Amir Arslan SHERIFF – J .P.
Attorney-At-Law / Former City Coroner 1927-2009
To the greater Colombo region he was known as Amir Arslan Sheriff, to us he was our dear "Grumpy," a commanding personality who earned much respect and authority and yet a man who lived a simple life never losing the common touch. Our dear grandfather lived a fruitful eighty-two years and sadly passed away at home on Friday, February 13, 2009. The memories of him are manifold. His life as a politician and Attorney-at-Law inspire us and invoke our admiration. But it was the little things that touch our hearts - the way his face lit up when we visited him or the pride in his voice as he spoke of his grandchildren. The proceeding is an appreciation of his life.
Amir A Sheriff was born and raised at No. 7, Mutwal Street, Mutuwal. Dissatisfied with the fact that his street name had no meaning, he later moved a Motion in Council to re-name it "Muthuwella Mawatha" (street by the sea) during his professional career. Born into a family of 4 brothers & 5 sisters he was the youngest son of Cassim Sheriff who served in the Postal Department of Colombo as an Accountant for nearly 42 years during the British regime. His three older brothers were Ex-Servicemen, retired Government Servants, and Ex-Justices of Peace. The late Sir Razik Fareed, for whom Amir executed the Last Will and Testament, was closely related to his mother, Sithy Zavahira.
He was educated at Ananda College Colombo, where he excelled in academics and extracurricular activities. He was the Junior President of the Literary and Debating Unions, not realizing at the time that this would mark the start of a successful career in Law and Politics. Upon completing his A/L's, he began employment as Postmaster and Signaller Class II, a Permanent Government Servant, at the Department of Inland Revenue. Late Mr. J.A.R. Felix, Commissioner of Income Tax at the time, saw much talent and scope in the young Amir and encouraged him to resign from his government post and follow his dreams by pursuing a career in Law. Amir Sheriff entered the Colombo Law College, where he became a member of the Ceylon Law Students Union and the Association of Muslim Majlis. In addition to his academic excellence, Amir Sheriff was also an all-round sportsman. He was the President of the Colombo Football League and a member of the C.F.A Council. He even served as a Part-time Play Ground Instructor for the C.M.C.
Professional & Political Accomplishments:
In April 1957, Amir Sheriff fulfilled his dreams by completing Law College and registering as a Proctor of the Supreme Court. He proceeded to register as Solicitor U.K. in 1964. His professional career as an Attorney-at-Law & Notary Public in Colombo spans over a period of 50 years, during which time he was appointed as Justice of the Peace in 1960, J.P.U.M. and Inquirer of Sudden Deaths (City Coroner, Colombo) in 1975. He also acted as Municipal Magistrate in Colombo. As he progressed in his career, Amir Sheriff received several Semi Judicial appointments; he was appointed on the Panel of Judges of the Industrial Court, as President of the Motor Transport Tribunal, Member of the Hospital Committee of the Colombo General Hospital, and member of the Public Assistance Committee of the C.M.C.
Amir Sheriff's professional career as an Attorney-at-Law led him to enter the political arena. He did so at the time Hon. Dudley Senanayake was Prime Minister of Sri-Lanka. Amir Sheriff was elected as member of the Colombo Municipal Council (C.M.C) in 1965. His was a sweeping victory; as an independent candidate, he defeated candidates of leading parties despite the fact that at the time Aluthmawatha Ward No.4 in the C.M.C was predominantly a Sinhala-Buddhist Ward, where the Catholics were equally strong and the Muslims were only a minority. He served as Member of the C.M.C for over a decade, holding various Chairmanships in Law and General Subjects, Sanitation and Markets, Housing and Town Improvement.
Being a devoted Social Welfare Worker inter alia, he was designated as Hon. Manager of the Deaf Club, an institution that promoted "Recreative Sports" for the Deaf. He further rendered his service as an active Member of the Prisoners Welfare Association in Colombo.
Amir Sheriff's tenure as a Member of the CMC was well spent. He worked towards improving the living conditions and infrastructure of Colombo North. He moved a Motion to grant an extension of the Madampitiya Muslim Burial Grounds by approximately an acre. This was duly seconded, and with the unanimous support of all political parties, it was finally approved at the General Council Meeting in October 1969. He then proposed to make the Non-Muslim General Cemetery more accessible by widening the road between Madampitiya and Mahawatte. This was facilitated by donating eight perches of land belonging to the Muslim Burial Ground to the C.M.C free of compensation.
He worked to enhance the educational facilities for the under-privileged. At the time, the Hamza School was the only Muslim school in Colombo North and consisted of a makeshift un-authorized structure that did not have enough capacity to accommodate all under-privileged Muslim children of the region. Amir Sheriff presented a proposal for the establishment of a State School in Mattakkuliya, to the then Minister of Education, Late Hon. V. Dhanayake, which was accepted and notably, today Zahira College stands as a government school in silent testimony to Amir's efforts. He ensured that the school was provided with free books from the C.M.C by obtaining approval for a state grant.
He continued untiringly to serve the
Muslim community of Colombo North. As Chairman of the Mosque Building Committee,
he helped on expanding the Mutwal Jumma Mosque, built four houses and two
garages for Mosque maintenance, and was instrumental in facilitating the Mosque
to be provided with electricity. It was his vision to have a Mosque at the
Henamulla Camp in Madampitiya where the downtrodden Muslims live. On his
invitation, the late Hon. Dr. B. Mahmud laid the foundation stone for this
Whilst being the President of the Ceylon Moor Youth League, he was invited by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (an organization based in Budapest, Hungary) to represent Sri-Lanka at the World Youth Forums held in Vienna (1959), Moscow (1964) and Egypt to promote peace and friendship amongst youth in the world. Further, Amir Sheriff served as Vice President of the All Ceylon Moors Association, Deputy President of the All Ceylon Muslim League Youth Front, Chairman of the Moors Islamic Cultural Home Building Fund Committee and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the M.I.C.H. from its inception to his retirement.
His career was successful, his service to our community was abundant, and his role as "grumpy" is unforgettable. He leaves behind his wife Zehra and children Dinazarde, Cherahzarde (Lankavacations Ltd), Amer Azad, Farah Umareen, and Ahamed Yousry.
Inna Lillahi Wa Inn Ilaini Rajioon…May Allah grant him Jennathul Firdous. Aameen! (Fondly remembered by his granddaughters Alia, Sameera, Sameeha ,Maria, & the grand sons Sajed-Ali, Altaf, Sabir, Aman, Amir, Akif, Abdulla, & Abdulrahman)