An Appreciation: 
Alhaj Jehan K. Cassim – a gentle gentleman

After attending a glittering wedding ceremony of my niece Huda in the banquet hall on Nugget Avenue, Scarborough, Ontario, I was not destined to receive a joyous  message. It was a grim and gloomy SMS from my good friend Omar Kamil (former Mayor of Colombo) of the news of the demise of Alhaj Jehan K. Cassim. This made me feel profound sorrow. 

It was quite recently that I visited Jehan with my good friend F.A. Yaseen, (former President of the Sri Lanka Football Federation), another intimate friend of Jehan, at his residence at Lake Drive in Rajagiriya. He was long bed-ridden and showed no sign of recovery although lovingly cared for by his beloved wife. 

I came to know Jehan about 50 years ago, in the company of some great Muslim leaders of that time at the All-Ceylon Muslim League. His father and uncle - Kamar Cassim and Senator Shums Cassim, were close associates of Dr. T.B. Jayah, Dr MCM Kaleel, Alhaj Falil. A Caffoor, Jabir A Cader, Mr MACM Saleh - stalwarts of the Muslim factor in the independence movement. Jehan ardently followed the footsteps of his elders.

He was a close follower of the Muslim League leadership in all social, religious and political activities which inspired him in later life to become an ardent worker in the cause of Sri Lankan Muslims and made him one of the most likable and lovable personalities in society. 

Jehan always stood for national unity and amity among all sections of the people. Not only did he build up a sense of brotherhood with the learned Ulemas of Bahjatul Ibrahimiya, a seat of higher Islamic learning in the South (Fort-Galle) - the place where Maumoon Abdul Gayoom graduated in Arabic - but also established a close rapport and friendship with the Sinhala leadership including learned Buddhist clergy, like Ven. Elle Gunawanse Thero and leaders of other religious communities.

He was a true believer in reconciliation and a bridge builder of peace and unity. Following the principles and philosophy of Dr Jayah, he worked hard for a united Sri Lanka comprising Sinhalese, Tamils , Muslims, Burghers, Malays, Memons, Borahs etc.  We will sorely miss him in the present context. 

Jehan dedicatedly and devotedly threw his lot with President Premadasa, and was a tower of strength to the late President in his forward march of development; he gave immense support to all Gam Udawa programs, joining hands with his friend B. Sirisena Cooray to make the Gam Udawa successful. Sirisena appointed Jehan Chairman of the newly created Common Amenities Board. He worked hard on shanty clearance and helped provide essential services to slum dwellers in the city of Colombo.

He was appointed Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon, indicating the regard he was held by the then president and government. The international Muslim factor also drew his attention. He backed me to the hilt whenever I approached President Premadasa to close the Israeli Interest Section working in this country at that time.

Jehan was the happiest man when Premadasa declared that "all forces inimical to the interest of Sri Lankan Muslim population would be closed down". His happiness saw no bounds when Premadasa told a U.S. emissary visiting Sucharita in an attempt to change the Sri Lankan leader’s mind that "there are no Zionists but only Muslim voters in Sri Lanka."

Jehan possessed some fine qualities; he was soft spoken, polite, kindhearted, forthright, humble, trustworthy, dedicated, and utterly devoted to the task assigned to him. He was a patriot who loved his country dearly. In all senses of the words he was the most gentle gentleman I have come across in public life, whose memory would always remain with us. 

May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant him the highest felicity in Jannatul Firdous!

AHM Azwer

Former MP/Minister

General Secretary, Sri Lanka Muslim Progressive Front 

From Toronto, Ontario

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