A Pen Portrait of Our National Leader – Abdul Rauff Hakeem
Abdul Rauff Hakeem, born April 13, 1960 was educated at Galagedera, Jabbar Maha Vidyalaya and at Royal College, Colombo, Sri Lanka. An Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court, he was enrolled as a solicitor by the British Law society in 1984. He holds a Masters degree in law (LLM) from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
He entered active politics in 1987 as the principal aide of M H M Ashraff, the founder-leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). He held several key positions in the party and became the General Secretary in 1992. He was elevated to the National Leadership of the SLMC in 2001, after the demise of the founder of the party, and is considered today, the most popular Muslim Leader in the country.
The party founded by M H M Ashraff in the early 1980s of the last century was a historical necessity. Caught in the intricate and seemingly endless web of violence between Tamil separatists [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, (LTTE)] and the Sri Lankan State, the Muslims of the Eastern Province and the Northern Province were desperate, unsure which way to turn and whom to trust. The SLMC was born to rescue the Muslims who were “trapped between the hammer and the anvil.”
Under the visionary leadership of the founder, the SLMC was moulded into a strong, viable political machine. It captured the imagination of all Muslims of the Island. The SLMC’s electoral fortunes rested mainly on the loyalty of Muslims of all parts of Sri Lanka, who have to date shown a remarkable consistency in their endorsement of the SLMC.
Rauff Hakeem, the current leader of the SLMC, acted as a member of the then ruling coalition to sign a joint communiqué with the LTTE as a party representing the interest of the Muslim people of the North and East. He was undeterred by the critics who felt that he should have not interacted with the enemy. He believed that there can be no peace without talking to the adversaries themselves. In retrospect, that was a watershed event that made the Muslims a party to the negotiations, a position that was overlooked by the two main adversaries up to that point of time.
He has demonstrated his ability to command the loyalty of the grass roots organizations of the party. He has garnered the highest number of preferential votes in every election he contested both in his native Central Province and in the Eastern Province. In the 2004 parliamentary General Elections, he claimed a majority of 68627 votes. It is considered an impressive achievement for an outsider to the Eastern Province.
As a charismatic leader of the SLMC, Rauff Hakeem, has displayed qualities of adherence to conviction and capacity to accommodate differing views. He has infused the party with a compelling vision. He has an immense supply of patience that allows him to persuade and influence others who do not agree with him and his party. He is now building an effective team of policy makers that can institutionalize changes that has come about in post war Sri Lanka.
Well known for his persuasive politics, he is currently engaged in the crucial assignment as an intermediate between the President of Sri Lanka and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This is intended to bring about reconciliation of political parties in the larger interest of the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and other communities of the country, in the post war period (post 2008). He has accepted this role at the request made by a visiting Indian delegation of parliamentarians in April 2012.
He excels in his ability to bring different groups together for a shared purpose. He is a transformational leader with the capacity to construct a shared sense of understanding and getting people to believe in their vision and adopt new ways of thinking.
Rauff Hakeem is a gifted tri-lingual orator. He won the prestigious Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan Oratory Award in 1977 in Royal College. He is also a Tamil poet, a keen sportsman and an avid fan of cricket. He is married and is a father of two young daughters.
Ministerial and Parliamentary Posts held by Abdul Rauff Hakeem:
Minister of Justice
Minister of Posts and Telecommunication
Minister of Port Development and Shipping
Minister of Eastern Development and Muslim Religious Affairs
2001-2004 & 2006-2008
Chairman, Public Accounts Committee, Parliament
Minister of Internal and International Trade and Commerce, Muslim Religious Affairs and Shipping Development
Deputy Chairman of Committees, Parliament