Imthiaz Bakeer Markar

A man for many seasons

Imthiaz Bakeer Markar is a Sri Lankan lawyer, politician and scholar. He is a Member of Parliament from the National List of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, he was the  Cabinet Minister of Media, Postal and Telecommunications from 2001 to 2004, State Minister of Housing from 1989 to 1993 and Member of the Parliament from the Kalutara District from 1989 to 2004. Imthiaz also served as the Chairman of the National Media Centre and the Vice President of the United National Party (UNP). A tri-lingual orator, Imthiaz has also authored several books. He remains committed to the cause of national unity.

Young Imthiaz Bakeer Markar was driven by car from his ancestral home in Beruwala to the kindergarten of Holy Family Convent Kalutara by his father to the tune of much-loved Sinhala number olu nelala mala gothala

His father M.A Bakeer Markar - lawyer turned politician, stopped his Volkswagen to offer a ride to many of his people from Beruwala who waited for a bus. Young Imthiaz who had to contend with sitting on the lap of a passenger, was often late to school. Despite being caned on a few occasions for being a ‘regular late comer’, Imthiaz at a very tender age learnt from his father the art of being a ‘people’s person.’

Born on August 8, 1953 to M.A. Bakeer Markar - a descendant of the famous unani physicians of Hakeem Villa in Beruwala and Sithy Kadeeja, daughter of Wairooshi Mohamed Refai, Imthiaz as the only son to the couple, took to his heart the values championed by both his paternal and maternal lineages at a very young age; priding in their love for the community. The lawyer-turned politician gifted with a silver tongue, Imthiaz is among the handful of Sri Lankan politicians loved and respected by all Sri Lankans.

Watershed in the Buddhist school

In 1966, Imthiaz was admitted to Ananda College Colombo for his secondary education. Young Imthiaz became a watershed at Ananda College. Leading the Sinhala debating team, he also made history at the leading Buddhist institute of learning as the first Muslim student to head its Junior and Senior Hostels’ Prefects Board. The choice of his fellow students at Ananda to unanimously elect Imthiaz as the President of Ananda Boarders’ Junior and Senior Sinhala Literary Associations was a testament to his immense popularity in a school historically acclaimed as a Sinhala-Buddhist seat of learning.

Futuristic leader

Mentored by learned Buddhist monks and other scholars in school, it was this very ‘Ananda College experience’ which Imthiaz translates to national reconciliation. The futuristic leader believes that forging ethnic unity in a country empowered by equal opportunities is the ticket to the future. A leader who has walked the talk, Imthiaz urges fellow politicians to take a ‘neutral path’ to realise a politically matured nation.

At the Kelaniya University where he obtained his BA in Mass Communication, Imthiaz turned tables once more as the first Student Union leader to have represented the United National Party (UNP). After his graduation in 1977, Imthiaz entered Sri Lanka Law College to complete his legal studies and took oaths as an Attorney-at-Law in 1981. Despite political differences, Imthiaz shared a healthy camaraderie with his opponents both at the University and at Law College.

Untainted political career

Imthiaz has demonstrated a political career that only a few Sri Lankan politicians are honoured with. In 1981 he became the Deputy Chairman of the Kalutara District Development Council, a position he retained until he was elected to the Sri Lankan Parliament as the Member for the Kalutara District in 1988. He served as the Minister of State for Housing between 1989 and 1994 and as the Minister of Media, Post and Telecommunication between 2001 and 2004. From 1970, Imthiaz remained an active member of the United National Party (UNP). He served as the Senior Vice President of the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya – the UNP-affiliated trade union from 1994-2004. He was the Senior Vice President of the UNP from 2008 to 2010. Imthiaz was also a member of the UNP working committee between 1994 to 2019. He is a founding member of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, which was formed by the UNP’s mainstream, following the UNP working committee decision to form a new political movement, as a result of the struggle to establish internal party democracy.   

Trilingual orator

Outside of the political sphere, Imthiaz is the Founder President of the Bakeer Markar Centre for National Unity, set up in 1997; an organisation built to take forward the vision of his late father, M. A. Bakeer Markar. He was also the National President of the All Ceylon Muslim League Youth Fronts from 1991 to 1995. A tri-lingual orator, Imthiaz is a lucid writer as well. He is a regular columnist for several national newspapers and has authored several books.

Imthiaz is married to Alakoladeniya Gedaralage Abdurrahman Lebbe Ummu Fareeda and they have five sons: Asaf, Azam, Fadhil, the late Adhil and Insaf.

A man with a large heart and a smile at all times with which he greets anyone generously, Imthiaz is a paragon of what a true Sri Lankan is and a man for all seasons…

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.”

Surah Al-Imran, Verse 103