19 June, 2024


Mage Kathava – Autobiography Of Imthiaz Bakeer Markar

By Harsha Gunasena

Harsha Gunasena

Parliamentarian Imthiaz Bakeer Markar has written his autobiography My Story – Mage Kathava in Sinhala and the book was launched  on March 5th, at Kularathna Hall of Ananda College where he studied.

I was a schoolmate of his. Not only that, I was there with him at the college hostel throughout his period at Ananda from grade 8 until he left the college. He was famous for his abilities to get on well with all the colleagues. When he talks to someone, he touches the button of the shirt of the other person. He does not touch the body of the other person. This shows his closeness to the person and also the respect with some distance. This is a genuine act.

In the page 192 of the book following comments were there. “Gradually I got used to the atmosphere of Ananda College although there was loneliness during the first few days. It so happened that I had to engage in  fisticuffs with another boy during the first two or three days. I cannot remember now that what was the reason and who was he.” (translation was by the writer)

I was that boy. When I informed him this in writing with a brief comment of the book, he called me back and said with a laugh that he caught the guy who hit him at last. I also cannot remember the reason for that encounter, but this was the only this type of incident he had faced throughout the book which means throughout his life. I have a regret about that.

Contrary to his views, I had leftist views at the hostel. Once he pushed me to come to the old Sirikotha, UNP headquarters at Kollupitiya. He did not give the reason and I went along with him. This was the time where UNP leader Dudley Senanayake had a difference of opinion with his deputy JR Jayewardene and Sirima Bandaranaike was the Prime Minister. Imthiaz delivered a powerful speech criticizing JR heavily keeping Dudley in the chair and distinguish personalities such as Iriyagolle in the audience. It appeared to be that the speech was well received. In his book also Imthiaz clearly mentioned that he was opposed to JR during that period. Those who were opposed to JR left the party after some time, but he remained in the party.

In his book he mentioned the elections to the District Development Councils (page 378) Lalith Athulathmudali invited him to lead the District team. He accepted it and engaged in organising activities. Later he heard that he was in the 5th place of the list. He was disappointed and written a letter addressing the party leadership that he would withdraw his candidacy but will continue to support the party. The letter was delivered to the party headquarters. The following day he was asked to meet the party leader JR Jayewardene.

On his way to meet JR at Sirikotha he met Lalith who said “Imthiaz please understand me. I had to change my word. In Kalutara district Muslim population is only 8%” in defense of his stance. However, the decision of JR was this. “Not because he is the son of our Speaker and not because he is a Muslim but because we should recognize his service to the party, put him to the second place.” (translation was by the writer)

The decision of JR was based on the service Imtiaz rendered to the party and it was not based on the fact that Imtiaz worked against JR in the party on a previous occasion. Many politicians in Sri Lanka, may be in the world as well, take decisions based on their personal interests and not based on the party interests if the decision is taken on behalf of the party. If the decision is taken on behalf of the country they put party interests ahead of the interests of the country. Thay are such a narrow-minded lot. JR is this instance deviates from this stance.

Lalith’s defense showed off his racist attributes of which probably he himself was not aware of and it was the tragedy of Sri Lanka. Lalith was an intellectual and a capable person of then government. His trade policy and the concepts like Mahapola changed the economic direction of the country to a positive one but  his and his government’s  racist approach to the ethnic issue prior to and during the war resulted in degradation of the country.

Why it is the tragedy of Sri Lanka? Because Muslims were limited to 8%. Because some time back Jaffna Tamil students got the university entrance based on their quota. Because in India where there were ethnic, religious and caste based clashes, different men and women belong to different ethnicities religions and castes, some are being so called untouchables, become Presidents and Prime Ministers whereas in Sri Lanka only in one instance a person being non-Sinhala Buddhist Govigama became either the President or the Prime Minister. Because it decides based on the birth and not based on the capability which is totally against the fundamentals of Buddhism. Also, it goes against the concept promoted in this book and emphasized at the speech of Imtiaz delivered at the book launch that if we all do not get together, we all will perish.

It was mentioned in the book that Imtiyaz supported Ranil Wickremesinghe when he contested for party leadership with Gamini Dissanayake. Gamini became the party leader. After winning, disregarding this Gamini gave Kalutara district leadership to Imthiaz. It was mentioned in the book that Imthiaz had disagreements with Ranil and subsequently he was sacked from the working committee thrice by Ranil.

As per the book the reasons for these  differences of opinion were to deviate from traditional UNP economic stance of center-right to far-right and the deviation from the traditional Sri Lankan non-alignment foreign policy. There were no examples provided for the far-right economic policies but regarding the deviation from non-alignment he pointed out the reasons of not supporting the liberation struggle of the Palestine and supporting the USA to invade Iraq. I agree with these reasons pointed out by Imthiaz.

However, JR Jayewardene also had links with Israel. Israel is an apartheid state. We should condemn their nature of apartheid, the state policy of chasing away the Palestinians from their homes, occupying the Palestine state by keeping Israel army there, present genocide taking place in Gaza, and the  terrorist activities of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthi militants including killing innocent Israelis by Hamas. Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at recent non-alignment summit said that Non-alignment Movement should condemn the genocide in Gaza and Palestine state should be established within next 5 years. He also has taken steps to send Navy warships against the activities of Houthi militants in the Red Sea since their activities were detrimental to the progress of the Sri Lankan economy.

In the book Imthiaz has highlighted small incidents he faced with ordinary people with the heart-felt way he addressed them. At the book launch he first offered the book to the clergy, then to his teachers and close persons, and finally to the leading politicians present including the Prime Minister.

This approach of Imthiaz reminded me a poem by Rudyard Kipling. “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  or walk with Kings nor lose the common touch,—–you will be a Man, my son.”

Imthiaz Bakeer Markar deserves this definition in no uncertain terms. I believe that this book should be read by the politicians and by the people.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 1

    Dear Harsha,
    This is a very touching article. You tell us so much that we don’t know, and yet it is sometimes clear that you don’t know everything, and that you are genuinely grateful to other readers who have made useful and genuine comments.
    I have checked whether you have written an article/ a review in the Sinhala section. No, you haven’t, but that may be because you’re working on the translation.
    It would be useful if you give us the ISBN number of the book.
    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

    • 3

      Dear Mr. Edirisinghe
      Thank you
      ISBN No : 978-624-5815-08-1
      No, Sinhala version was not published in CT. It was published in lankadeepa on 19th March 2024.
      You can read it in my blog. Here is the link.

    • 2

      Panini –
      You could find the ISBN # of the book here on this Sarasavi online shop where it is listed but is out of stock for the moment:
      Hope that helps.

    • 3

      Thank you Mr. Gunasena. I always respect your writings both Sinhala and English.

      I really like MP Imtiaz Bakir Marker. His pieces of speeches in parliament are always full of peace and harmony. Such voices are lacking in the violent political culture of our country today.
      His are more or less similar to that of incumbent president in Germany Dr Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier(https://www.bundespraesident.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Reden/2022/10/221028-Alles-staerken-was-uns-verbindet-Englisch.pdf?__blob=publicationFile)

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.