although the Kuppiyawatta East Ward has a cosmopolitan population and people are of different shades of political opinion, the late Mr. Haleem Ishak was able to comfortably win the election and was re-elected twice in 1966 and 1969 and went on to represent this Ward as a distinguished councillor until the Council was dissolved in 1977.

In the parliamentary election of 1977, when the United National Party won a landslide victory, Mr. Ishak was elected to the Multi-member Colombo Central constituency as the 3rd member from the SLFP, coming ahead of veteran politician, the late Mr. Pieter Keuneman. During the period 1977-1988, when the SLFP opposition in parliament was restricted to eight members, Mr. Ishak never failed to express his views without fear or favour.

In 1979, the writer was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council to represent the people of Kuppiyawatta East Ward on behalf of the United National Party which Ward was previously ably represented by the late Mr. Ishak for a continuous period of sixteen years.

An outstanding quality of the late Mr. Ishak, he never failed to acknowledge and commend progress and development being undertaken by the Colombo Municipal Council in the Kuppiyawatta East Ward during the tenure of the writer who represented this Ward from 1979-2002 as a Municipal Councillor and thereafter as the Deputy Mayor and Mayor of Colombo.

The late Mr. Ishak served the people irrespective of political affiliation during his four decades of public service as a Municipal Councillor and later as a Parliamentarian (1977-1994). Mr. Haniffa Ishak, elder son of the late Mr. Haleem Ishak continues the good work of his father serving the citizens of Colombo as a Municipal Councillor (1991-2002) and now as a party organizer.

The large gathering of mourners who came to pay their last respects at the burial ground in their thousands is ample testimony of the affection and admiration they had for the late Mr. Haleem Ishak — A Man among Men.

"Inna Lillahi, Wa inna-illaihi-Raji-hoon"
(From the Almighty Allah we come, and to Him we go)

Omar Kamil
Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Iran

Haleem Ishak - (II)

Mr. Haleem Ishak’s death was news of great anxiety and unbearable sorrow as he was one of my very close friends for the past four decades. In the sojourn of sansara, we come across all sorts of people, but I strongly feel that people of the calibre of Haleem is so rare and limited. I firstly encountered Haleem at the Colombo Municipal election in 1962 as the SLFP candidate for Kuppiyawatte. In a virulent attack on Mr. Somaweera Chandrasiri MP who was Haleem Ishak’s key speake, in this election campaign, I supported the UNP candidate Mr. Karunathilake. My speech was so harsh that Haleem Ishak gave a press interview threatening libel action. But both of us became very good friends, representing governing and opposing parties in the CMC.

Though I resigned from the Colombo Municipal Council our friendship never ended. We were "mango friends" through thick and thin. We fought many a political battle jointly in parliament and elsewhere. Haleem discarded all air of self-aggrandizement, he was a resolute campaigner against the corrupting nature of power at any level. He sincerely believed "all power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Circumstances of straight forwardness compelled him to change his political colouring, but so-called leaders got the best out of him and never reciprocated. I’m fully aware of the assurances and the promises that were given to him by the governing powers of the country and never fulfilled. He was never a hot-headed politician moved by anger or indignation. He hated injustice, tyranny and immorality, he was always fair and generous to his opponents and always ungrudgingly helped his friends in their needs. Haleem Ishak even sacrificed his political career in coming to the rescue of so-called friends, who ultimately neglected or ignored him.

In the true sense of sports, Haleem Ishak was a true sportsman who played a "losing" game with pluck, patience and fearlessness. I used to meet him very often after he had fallen ill and a few days before his death, I spent a considerable time with him. I could visualize the height of his frustration and grief, when he requested me to visit him more frequently as it brought past memories and solace to him. He was very pleased to mention that he won parliamentary elections with majority votes, which he got from Sinhala people. I always consider him as a bridge builder who did his best to bring the Sinhalese and the Muslims together.

Haleem Ishak was a very devoted husband to his exemplary wife who happens to be Minister M. H. Mohamed’s sister. He was an amiable father to his sons, daughters and grandfather to his grandchildren.

May eternal bliss be with him.
P. A. Jinadasa Niyathapala


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