By Sachinda Dulanjana –
I strongly believe that it’s not the number of years that someone has lived, but the things which he or she did during their lifetime while touching the hearts of other people which makes an extraordinary human being. One of the best examples that I could think of is the child hero Madduma Bandara, who fearlessly stood in front of the king’s executioner. Throughout our history, it is evident that heroic deeds have always been celebrated regardless of the age of the person who committed them. Along the same line of thought, I don’t see any fair reason which restrains us from celebrating Adhil Bakeer Marker, whose exemplary leadership skills and level of integrity can be regarded as a heroic deed in our contemporary society.
Even though Adhil unexpectedly departed from us five years ago, I believe that his legendary life story gives us a powerful message on leadership behaviour and the responsibility of youth. I also believe that the example set by Adhil is the need of the hour for our society. However, I should confess that I would not be able to paint the full picture of Adhil’s exemplary life story in this short piece of writing, but I will try my level best to give you a glimpse of it based on my personal connection with Adhil as a friend. Having started to read this article if you are still trying to figure out who is Adhil and why I am so keen to showcase his character as a legendary one, you can do your own research about him after reading this article. Nevertheless, the couple of minutes you will spend on this article won’t be a waste of time as I sincerely hope that it will light a small spark in your mind if you are someone who still wishes to see a positive change in our society, because such special life stories such as Adhil’s one can restore our faith in humanity.
As a proud product of Royal College, Colombo 07, Adhil was an exemplary young leader who was outstanding among many other young people out there. I don’t think that anybody would disagree with my claim on Adhil’s leadership abilities and human qualities if they have ever interacted with Adhil in their personal or professional life. Most importantly, many people remember Adhil for what he indeed was because he was a humble human who treated everyone equally and with kindness, regardless of their social status. Even though he was raised in a political family, being a grandson to one of the former Speakers of Sri Lanka Parliament and a son to a well-respected former minister and current parliamentarian, Adhil always made sure to maintain himself as a down-to-earth person. I don’t think that anyone else in our country with a similar family background would act the same. As Sri Lankans, we have seen more than enough the arrogant sons and daughters who misuse their parents’ political power and public property for their own gains. In such an atmosphere, it’s not surprising how Adhil’s humble nature was admired by everyone who had even a minor interaction with him. So, I do not think it is wrong to say that Adhil was a symbol of humility and humanity.
In our country it is not rare to see stories where some young people with political family backgrounds try to enter politics solely relying on their family connections, wealth and power. Some of them don’t even have a clue about the ground reality or policymaking processes. In an era where a young person with political aspirations does not have a clear path unless he or she is from a political family background, Adhil chose a different path completely even though he had the same privilege. According to my knowledge, it’s not a secret that Adhil also had political aspirations. However, he never wanted to use his family background to fulfil his desire. Instead, he chose to shape his character whilst equipping himself with the necessary political knowledge and experience. Upon the successful completion of his LLB degree and Attorney’s examinations, he was admitted to the bar as a junior lawyer. Also, he managed to secure the prestigious Chevening Scholarship, which is awarded to a handful of extraordinary individuals who wish to pursue higher studies in the UK. It nicely demonstrates how Adhil was trying his best to empower himself with political knowledge. He selected to study a master’s degree in Comparative Politics at London School of Economics (LSE). Having the privilege of becoming a Chevening Scholar, I would also like to gratefully remember how Adhil wanted me to apply for the same scholarship some years back. I would say that’s another excellent quality of Adhil’s because I rarely meet people who are willing to share this type of opportunity with others. I have noticed that many people would love to help you as long as you don’t surpass their achievements. Nevertheless, Adhil always had pure intentions of seeing the growth of others too.
Being a young leader, Adhil made sure to gain experiences that would help him understand the ground reality at the grassroots. He gathered these experiences by working closely with people from different walks of life. One day, if he were to have ever entered politics, I have no doubts that he would have become a brilliant policymaker as he had a great sense of awareness of the ground reality and the policy-making process. I hope that the Bakeer Marker family would not get upset with me if I mention that Adhil was the best fit to heal the severely ill Sri Lankan political culture – not just because he was raised in the Bakeer Marker family, but also because he was a person who tried his best to equip himself with all the necessary knowledge and experience before entering politics. I would not ever hesitate to mention that Adhil was a classic example to any young person who had aspirations to enter politics. I personally believe that Sri Lanka already has more than enough politicians but not enough Statesmen. If Adhil was alive, he could have filled that vacuum as he got what it all takes. Without exaggeration, one could claim that Adhil could have become the first Muslim national to become the Sri Lankan Prime Minister with the majority vote from the citizens of all other ethnic groups. Although unfortunately we live in an era where we don’t see many young people with potential who are willing to take over the political leadership of the country, I still believe that Adhil is a lost opportunity for all of us. Most importantly, Adhil never had to portray a public image which is completely different from what he truly was, as he was a person who lived by his own set of principles and values.
When I recall memories about Adhil, there is one particular incident that I really want to mention here, as it carries great significance in my life journey too. Even though it might be a bit controversial to reveal in a public document like this, I would like to share it with you nevertheless, because such bold action by someone should not go unnoticed. It should be added to the records. Before Adhil left to the UK to pursue his postgraduate studies, he was working in the capacity of the board director for international youth affairs of the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) of Sri Lanka. In a country where some public officials abuse their positions to gain inappropriate advantages, Adhil was voluntarily carrying out the duties of his position as a NYSC board director, without even taking any allowances to which he was officially entitled. In 2013, Adhil was privileged to get selected as one of the two official youth delegates who represented our motherland at the 68th United Nations General Assembly. Being the NYSC board director who was in charge of the portfolio of ‘international youth affairs’, the same UNYD programme came under Adhil’s supervision few years later. As a person who continuously applied for the same programme for four consecutive times, I witnessed how Adhil tried his level best to make the application process fair and transparent in both years in which he handled the UNYD programme and I have no doubts that other applicants would agree with me in this regard. He also took some revolutionary steps to reform the foreign pool of NYSC in order to make the selection process more systematised and transparent. In addition to all of the above, Adhil added a public speech round to the UNYD selection process so that the general public and youth could actually see who was going to represent them at the UN General Assembly.
This particular incident I am referring to took place during the last stage of the UN Youth Delegate Selection Process in 2016. It was also crucial for me as it was my last attempt for the said programme. Even after the marks had been finalised for the interview and the public speech rounds in the final stage of the selection process, political authorities and higher officials attempted to influence the selection process to select someone they favoured. However, Adhil made a bold decision to ignore all the political influences and pressures to preserve the selection process’s transparency. Also, he strictly mentioned that he would rather reveal the injustice and resign if someone tried to change the original mark sheets of the applicants who progressed to the final round. Most importantly, we should understand that Adhil could easily adhere to the orders from the higher political authorities and make an impression about himself, so that would have been beneficial to him in his political career. There was no risk for him to do that because no one would ever get to know that too. Instead, Adhil decided to stick to his principles of integrity as he always did. Without Adhil’s bold decision to go ahead with the initial results of the applicants, a person like me would never get the opportunity to become the official Sri Lankan youth delegate to the UN in that particular year due to political influences. If you are surprised how I got to know this whole backstage drama, this came up while I was having a conversation with Adhil. I made sure to keep it as a secret until Adhil departed, but now I see no reason why he shouldn’t be celebrated for his integrity and honesty. Thus, I decided to pen it down here.
I should also mention that during his tenure at the National Youth Services Council, Adhil won the hearts of all other employees regardless of their job position. Even today, they kindly remember Adhil’s humble nature with much love. They grieved for his demise with profound sadness. I got to know Adhil’s sudden death whist I was taking part in the 71st UN General Assembly. I am well aware that for many us, his departure is something still unbelievable. I can recall that I was coming back home from the Bandaranaike International airport after taking part in the UN General Assembly, and I was picked up by a driver from the national youth services council. On our way back to Colombo, while I was having a conversation with him, he again mentioned how kind Adhil was to people regardless of their social status. I will put it down here with his own words.
“Adhil mahatthaya nam raththaran manussya. Sabhaawe podi minihata wunath jivitheta orders deela katha karanne na. sulu sevakayekgen unath monawahari ona unoth ahanne “oya poddak me patthata awoth aran enawada kiyala?” Anika Adhil mahatthaya kiwwoth apita deyak nokara inna hithenne na. e tharam hitha hoda manussaya. Apita vitaharak newei ratata thamai paaduwa.”
For the convenience of the English readers, I would like to translate the last part of his comment about Adhil. “It’s not only a great loss to us, but to our motherland”. I know that nobody would ever be able to paint a complete picture of Adhil’s extraordinary character and his great human qualities through one article like this. Thus, I would like to again mention that this piece intends to pay a tribute to this wonderful youth leader who set a timeless example for all young people out there. I firmly believe that the best way of paying gratitude to Adhil is to live a life with integrity while being a compassionate and empathetic human being. Also, I repeat that our motherland needs statesmen, not mere politicians. Even though Adhil was a statesman in the making, it turned out to be a lost opportunity due to his sudden demise. Thus, it’s the responsibility of all young leaders out there to fill that vacuum one day by becoming statesmen, not mediocre politicians.