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A.C.S. Hameed


AC Shaul Hameed was educated at St. Anthony's College, Katugastota, Vijaya College and Zahira College, Matale. He showed a flair for English writing and started with the Children's Corner in the Sunday Observer to which he was a regular contributor from the age of 15.

While in Standard VII, he launched a magazine for Matale schools called 'New Broom.' Later he organised the Matale Students' Union of which he was elected first president. Being interested in adult education and teaching of English he was responsible for establishing a number of educational institutions in Matale and Kandy districts particularly in backward Muslim localities. He was the director and principal of Winchester College, Matale (named after a famous Public School in England) which prepared students for foreign and local examinations conducted in English.

ACS, as he was affectionately known, was also elected President of the Central Ceylon Muslim Assembly and it was through this organization that the Kandy Muslim Teacher Training College was inaugurated. At that time there was a dearth of Muslim trained teachers.

In 1956, he became actively involved in politics and joined the UNP. He entered the arena of national politics when he successfully contested the general elections in March 1960. Since then he was returned to power in eight elections, counting 39 years as an MP. This was one of the longest unbroken parliamentary records in the country.

He was appointed to the Cabinet in 1977 when the UNP came to power and became the first Foreign Minister of this country. Since independence the portfolios of Defence and Foreign Affairs had earlier been held by the Head of Government.

By this time the Middle East boom had begun. Restrictions in the issue of passports and the existence of exit permits discouraged employers from recruiting people from Sri Lanka.

The Central Bank annual report of 1977 states that only 10,000 workers had gone for employment in the Middle East.

One of his first ministerial decisions was to remove all restrictions on passports and open Embassies in Middle East countries. Today more than one million Sri Lankans are employed in the Middle East.

Throughout his long and unparalleled stint of nearly 15 years as Foreign Minister, he spearheaded a number of discussions abroad and at home to settle many national and international disputes. He was involved in at least three of the major attempts made in those 15 years to resolve Sri Lanka's intractable armed conflict through negotiation - the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987, the Premadasa - LTTE talks of 1989/90 and the All-Party Conference of 1990-1992 of which he was Vice-Chairman.

He was the Chairman of the Ministerial Conference of the Non-aligned Movement from 1977-1979. He also visited many countries in Asia as an envoy of the United Nations to solicit support for a UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy. He served on the UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Studies for 10 years. He was an ardent advocate of internationalism and regionalism.

He was also a proponent of greater understanding among South Asian nations for the resolution of common problems and played an active role in the formation of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

In 1981, he inaugurated the first meeting of Foreign Secretaries of South Asian countries held in Colombo to explore prospects for regional co-operation.

As a Cabinet Minister, he tried to respond to problems in a practical and positive manner, more professionally rather than as a dogmatic intellectual. He had enormous drive and a stupendous capacity for hard work. He established himself as a national figure because of his proven competence and leadership potential.

(extracted from an appreciation written by his brother AC Nuhuman which appeared in the Sunday Times of April 22, 2002)