My final advice therefore to student members: Don’t try to crowd out your time in doing so many courses, unless you are keen to do them.  Of course if you are and if you can manage, your time without compromising your leisure time why not do it.

I am often reminded of the drama of Somalatha Subasinghe “the úlD;s” where  a once joyful exuberant popular A/L student, a girl, was turned in to a robot and a lunatic doctor because of pressure brought upon her by her parents to study… study… study & study. 

When you pass out, with an Engineering degree, you are qualified to be an engineer.  You may be employed in an engineering firm.  You may perhaps join one of the institutions of engineering apart from the IESL as an associate member.   The first 4 years, I would like you to consider as your formative years.  During these years you will be in employment either in the private or the public sector working under senior engineers doing simple jobs but having perhaps serious financial and other considerations. You may want to do post graduate studies, enroll for all types of courses and the prospect of marriage will also be very high. 

So now I am addressing the category of engineers below the age of 35.  I consider you as Young Engineers. Full of new ideas with  an uncorrupted mind. You  will learn many things from the seniors during this time.  You will try to innovate new techniques of doing things, utilizing your engineering knowledge which is still fresh in your mind, and being very computer literate, using the unimaginable power of the computers in whatever you do.

 This is very encouraging. You are more IT literate than most of us here. You tend to take risks much more than us who are your seniors.  A vast reservoir of information and knowledge is at your finger tips literally with a click of a button to browse through the internet. These are all very positive signs.

There is a negative aspect too which I want to share with you as your President with  over 34 years of career experience. I may have come across more than 34 batches of young engineers.  I have been watching these groups of engineers growing  and reaching maturity.  Many young engineers report to me., These are some of the traits I have observed in them, hold your breath young engineers, some of them you will like, some of them you won’t like.  What I have observed are,  they are very pushy, much more exposed to the outside world than the older ones.  They are capable of competing with any professional of the same age and will really come out as champions, more expressive and articulate.  If they disagree with the superiors most of them talk back.  

The list is endless.  On the other hand, I know you, young engineers now will disagree with me of what I am going to say….. I may be wrong.

Now these are my personal observations.   Some of them are much more selfish, self centered, too much diversified good or bad I don’t know, hence they lack the desire that we had to find more and more about the scientific technological and engineering principles that lay behind the work we do.  They tend to depend on inputs and outputs of an inhuman, idiotic, tool called the computer and are less sensitive to the output of a mere  programme that is only capable of number crunching. Please don’t run away with the idea that your new President does not like computers. No… not so.

They want a luxurious life from the day one in their work place.  They are well aware of all the benefits and will fight for them conveniently forgetting their duties. They want to marry early, understandably and raise a family early. It is a basic need. Then they want to move into big cities. They want to be managers within a very short time of say two to three years in their careers.  They don’t like to do anything more unless they get a benefit.

In short I don’t want to use this phrase but in short “They don’t want to be  grease monkeys that we were.” I still remember coming home after my training at Walker and Greig Welding Shop, where we learnt the basics of welding under the sarong clad old Basunnahes who marveled in getting us young trainees to clean the muddy surfaces of tractor trailers using coconut husks. Very often those who have done this, know, you end up having few cuts and tears of knuckles and fingers, after cleaning broken and corroded metal.  I still have some of the scars in my fingers to the credit. 

So my advice to you, young engineers: Learn the basics of engineering in the work you do.  You may not see the finite element grid.  You may not see the Fourier analysis and partial deferential equations and you may never meet Laplace in the field.  Nyquist plot you will never see in the machine floor, but all of them are at work in your work place.  Learn what you learn in your studies with what you do today. More importantly learn the good habits and the best practices of your seniors and reject the corrupt and bad engineering practices if at all of your seniors without telling them.

Next I want to address the engineers between the age group of 35 – 55 or even 60.  Now I am sure you all are chartered engineers.  You have obtained the professional standing to lead the engineering profession  in our country. You are the doers, you are the movers of the economy.  You contribute mostly to the development of our infrastructure. You maintain all the highly sophisticated engineering marvels.  If you neglected your duty by the country, due to fear of displeasing your senior managers, or the political authority, play the lame duck game, forget about the development of our country.

 The development of our systems is in your hands.  You are not only called upon to do your work  diligently and  faithfully adhering to basic engineering principles that you learned in the university and furthered as a young engineer but now you are called upon to innovate and institute modern systems of analysis, decision making and in short, management of systems that are required to meet the pressing challengers of meeting deadlines, cost cutting, to suite the budgets of mega projects, to satisfy the masses, who may either be opposed to major engineering interventions or force you to do certain projects which you know very well are not viable,

 Speak out, standout, be identified.  


Being identified is highly dangerous.  You can be marked as a trouble maker.  You can be identified as a member of the opposition party.  You can be identified as a political stooge. You can be identified as a supporter of the political party in power. You can also on the other hand be identified as a savior, you can be identified as a straightforward person who always stand out for the truth.  You can be identified as an engineer who knows what he talks about.  So be one of them.  The choice is yours. Recently, we had a discussion about toeing the line of the political masters.  I was appalled by the comments made by some of my colleagues.  They said that due to political pressure or even pressure from the superiors ,how difficult it has become for them to do the right thing  sticking  to our basic engineering principals, i.e  to be prudent and wise in the utilization of funds.  Are we going to continue to take orders from people who do not know anything about engineering? Anything about prudent financial practices but we must also keep in mind that the politicians are the representatives of people.  They are the voice of the people.  Try to pick up the voice of people through them and tell them what is best for the people. 

I am sure if you do this with all the tact and the wit that you have with  you, you are sure to succeed, you don’t need to toe their line. They will soon have faith in you for your straightforwardness.  They will have faith in you for saving the money from the Project. They will have faith in you for doing a good project that will benefit the people.  The problem  is how to tread this difficult path. That is why we call you matured engineers. Your maturity should be put to work, your maturity should be shown.  I will salute and support you in all your endeavours through the institution in whatever way you want me to do it.

Now let me turn to the older generation. The reason for the large number of very senior members who are  present  here, is because you love this institution.  You love the work you did for the institution.  I salute you for your unstinted support and ready cooperation you always extended to the institution. You have many more productive years left.  Most of you are advanced in your age.  But you are mostly young at heart.  Your wisdom, experience and knowledge is most important to us. I will most certainly create an opportunity for  you to get involved  in our activities, provide an opportunity for  you to do still something more, utilizing your knowledge, experience and strategies.

I cannot promise great things, because I only have one year, but I am assured by my President Elect, both of us will jointly work on a two year programme having given our support to the President Eng. Tilak De Silva in all the revolutionary, initiatives he took  to make the IESL a more useful place for you engineers.  Make it more acceptable to our members.  I will continue with all the good work he did and along with my President Elect I will charter a durable course of action that will keep all the categories of our members going for the best, I will create space for all engineers at IESL,  next one year in particular and two years for sure. 

We already have 8 centres locally and one overseas chapter in NSW.  This year 6 district centres were created in Kegalle, Polonnaruwa, Mannar, Ampara, Monaragala and Batticaloa.  So it is high time that we re-name our provincial centre to be Provincial Chapters.   May be we can call them Rajarata chapter, Kandurata chapter, Ruhunu chapter so on and so forth, and go ahead and create centres in all districts.  We have already done the ground work to set up a chapter in Western Australia and we shall initiate action to set up chapters in  West Asian countries and may be Canada or USA.

We shall create space for everyone to IESL wherever they are to be part of our new and dear family. 

Mr. Wakelin ,Be assured that we shall do everything within our means to assist our Universities to upgrade their laboratories to international standards and the graduates that pass out from them possess knowledge and skills that will be in line with the Washington Accord graduate attributes. That is my precise.  With our alliance with the overseas members and our understanding with the Government we shall do everything possible to meet your expectations.  

Let me assure you Ms Rita O’ Sullivan, we Engineers as you said rose upto the occasion after any calamity be it.  Whether it is a Tsunami or a devastating  cyclone, we have been the first to go there and restore the services.

Now allow me to be a little bit more personal.  Most presidents who assume  duties shed a tear or two, choke in the middle of a sentence.   I have to thank my mother, a teacher who is no more and  who was my role model.  She instilled in me, basics  of good behavior.  She always told us “fydr fndrej tmd” I go one step further and tell  “fydr fndrej jxpdj tmd” no lying, no cheating, no stealing.  My family members, my sisters and brother are here, because I was the youngest of a family of 8 losing  my father  at a very young age of  only 3 months, their love and support throughout my life especially the assistance extended to  my mother to educate me is affectionately acknowledged. Thank you very much.

More than half of my life I have spent with my wife and my family. We had to undergo a very hard and tough time when I had to often go outstations and work in power stations just after marriage.  While my second daughter had been  just born, and the elder one was just 3 years old, I had to rush many times dead in the night to the power station driving about 40km, at times of emergencies. Although I am sure my wife did not like it , however she tolerated it .  

I had to cut short our family gatherings, picnics  and holidays which I am sure  my family and my relatives and friends did not like although  silently they supported me. My wife single handedly had to look after my two daughters most of the time  attending  to their basic needs and  education even up to the time of completing  their degrees.  I had very little hand in them, she did almost everything alone.  So here I am paying tribute to her for being with me and tolerating me in good times as well as bad times.  My two daughters and my son-in-law, I am sure they are happy today to see their dad addressing an important gathering like this.    They will remember this throughout their lives. They are wonderful children, obedient and never disappoint their  parents.  

Now I turn to my mentors

Eng. HS Subasinghe

Eng. JKDB Tilakaratne

Late Eng. BP Sepalage

Eng. DC Wijeratne

Eng. Prof. KKYW Perera

Eng. Prof. Sam Karunaratne

Eng.Prof. Rohan Lucas

Eng. Prof. Mohan Munasinghe

They have all been my mentors.  I have many more.  For lack of  time, I am sorry I cannot mention all of them.  

Finally let me tell you I did all what I need to do for the glory of god in whom I have faith and trust.  I had a religious background and I am a firm believer in my own religion.  I continue to pray Him to give me the guidance in the coming years to do my duties.

I have been trying to tell you what I have been , who I am now and what I plan to do for  the IESL. Your active participation next year will be  paramount to  help you in your professional work. This year we laid the foundation and moved forward by creating an environment to enable  all our members to interact with the  IESL more meaningfully and more effectively. The choice is yours to use the IESL for your own benefit for the subscription fees  you pay. I invite you to get the best out of the IESL.

I thank each and every one of you for being with us this morning and listening to me very patiently, my final request is please lend me your  heart  and your  hand, I value it most.  
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