Appreciation : Eng. D. J. Wimalasurendra
Eng. D. J. Wimalasurendra born on September 17, 1874 in Galle joined
the Ceylon Technical College in 1893 while working as an apprentice at
the Government Factory and Passed the AMICE examination then conducted
in India. He was the first to graduate in Civil Engineering from the
Ceylon Technical College.
In 1896, he joined the PWD as a field overseer and became an
Inspector within four years. In 1912 left UK to specialise in Electrical
Engineering field and obtained the Faraday House Diploma in a short
period of seven months.
He returned to Ceylon in 1919 and studied the potentialities of
Laxapana. In 1927 he was appointed Chief Engineer in the PWD and rose to
the Deputy Director responsible for designing Kolonnawa Power Station
and the Distribution system.
He retired at 55 after serving 30 years in the Government's service.
Then he ventured into politics a very rare intrusion of an engineer to
the then State Council by winning the Ratnapura seat.
He was a visionary who advocated utilising the only resources we had
in abundance at the time namely hydropower to the maximum with electric
locomotive replacing the coal fired steam trains. He spoke of "Cheap
power supply like hydro allowing use of trackless trams through out the
country". His thoughts went further with the wheels of industry powered
by electricity. He could be truly called the founding father of Hydro
power in Sri Lanka.
He had a deep love for the dignity of craftsmanship and looked after
the tools and equipment with care and attention. This was best
illustrated by his habit of a carrying his own theologize to the field.
Wimalasurendra was a brilliant Civil and an Electrical Engineer who
in 1918 referred to the hydro power potential of the Mahaweli and the
need harness it for development of the country.
One has to note that Wimalasurendra's creative mind in Ceylon which
had no Universities, no scientific laboratories and the customary
opposition from the bureaucracy then as now.
He went on to advocate the need for a high percentage of people with
a scientific background at the higher places of decisionmaking.
Unfortunately that part of his vision still remains far from fruition
Although Wimalasurendra tried his utmost to initiate hydro power
production in the Ceylon State Council as far as 1935 the Government had
other priorities. He had to fight layers of prejudice in getting Norton
dam transformed from concept to the implementing stage and eventual
completion in 1950.
Norton Power Station renamed after Wimalasurendra, generates 50 MW
and Maskeliya Oya stage II completed in 1974, 100 MW, with Polpitiya
generating a further 75 MW.
The best tribute to Wimamlasurendra was paid by his colleague in the
State Council Prof. C. Suntheralingam on the occasion of the Centennial
when he wrote "Wimalasurendra is not dead". Another highlight in his
character which cannot be forgotten was his statement in the State
Council during the Appropriation Bill of 1934.
He referred to a proposal to sell the Colombo Telephone System to an
European Company as it was running at a loss.
He said this suggestion is by a business magnate and he is expecting
us to approve same I could not possibly agree to the proposal to sell
this to an outside concern. As a national asset we cannot part with it.
Instead we must adopt measures at once to put it as a profitable
venture. This shows how history repeats itself on this very issue even
after six decades.
Eng.J. Meegoda, Chairman, Electrical and Electronics Engineering
Sectional Committee, Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka.