In Sept 2021, Douglas Ladduwahetty, a charismatic member of the Sri Lankan Engineering fraternity, took leave of us. He led a full life, dedicated to the engineering profession for more than five decades. His participation in the development of irrigation systems in the country made drastic improvements to the lives of many thousands of peasant families in Sri Lanka. With his departure, Sri Lanka certainly has lost a great son of the country who made an enormous contribution to the irrigation sector, in particular, the Mahaweli Development Program.
In 1977, when a new government was elected to power, the country was facing significant issues including 20% unemployment, severe shortage of housing, lack of agriculture facilities and a high demand for electricity to name a few. The new PM JRJ had studied the on-going Mahaweli Development Program (MDP) which was scheduled to be completed in 30 years. The PM wanted to expedite the progress of this massive project, as a means to provide much needed redress to the people.
With this background, JRJ had sent a message for Mr Ladduwahetty, with whom he had had contacts before, and sought his opinion on how soon the MDP could be completed. Mr Ladduwahetty, it is said, had simply replied that it could be even done in six years provided necessary funds are made available. This had spurred the PM to summon a special Cabinet meeting with all the Irrigation sector Engineers and technocrats and took a daring decision to accelerate the Mahaweli Project as the most prestigious program of his government. This changed the entire landscape of the country. And the rest is history.
Mahaweli Authority was formed to implement the MDP and CECB was assigned with large-dams construction works. Mr Ladduwahetty was made the Chairman of Mahaweli Development Board (MDB) to implement the downstream development works in Systems H, C and B. I was privileged to commence my career in engineering under his tutelage. It commenced in 1976 in the jungles of the North Central province where I had my first posting as Project Engineer with MDB in Kalawewa. Mr. Ladduwahetty was the Resident Project Manager for the Kalawewa under MDP.
As young graduates, we were inspired by his leadership. He had his own methodology in managing people and work. He never wanted to get trapped into highly bureaucratic rules and regulations that prevailed during the day and wanted to expedite progress of work at sites. During those days, malaria was rampant, and this region was infested by elephants. We were accommodated in temporary housing and hardwater in the area available for drinking and bathing was not something we were used to.
With meagre facilities available, a good number of engineers and supporting staff left MDB to join other departments and corporations, as they preferred to work in cities. But Mr Ladduwahetty who had vast experience in working in rural areas such as Gal Oya and Walawe Projects before, gathered all of us around and encouraged us to remain and develop the areas taking the task as a challenge. He shared his many years of experience working in such conditions.
To encourage us, he had frequent meetings with all officers and advised us the importance of dedicating our time to develop the rural sector and in the process help the poor farmers who were struggling to survive. Douglas Ladduwahetty held many critically important positions in Public Service, where his knowledge, energy and enthusiasm assisted in policy making and implementation that made a difference to many in our society.
After his Mahaweli assignment he worked as a Consultant Engineer, and many approached him to seek his advice on construction and management aspects. Later on, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Airport and Aviation Services Ltd where he served for five years and made important improvements to the Bandaranaike International Airport and its security. Even though he was brought up in a busy and even tumultuous environment, he always found time to read books on various subjects. He was a living example to prove Francis Bacon’s statement that ‘Reading Maketh a full man’. He had acquired a vast knowledge on various subjects and filled with new information and ideas to inspire others.
Due to this very reason, we found him not a conventional engineer but one who always tried to come out with innovative and progressive ideas. Hailing from Galle where he schooled at Richmond College, He was the eldest in a family of five. A great family man, he was devoted to his wife, Sita Lakshmi, who stood by him like a rock for nearly 60 years and pre-deceased him. His four children, Ravi, Indira, Chandrika and Senaka have lost their loving father. To us he was a great engineer and leader who made lasting contributions and moulded the life of many engineers who were privileged to work with him.
May he attain Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.
D Sarath Gunatillake,
Former Chief Engineer of MDB.
Encouraging signs, indeed!
Local entertainers can now breathe a sigh of relief…as the showbiz scene is showing signs of improving
Yes, it’s good to see Manilal Perera, the legendary singer, and Derek Wikramanayake, teaming up, as a duo, to oblige music lovers…during this pandemic era.
They will be seen in action, every Friday, at the Irish Pub, and on Sundays at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby.
The Irish Pub scene will be from 7.00 pm onwards, while at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby, action will also be from 7.00 pm onwards.
On November 1st, they are scheduled to do the roof top (25th floor) of the Movenpik hotel, in Colpetty, and, thereafter, at the same venue, every Saturday evening.
Constructive dialogue beyond international community
by Jehan Perera
Even as the country appears to be getting embroiled in more and more conflict, internally, where dialogue has broken down or not taken place at all, there has been the appearance of success, internationally. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be leading a delegation this week to Scotland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Both the President, at the UN General Assembly in New York, and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris, at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva seem to have made positive impacts on their audiences and, especially amongst the diplomatic community, with speeches that gave importance to national reconciliation, based on dialogue and international norms.
In a recent interview to the media Prof Peiris affirmed the value of dialogue in rebuilding international relations that have soured. He said, “The core message is that we believe in engagement at all times. There may be areas of disagreement from time to time. That is natural in bilateral relations, but our effort should always be to ascertain the areas of consensus and agreement. There are always areas where we could collaborate to the mutual advantage of both countries. And even if there are reservations with regard to particular methods, there are still abundant opportunities that are available for the enhancement of trade relations for investment opportunities, tourism, all of this. And I think this is succeeding because we are establishing a rapport and there is reciprocity. Countries are reaching out to us.”
Prof Peiris also said that upon his return from London, the President would engage in talks locally with opposition parties, the TNA and NGOs. He spoke positively about this dialogue, saying “The NGOs can certainly make a contribution. We like to benefit from their ideas. We will speak to opposition political parties. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to meet the Tamil National Alliance on his return from COP26, which we will attend at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. So be it the NGO community or the foreign diaspora or the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka. We want to engage with all of them and that is very much the way forward”
The concept of a whole-of-government approach is indicative of a more cohesive approach to governance by government ministries, the public administration and state apparatus in general to deal with problems. It suggests that the government should not be acting in one way with the international community and another way with the national community when it seeks to resolve problems. It is consistency that builds trust and the international community will trust the government to the extent that the national community trusts it. Dialogue may slow down decision making at a time when the country is facing major problems and is in a hurry to overcome them. However, the failure to engage in dialogue can cause further delays due to misunderstanding and a refusal to cooperate by those who are being sidelined.
There are signs of fragmentation within the government as a result of failure to dialogue within it. A senior minister, Susil Premajayantha, has been openly critical of the ongoing constitutional reform process. He has compared it to the past process undertaken by the previous government in which there was consultations at multiple levels. There is a need to change the present constitutional framework which is overly centralised and unsuitable to a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society. More than four decades have passed since the present constitution was enacted. But the two major attempts that were made in the period 1997-2000 and again in 2016-2019 failed.
President Rajapaksa, who has confidence in his ability to stick to his goals despite all obstacles, has announced that a new constitution will be in place next year. The President is well situated to obtain success in his endeavours but he needs to be take the rest of his government along with him. Apart from being determined to achieve his goals, the President has won the trust of most people, and continues to have it, though it is getting eroded by the multiple problems that are facing the country and not seeing a resolution. The teachers’ strike, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, is now in its fourth month, with no sign of resolution. The crisis over the halting of the import of chemical fertiliser is undermining the position of farmers and consumers at the present time.
An immediate cause for the complaints against the government is the lack of dialogue and consultation on all the burning issues that confront the country. This problem is accentuated by the appointment of persons with military experience to decision-making positions. The ethos of the military is to take decisions fast and to issue orders which have to be carried out by subordinates. The President’s early assertion that his spoken words should be taken as written circulars reflects this ethos. However, democratic governance is about getting the views of the people who are not subordinates but equals. When Minister Premajayantha lamented that he did not know about the direction of constitutional change, he was not alone as neither does the general public or academicians which is evidenced by the complete absence of discussion on the subject in the mass media.
The past two attempts at constitutional reform focused on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and assuaging the discontent of the ethnic and religious minorities. The constitutional change of 1997-2000 was for the purpose of providing a political solution that could end the war. The constitutional change of 2016-19 was to ensure that a war should not happen again. Constitutional reform is important to people as they believe that it will impact on how they are governed, their place within society and their equality as citizens. The ethnic and religious minorities will tend to prefer decentralised government as it will give them more power in those parts of the country in which they are predominant. On the other hand, that very fact can cause apprehension in the minds of the ethnic and religious majority that their place in the country will be undermined.
Unless the general public is brought aboard on the issue of constitutional change, it is unlikely they will support it. We all need to know what the main purpose of the proposed constitutional reform is. If the confidence of the different ethnic and religious communities is not obtained, the political support for constitutional change will also not be forthcoming as politicians tend to stand for causes that win them votes. Minister Premajayantha has usefully lit an early warning light when he said that politicians are not like lamp posts to agree to anything that the government puts before them. Even though the government has a 2/3 majority, this cannot be taken for granted. There needs to be buy in for constitutional reform from elected politicians and the general public, both from the majority community and minorities, if President Rajapaksa is to succeed where previous leaders failed.
JAYASRI twins…in action in Europe
The world over, the music scene has been pretty quiet, and we all know why. This pandemic has created untold hardships for, practically, everyone, and, the disturbing news is that, this kind of scene has been predicted for a good part of 2022, as well,
The band JAYASRI, however, based in Europe, and fronted by the brothers Rohitha and Rohan, say they are fortunate to find work coming their way.
Over the past few months, they have been performing at some of the festivals, held in Europe, during the summer season.
Says Rohitha: “As usual, we did one of the biggest African festivals in Europe, AfrikaTage, and some other summer events, from July up to now. Some were not that big, as they used to be, due to the pandemic, health precautions, etc.”
For the month of October, JAYASRI did some concerts in Italy, with shows in the city of Verona, Napoli, Rome, Padova and Milano.
The twins with the
late Sunil Perera
On November, 12th, the JAYASRI twins, Rohitha and Rohan, will be at EXPO Dubai 2020 and will be performing live in Dubai.
Rohitha also indicated that they have released their new single ‘SARANGANA,’ describing it as a Roots Reggae song, in audio form, to all download platforms, and as a music video to their YouTube channel – www.youtube.com/user/jayasri
According to Rohitha, this song will be featured in an action drama.
The lyrics for ‘SARANGANA,’ were created by Thushani Bulumulle, music by JAYASRI, and video direction by Chamara Janaraj Pieris.
There will be two audio versions, says Rohitha – a Radio Mix and a DUB Mix by Parvez.
The JAYASRI twins Rohitha and Rohan
After their Italian tour, Rohitha and Rohan are planning to come to Sri Lanka, to oblige their many fans, and they are hoping that the showbiz scene would keep on improving so that music lovers could experience a whole lot of entertainment, during the forthcoming festive season.
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