A Shining Son of the East | Daily News
Former Minister M. H. M. Ashraff’s 22nd Death Anniversary

A Shining Son of the East

M. H. M. Ashraff
M. H. M. Ashraff

Leaders are born everywhere in the world and the services rendered by them for the good of their community and country, are many. Although the services rendered by them are remembered by the people now and then, the name of Late Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader and former Minister M. H. M. Ashraff whose 22nd death anniversary fell on September 16, 2022 will be etched in the minds of the Eastern Province people forever.

The yeomen services rendered by M. H. M. Ashraff are still remembered by the people of the Eastern Province in particular, because he single-handedly strove to get a University for the majority Muslim population living in the Ampara District. The South Eastern University is the biggest achievement of the late M. H. M. Ashraff.

Ashraff must be having a hearty laugh from wherever he is. A man brought to being at the very mention of an election. Be it General or a mere Village Committee one. Has he truly left behind such an impact?

It has been 22 years since we stopped seeing his physical presence among us. But, hardly any political conversation is conducted without Ashraff’s name being mentioned. He invariably appears as a larger than life figure on many political banners when elections are called even today.

Funny how his vision is misconstrued to suit the narrow political objectives of certain opportunistic politicians even 22 years after his death. His vision was simple.

An independent voice for the Eastern Muslims that could be heard and accepted with dignity by the Legislative.

M. H. M. Ashraff would have been 69 years on October 23, 2021. Late M. H. M. Ashraff, one time Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and National Unity Alliance political party founder, Leader, died on September 16, 2000, while on his way to his native home in the Ampara District aboard a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter which crashed in flames at Aranyake.

M. H. M. Ashraff, a great and worthy son of the Eastern Province was born in Sammanthurai. He was indeed not born with the proverbial silver spoon but at the time of his untimely death, he had established himself as a silver lining in the political establishment of this country. Indeed, within a very short spell of half a dozen years he became a Cabinet Minister.

Being a son of the Eastern Soil he had his Primary education at Wesley College, Kalmunai and pursued further studies at the metropolis.

In 1970, he joined Law College where he excelled and manipulated powers in the field of Constitutional Law by writing the first book on Constitutional Law in Tamil with particular reference to the1972 Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka.

Legal career

At Ceylon Law College the natural nursery of many a political leader he was the President of the Law Students’ Muslim Majilis and of the Tamil Mantram and was an influential member of the student community, nearly missing the coveted position of President of the Law Students’ Union.

In 1974, he joined the Attorney General's Department as a State Counsel, and worked there to get himself acquainted with the law to become an eminent lawyer. He practiced in Kalmunai and Batticaloa.

He completed the Master’s Degree in Law prior to becoming a Senior Minister. He was honoured with the title President Counsel.

Ashraff saw as nobody else did before him the political potential of the Eastern Province. Before his advent, Muslim politicians aligned themselves to the two major political parties, the UNP and SLFP. He was no doubt permitted by the waves of radicalism then sweeping across the Islamic world and the growing power of the Arab States.


The declaration on November 19, 1986 naming the SLMC as a national political party, was a milestone in Ashraff's political career and in the history of Sri Lanka Muslim politics. The symbol of his party was the ‘Tree’. The tree was planted and nurtured in the Eastern and Northern Muslim areas in Sri Lanka. In 1989, he contested the Parliamentary Election and entered Parliament as an M.P. At the 1994 General Election, he returned to Parliament with seven MPs from the East. Two SLMC MPs were appointed Deputy Ministers. After Ashraff’s demise, his members were divided into four groups, and started their own agenda, own political parties and became leaders, but they did not render any services to the Muslim community.

They did not initiate any development projects in the Eastern Province and the youth had no job opportunities. It is clear specially after Ashraff’s demise that the Muslim community in the Eastern Province suffered a lot.

The SLMC played a constructive role in helping install the Chandirka Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Government in a hung Parliament. Ashraff became Minister of Ports Shipping and Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. Ashraff fulfilled his responsibilities as a minister with the utmost dedication and efficiency. The Colombo Port made vast strides under his leadership towards achieving the Government's vision of becoming one of Asia's leading ports.

His dedicated efforts helped transform his home district of Ampara from a backward rural district into a fairly developed area, moving rapidly towards modernism.

His dedication to establish the South Eastern University will be recorded in letters of gold.

Constant struggle

His constant struggle to obtain the rights of the Muslim people had much success during the last six years. He had a vast following among the Muslim people who appreciated his vision. The immense sacrifices he made for their cause and his sincerity in serving them stood out. Ashraff was a man with dedication and commitment. He was a man with a very big heart. In friendship he was warm, sincere and forgiving, his kindness was limitless.

As a minister he was not only a policy formulator, a policy implementer and a keen monitor, but also a hard task master. He had a total vision in the problems of the affected/displaced persons and port employees. He acted as a catalyst without causing any embarrassment to the Government. His ministry employees enjoyed working with him. His qualities of leadership and respect for bureaucracy developed by loyalty and team spirit were praiseworthy.

Good qualities

A good administrator should be a good human being despite all the knowledge and techniques of administration and management. One cannot be a good administrator unless one has good qualities. Late Ashraff possessed all the qualities combined with attractive talents in ample measure. He did not cultivate these qualities but they were part of his name. His experiment in the political field coupled with his administrative acumen stood him in good stead.

The Eastern Province saw development through the leadership of M. H. M. Ashraff. Development activities in the Kalmunai and Ampara's coastal areas suffered a setback after Asharaff’s death. Ashraff was an excellent writer of Tamil prose as well as English. His genius was in full bloom in his poetic compositions. His anthology of poems entitled “You then I” has been hailed as an outstanding piece of literary merit by none other than late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi who was so enthralled by the title of the anthology of his poem that he spoke about enlightenment and ultimate enjoyment. Karunanidhi said that M. H. M. Ashraff has written more than 1,000 wonderful poems in the Tamil Language which proved his class.

Was Ashraff a dominant figure as a politician or the poet? One who sees the harmonies and soothing effect of the rays of the moon, the kisses of the trees, ‘the whispering of the stars’ while the Cabinet meeting is in progress can hardly be a politician. Sri Lanka made a poet, a politician among the clatter of guns. How can a poet hear the whispering of the stars?

Former Minister Ferial Ashraff was always in the background when her husband roared in the political arena. Then suddenly with his tragic death she was pushed into that same arena. She is now silent in the political arena. They were blessed with only son Aman Ashraff.

May Allah bless him with Jannatul firdaus. 

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