Saturday, March 04, 2006

MASHMOON SALDIN (LYE)

Mashmoon Saldin (Lye):
'Mother of the Malays' - Daily News Fri Jun 18 2004

She was born on June 18th, 1908 and passed away peacefully at the age of 86 on her birthday, June 18th at her majestic residence "Taprobane". She was a kindly, simple and soft spoken lady known as "Aunty Eva" to her relations, "Mashmoon" to her friends and "Mrs. Lye" to the general public.

Mashmoon Lye was a daughter of Marhoom M. K. Saldin, well known businessman during his day and member of the State Council and wife of Marhoom Baba Zahiere Lye, distinguished Malay leader and Member of Parliament. She was educated at St. Bridget's Convent, Colombo 7.

The Sri Lanka Malay Association Rupee Fund (S.L.M.A. Rupee Fund) with 50 years of unbroken dedicated services to the less fortunate and deserving, was born out of an idea of Mashmoon Lye.

In her rounds in Colombo as a Red Cross worker she had seen for herself the pitiful plight of most families in sore need of assistance by way of food and clothing.

She gave serious thought and got an idea - "If each member of the community who were better-off were to collect a "Rupee - a day" we would be able in due course to render assistance to our less fortunate brothers and sisters." Many said, "On the face of it the idea seemed almost too simple and even child is to be practicable."

Yet with many other giving her encouragement she decided to establish a fund to be known as the All Ceylon Malay Association Rupee Fund. The fund was inaugurated in May 1953 by late Al Haj Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel at the former pavilion of the Malay Cricket Club at Rifle Green, Colombo with over one hundred persons present, which included many eminent men of the Malay community.

She was determined to move forward as she best understood the suffering of the less fortunate and her capability to make her idea a reality.

The result of three years of hard work was the recognition of the Rupee Fund as a Government Approved Charity. Further recognition came by way of a request by the then Governor General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke to hold a meeting of the General Committee at Queen's House (now President's House), a rare honour indeed.

With continued hard work with many fund raising campaigns commended by Heads of Government and ambassadors of foreign countries, the fund was able to provide more assistance to the less fortunate.

Besides donations from members of the Malay community, contributions were also received from well wishers.

The initial years of any institution are the most difficult. She said on the tenth anniversary: "It was no doubt an uphill task but was a Labour of Love. All the hard work and sacrifices made have been worthwhile for they have helped to bring happiness and sunshine to so many under privileged families."

By 1964 the Rupee Fund had its own building. One of her first projects - to find employment for the unemployed girls. A textile weaving centre was set up with the assistance of the Dept. of Cottage Industries. She also arranged for a milk feeding centre where over 300 undernourished children gathered every morning for their glass of milk.

Her thoughts spread to the talented students who could not proceed to higher studies due to financial reasons. She established a Higher Educational Scholarship Scheme in 1959 to provide scholarships for such students. The community should be ever grateful and remember her for helping these students.

Every award was a commitment to ensure that the students received their monthly assistance until he/she completed their five year course of study at the university - no easy task when fund raising was extremely difficult in those days.

While many have passed out and are serving the country as doctors, engineers, architects, agriculturists etc - the scholarship scheme continues - a great contribution to the progress of the community.

She also organised the annual Sadaka distribution of fitr and cash during the month of Ramazan to the poor and needy. Many more consistent services have been provided to the needy.
Ms. Lye was one of the first among Muslim women in Sri Lanka and certainly the first Malay woman to emerge from the traditional role of housewife to face up the challenges of modern times by involving and dedicating herself in the welfare of the community.

Mashmoon Lye was the first woman member of the All Ceylon Malay Association, first woman member of the Colombo Malay Cricket Club, first Woman Vice President of the All Ceylon Malay Association, First Woman President of the All Ceylon Malay Association Rupee Fund and First Malay Woman to enter the well known Working Mosque in Surrey, England.

She moved with the highest in society in Sri Lanka and maintained a close friendship with wives of leaders of Malaysia. Like her husband, she too devoted over four decades of her life to the progress and upliftment of the community.

The Rupee Fund holds a treat for poor children on June 18 every year to commemorate her birth and death anniversary. Besides the members of the committee, a few living members since the inauguration of the fund in 1953 grace the occasion with their presence.

It is very rare for people to die on their birthdays - Mashmoon Lye is no more - but the Rupee Fund, her brainchild, will certainly grow to new heights.

written by Dalrene Burah, Hony Secretary, S.L.M.A. Rupee Fund.

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