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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 even today.

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.





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