Dubai: He was not a UAE resident, but former Chief Minister of Kerala Ommen Chandy, who passed away on Tuesday, lived in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of expats from the South Indian state.
Paying rich tributes to the mass leader, who even won a UN award for public service, several Keralites remembered the mass leader for launching several initiatives for Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs), addressing their grievances back home, boosting ties with the UAE and initiating projects in Kerala with investment from the country.
There are an estimated one million Keralites, also known as Malayalis, living in the UAE and Chandy has visited the country many times officially and paid several personal visits also since his daughter Achu Oommen’s family and many relatives also live here.
Several Malayalee expats flew down to their home state to pay their last respects to their favourite leader known for enjoying a mass base among all social and religious communities.
Conveying condolence messages, prominent Indian expats shared their memories with Chandy.
M A Yusuff Ali, chairman and managing director of LuLu Group International, said Chandy always stood for the development of Kerala and the welfare of the people.
“I have had decades of love and friendship with him. I have had the opportunity to interact with him very closely as the director of Kochi International Airport, NORKA vice chairman and Smart City special invitee. He was also a popular and philanthropic ruler. An example of this is the public outreach programme implemented during his tenure as the Chief Minister. Through this, he brought relief to countless people who were suffering after working tirelessly for long hours. It is a matter of pride that this programme also fetched him the award by the United Nations for global public service in 2013 while he was the Chief Minister. Even when he was not in the administrative leadership, he undertook many things for the welfare of the people.”
In fact, Chandy had also conducted a session of his mass outreach programme for the Malayali expats in Sharjah in 2013. Dubai resident and Chandy’s companion for decades, MG Pushpakaran, recalled how he had facilitated the then Chief Minister in transporting the petitions and memoranda submitted by the expats to Kerala.
“All those papers weighed around 20kg. He had followed up and taken action on most of those grievances later. He was the epitome of love and compassion and would never rest without solving the problems addressed to him. For me, it is an irreplaceable personal loss,” he said.
Pushpakaran and Juidin Bernarrd, a Dubai-based digital media content creator who has captured the family photos of Chandy for three decades, are among the UAE residents flying home for Chandy’s funeral.
They recalled how Chandy used to coordinate with them for repatriating Malayalees stranded in the UAE during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Azad Moopen, founder chairman and managing director, Aster DM Healthcare remembered Chandy as one of the most respected politicians in Kerala.’
“He was a true people’s leader who drew strength from being amongst them. His statesmanship greatly benefited the state during his tenure as an MLA for over 50 years, holding the office of the CM for two terms successfully. As the Chief Minister, he had a phenomenal impact on rolling out many welfare programmes and attracting investments to the state. I have had the privilege of knowing him for the last three decades, during which he supported us in establishing Aster’s hospital network in Kerala and Dr. Moopen’s Medical College in Wayanad. His compassion, dedication, and progressive governance will always be remembered and continue to inspire future generations.”
Leaving a void
Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and chairman of Burjeel Holdings, said Chandy’s passing leaves a void in the hearts of the expat community.
“He was a greatly admired leader whose record of more than half a century as a member of the Legislative Assembly is a testament to his immense popularity. His contributions to the expat community were truly remarkable, and he leaves a legacy of selfless service behind. I fondly remember the many opportunities when I witnessed his exceptional responsiveness to the issues of Keralites around the globe. Even during his visits to countries, including the UAE, he was always surrounded by people. He was always a phone call away to hear and address the NRI community’s concerns. We will remember him for creating a new model of public service and exemplifying the essence of empathy and accessibility in his long career as a champion of the people.”
Dr KP Hussain, chairman and managing director of Fathima Healthcare Group, remembered Chandy for his humility in behaviour. “I have interacted with him on countless occasions but I would like to recall one particular incident. He invited me for a meeting and on reaching there, I realised it was to explore the opportunities of setting up dialysis centres in all the districts of Kerala. “There are thousands of such welfare projects that he had initiated. He was a role model who worked for the betterment of the people when he was in power and when he was not.”