Members of Colombo Malay Cricket Club in Slave Island.

The Malays are also known to be impressive in their contribution to national sports in Sri Lanka. The history of Cricket in Sri Lanka records that the Colombo Malay Cricket Club founded in 1872 was the first cricket club in the island. The club has produced outstanding cricketers some of whom have represented Sri Lanka. They have also donned the Sri Lankan jersey in football and rugger. Some of them have even become captains of the national team and couched in swimming etc. The Malay sportsmen and sports women are also known excelling at other sports including Judo, Karate, Athletics and Netball bringing fame to Sri Lanka. The Malays aspire to contribute to the nation building of Sri Lanka by undertaking their share of duty while defending their legitimate rights. What rights to defend?

 5. Defending a Distinct Ethnic Identity
 The Malays of Sri Lanka are compelled to defend their legitimate right: a simple right to be heard. They have made Sri Lanka their home though they had originated from the islands of the East. They have lived here more than 300 years first as exiles, then as settlers and now as legitimate citizens of Sri Lanka. All the Malays except aliens or wayfarers, living in Sri Lanka are those who were born in this island. They live side by side with communities belonging to Moor, Tamil, Sinhala and Burghers as well. They fought shoulder to shoulder for freedom, made their sacrifice to safeguard the country they were born whenever they were required to do so.

 The Malays in Sri Lanka are generally hard working people. The majority of city dwellers are educated and multi-lingual, competitive in business. They represent in the Public and Education Services, in the armed services and Police, in the field of law, medicine, science and technology, engineering and now in Information Technology and Computer Science. They also hold high posts in private companies. But they have no voice in the national Parliament, the highest body of the decision makers for the country and its citizens. These circumstances have deprived the Malays from the opportunity of participating in the decision making process.

 It was not that they had never been represented in the National Councils. There were several Malays elected or nominated MPs including Dr. T. B. Jayah, Dr. M. P. Drahman, and Mr. B. Zahire Lye till 1960 and Mr. M. S. Ossman, and Mr. M. E. H. Maharoof in the Republican Parliament till 1994. But in retrospect, the appointment, the election or the nomination system did not secure a continued representation of the Malay community in the Parliament.

 In the most cases, members from minority communities like the Malay could not win elections except in special cases. Dr. Jayah who was first appointed to the Legislative Council in 1924 as the third Muslim Member and who was an energetic and dynamic leader would espouse the cause of the Muslims, when the occasion demanded. But he lost the State Council elections he contested in June 1931 and again in the State Council held in February 1936. But this time he was appointed a nominated member of the State Council.

 It was in 1947; Dr. Jayah got elected to the Parliament when he won the first Ceylon Parliamentary election. He was elected the 2nd member of the three-member electorate. He was then appointed Minister of Labour and Social services in the First Cabinet of Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake. He served the ministry and as an MP till he was offered Sri Lanka's ambassadorial post in Pakistan by the Prime Minister. Dr. Jayah was again made an appointed MP in the short-lived Parliament of March to July 1960 on his return to the island from Pakistan. Not many Malays were lucky to be appointed or elected to the Legislative or Parliament of Sri Lanka after him. However, the Soulbury Constitution had a provision allowing the Prime Minister to choose six members to the House of Representatives. He chose all these members from the minority communities who could not otherwise get them elected to Parliament. This led to a tradition that the Prime Ministers appoint a Malay member to Parliament afterwards. As a result Dr. M. P. Drahaman and Mr. B. Zahiere Lye were appointed MPs. The tradition of appointing Malay members did not continue that long, when Prime Minister Dudly Senanayake, who succeeded his father after his death in 1952, did not appoint any Malay MPs to Parliament.

 After a long gap of more than 25 years, two Malays were accommodated in the National lists of two major political parties: one was Mr. M. S. Ossman in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party22) (SLFP) National list and other was Mr. M. H. Amit in the National list of United National Party23) (UNP). Mr. Amit was appointed an MP and served until he resigned to make way for Mr. Gamini Dissanayake to reenter Parliament. At the same period, Mr. M. E. H. Mahroof was elected to Parliament from the Trincomalee District and served as the Deputy Minister of Port and Shipping during the latter part of his tenure24). Since 1993, there has been no Malay member in Parliament. In the General Election held in October 2000, there were two Malay members in the National lists of two major political parties. Mr. T. B. Abbas was in the UNP National list, while Mr. T. K. Azoor in the National list of the National Unity Alliance (NUA). But both failed to get appointed MPs. In the General Election called in after a year, none of the major political parties had Malay names in their lists of candidates or in the National list.

 Although these two gentlemen failed to secure seats in Parliament either through nomination or election, they later contested local elections and proved worthy to be nominated by the political parties. Mr. Ossman was elected in the Sri Lanka Muslim Party25) (SLMC) ticket from the Colombo District to the Western Provincial Council in the Provincial Election held in 1988. He resigned from the Party after a year. His place was then given to another Malay Mr. M. A. Ameer an ex-Sri Lankan footballer who served until 1993. In the case of Mr. T. K. Azoor, a leading lawyer in Colombo and dynamic leader of Malay community joined the SLMC in which he was elevated to a Deputy leader won the Colombo Municipal Council election held in 1997. He polled the second highest number of votes in his list and got himself elected to the Council. There are several other Malays who have been successful in winning local elections. They are also worthy of mention: Mr. Shiraz Sheriff, the Vice Chairman of the Nawalapitiya UC, Mr. Hilaly Abdeen, a member of Kandy Municipal Council and Mr. Allon Deen a member of Hambantota UC. These limited Malay positions in a few Municipal and in Provincial Councils have yet to serve as a clout to force their voice heard in the national level. But it is not an easy task to make their voice heard, for the Malays cannot elect a leader of their choice because there is no electorate, which has a Malay majority. The only way out is to create a system that elect or appoint members of minority: a Malay member to represent the Malay minority community.

3. Mr.T.K.Azoor, the president of Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM)

 Several organisations have raised the above issue asking the government to pay worthy attention to the dire need. One such organization was the Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM) led by Mr. T. K. Azoor, an untiring activist for the Malay cause. His movement urged at a special session held on 4th May this year the Government to make constitutional provision to elect or appoint a Malay to Parliament as well as each to the Provincial Councils and its Successors of the Western, Central and Southern Provinces (see the Appendix 1). The Malays urge the government to create a system that will addrsss the plight of Malay community. What are their plights?

 The first is that the entire Malay community, except those individuals, who have their own wealth, power or extra ordinary talents, are deprived of their legitimate rights: right to employment, right to abode and right to free education as equal as to other communities of Sri Lanka. The majority of Malays, who were employed in the armed forces, Police and the fire brigade in the past, have been displaced by individuals from other communities. While several housing projects were launched to provide houses for the houseless, the Malays were left out. And in the case of free education, too, the Malays had no other choice but to choose either Tamil or Sinhala as their me-dium of instruction in schools since the English stream education was abolished in 1962.

4. A family gathering at the residence of Mr. Hamin, a vice president of Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM)

And this language policy of the gov-ernment even divided the Malays into two language streams: one those speaking Sinhala and other speaking Tamil. Generally Malays are known to be multi-lingual and are in advantageous position than those of mono-linguals in finding employments. But in reality, the number of multi-lingual Malays is lesser than one would expect in the settle-ments farer from Colombo. An example can be drawn from two Malay settlements in Sri Lanka one being Slave Island and other being Kirinda, both places, where I happened to meet a number of Malay people.

 Kirinda, a historical seaside community where Queen-to-be Viharamahadevi26) is said to have come ashore after her perilous drifting voyage from Kelaniya, is now a larg-est Malay settlement in Sri Lanka, which is located in Hambantota district in the south, about 170 miles away from Sri Lanka's capital city Colombo. Out of 300 families living in this village, the Malay comprised 95%. Malay is the main language spoken in households, shops and in the market-places. The 75% of the Malay population are fishermen and the rest are farmers. In the fish market, my informant told me that even non-Malays speak Malay when they negotiate with the Malay fishermen.

5. From left Dr.B.A. Hussainmia, the witer and Mr.T.K.Azoor sharing Malay food at a social gathering in a Malay residence in Colombo.

Kirinda also is in advantage of having a Muslim High School, that has classes from Grade six to twelve known as General Certificate of Education-Advanced Level(G.C.E A/L), where the majority of the students are Malay children from the settlement. They consist more than 95% of the student population. The majority of teachers including the headmaster and his deputy are Malay. They speak to their students in Malay outside the class. But I was told to my surprise that the medium of instruction in the school is Tamil.

 The language factor is another plight of the Malay grievances. Almost all Malay children either study in Sinhala or Tamil medium as there is no choice since the English medium has been abolished. There has been no educational policy to allow the Malay students to study a language of their choice let alone receiving instruction in Malay, whereas there are schools, which teach their students foreign languages like German, French or Japanese in addition to English. Several children, whom I interviewed,

6. Malay street, the main street in Slave Island in Colombo.

study either in Tamil or Sinhala medium. An interesting story was that children at Lankasabha School in Colombo teach students Tamil in Sinhala. In another encounter with a Malay settlement, which is known as Kirula Road Malay Gardens in Colombo, there are about twenty Malay families. The children spoke fluent Sinhala and a couple of twin sisters answered me promptly when I asked their name in my broken Tamil. But the great grandfather, a retired policeman was worried about the Malay language as children will be burdened to learn several languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English leaving their mother tongue behind. Next settlement I visited was the Slave Island, the first foremost Malay settlement in Sri Lanka. The main street is named as Malay Street along with which there are government offices and private companies, where onetime in the past was Kampong Kertel, the major Malay settlement in Colombo. The Malays living on the Java Lane that directs to the present Malay Military mosque were worried about the language being used inside the mosque.

7. A Malay boy with his Moor friend in the Glennie Passage that links to free settlement along the railway line in Slave Island.

The Imam inside the very Malay mosque is no longer come from a Malay family like in the past. The priest I met when I visited this mosque was from Eastern province of Sri Lanka and was from the Moor community. He spoke no Malay but fluent Arabic, which he teaches the children and Tamil his mother tongue. My interpreter spoke to the priest in Tamil. Naturally, the mosque goers preferred the priest at the mosque speak Malay. One gentleman I spoke to was the only adult male figure of a family of three generation. He is married to a grand daughter of the lady, who was 72 year old and owns the house. His worry was also about the sermons in Malay lan-guage in the Malay military mosque. He said only once a month they are provided with a sermon in Malay language. The Malay parents of young adults are worried of their children not being interested in learning the Malay but have turned to English stream.

8. A small mosque built along the railway line in Slave Island.

 The last but not least plight of the Malays of Sri Lanka is their religious identity. They are Muslim by religion not by ethnicity, they assert. But they are treated as Muslims not as Malays. This is what they emphasize in defending their identity. As indicated in the preceding pages that not all the Malays were Muslims nor they were always Muslims in the past. By the time the Malays were brought to Sri Lanka during the middle of the 17th century by the Dutch, there were large Muslim settlements in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. They were the settlements of the Moors or those who had come from South India from the 6th century A.D. The large number of Malays particularly soldiers came to the island without their womenfolk, many were still young and single. They took women from Moor community, whose religion was similar to them, especially to those who came from Indonesian archipel-ago. The people from Java were the follow-ers of the Shafi School of Muslim religion while the majority of Indian Muslims be-longed to the same school. This must have had a stronger impact over the Malays to take Moor wives and to get converted into Muslim had they been not Muslim before their marriage. They also adopted Tamil as their lingua franca to communicate with the Indian Muslims or the Moors. Almost all Malays I interviewed in Colombo, Matara, Kirinda and Hambantota spoke Tamil in addition to Malay and Sinhala languages.

9. A Malay worker in Colombo.

 The Muslim identity of the Malays is something they are proud of. Many I met were gradually accepting the orthodox Islamic teachings. Yet what was interesting was their zeal to identify themselves as ethnic Malays while being a Muslim. In Malaysia, being a Muslim is a requirement to be accepted as a Malay. No non-Muslims are accepted as Malays. In Bosnia Herzegovina, Muslim is an ethnic identity. But the Malays who are treated similarly stress that their Muslim identity is religious not ethnic. Why do they assert ethnic identity?

 The Malays assert their ethnic identity because their culture is distinct. Their language is different from other Muslims'.

 The Malays of Sri Lanka have remained a distinct ethnic group in Sri Lanka primarily because they have maintained their mother tongue, the Malay at least in a colloquial form. Having originated from different regions in the East islands that included Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago, they have formed a Sri Lankan Malay community from a diverse origin.

 Despite its small size in number, the Malays had proved that they deserve to be treated as a special class of people, some of whom lived receiving special benefits from the Dutch government, and many as military men getting established special Malay regiment and a separate mosque for the Malay soldiers. Moving from one master to another, the Malays also proved that they deserve care from subsequent masters including the governments of Independent and Republic Sri Lanka.

 The Malays made Sri Lanka their home and contributed joining hands with other communities towards the nation building of a united Sri Lanka. They represented in high offices from Legislative Council to National Parliament including in the first cabinet of Independent Sri Lanka and engaged in wider range of professions including Public and Educational service, in the armed forces, judiciary, medical and engineering etc. However, there are several factors that have hampered their progress as a community, for which they have sought solutions. It is still not clear as to how the present government wants to respond. Time will tell the story.

 The Malays themselves have been active in defending their distinct identity for a secured future for their community while extending their support to safeguard the country they claim to be their motherland.  

"What counts is not necessarily
 the size of the dog in the fight;
 it's the size of the fight in the dog."
  - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Appendix -1. 
In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful
 WHEREAS the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has entered into Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the cessation of hostilities, as a first step towards initiating peace talks to find a viable and lasting solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka,

 AND WHEREAS the Government has also decided to introduce Constitutional Reforms to enable a wider range of the civil society to participate in the decision making process in Sri Lanka,

 AND WHEREAS the Sri Lankan Malays who had enjoyed representation in the legislature since independence have been deprived of such representation after the promulgation of the Republican Constitution of 1972 except for the period from 1989 to 1993,

 THIS Special Session of the Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM):
1. Commends the signing of the MOU as an opportune and necessary step for the initiation of peace talks aimed at finding a just and equitable solution.

2. Calls on both parties to the MOU to assiduously abide by its provisions both in letter and in spirit with sincerity and candour

3. Calls on both parties to expedite the initiation of peace talks and to approach these talks in a spirit of give and take, with the ultimate objective of arriving at a solution to the ethnic problem whilst ensuring the rights of all ethnic and religious groups in the island within the framework of a united and sovereign Sri Lanka.

4. Urges the Government to make constitutional provision to:
a. Elect or appoint a Malay to Parliament

b. Elect or appoint a Malay each to the Provincial Councils and its Successors of the Western, Central and Southern Provinces.

1) Dr. T.B. Jayah was the first Malay Member in the first Cabinet of Independent Sri Lanka.
2) Malays of Sri Lanka have come from various parts of the Malay world that extended from present Malaysia to Indonesian Archipelago.
3) The Total Population estimated in 2002 is 19,576,783 persons.
4) Pertumuan Melayu (Malay Rally) 2002 Souvenir, Sri Lanka Malay Association, Colombo, (2002).
5) Murad Jayah, "Social Welfare issues concerning the Ceylon Malays" in Moors' Islamic Cultural Home Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 20 July 1970, p. 70.
6) King Parakramabahu II ruled from 1236 to 1270 A.D.
7) Quoted from Hussainmiya, B.A., Orang Rejimen, The Malays of Ceylon Rifle Regiment (1990) p.33.
8) Murad Jayah, "Social Welfare Issues Concerning the Ceylon Malays" in Moors' Islamic Cultural Home Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 20 July 1970, p. 70.
9) Local Tamil people living in this area seem to know little about this history when I asked them during my last visit to Jaffna in January 2002.
10) Kirinda Malay settlement has the biggest Malay population: 95% are Malays.
11) The Dutch name for the Government in Java and other East Islands after Batavia, the old name of the Netherlands.
12) Murad Jayah, "Social Welfare Issues Concerning the Ceylon Malays" in Moors' Islamic Cultural Home Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 20 July 1970, p. 70.
13) Dutch name for Sri Lanka
14) Qouted Malay words and their meanings from an article by M. Farook Thaliph, " Malays ミ their enriched culture and endemic customs"(04 Sep. 2002)
15) Quoted from Hussainmia, (1990, 18)
16) M. Farook Thaliph, " Malay ミ their enriched culture and endemic customs' (04 Sep. 2002).
17) Pertumuan Melayu (Malay Rally) 2002 Souvenir, Sri Lanka Malay Association, Colombo, (2002).
18) "Colleges" in Sri Lanka are equal to senior high schools in Japan
19) Father of president Chanerika Bandaranaike Kumararunga
20) Pertumuan Melayu, the Souvenir published marking the Malay Rally on 26-27 Jan 2002.
21) Pertumuan Melayu (Malay Rally) 2002 Souvenir, Sri Lanka Malay Association, Colombo, (2002).
22) Centre leaning party formed of 'Sinhala Mahasabha' of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who became the Prime Minister in 1956.
23) First Political Party formed by D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka.
24) The Malay Dilemma, A Commemoration Issue on the 42nd Death Anniversary of Dr. T.B.Jayah, 31st May 2002
25) A new Muslim Party formed in 1988 by M.H.M. Ashraff, who became a powerful Minister in the PA Government that came to power in 1994.
26) She was a daughter of the king of Kelaniya, who cast her adrift to sea as a sacrifice for a royal indiscretion. She is said to have washed up on the shore at Kirinda and was taken as queen by King Kawantissa. They later became the parents of the great King Dutugemunu, who united the onetime divided Sri Lanka into a united under one crown for the first time.
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