I was very happy to see that IESL has started to organize a National Engineering Conference. We did not have this kind of conferences when we were Engineering students in Sri Lanka. Later when we were known among fellow engineers in other countries, we started to organize an annual conference in Sri Lanka that attracts on average researchers from 18 countries to Sri Lanka to present their findings in technology for sustainable development. Through that experience I know the impact of this kind of conferences held in Sri Lanka on the lives of local engineers and students.
There is no doubt that IESL senior members may know that a technical conference has a formal structure. It has sessions on different themes, and it has plenary talks and keynote talks given by prominent scientists/engineers in the field. For instance, I refer the reader to keynote speeches in several annual conferences held in Sri Lanka such as The International Conference on Industrial and Automation Systems and International Conference on Building Resilience. One may see that the keynote speakers are prominent researchers or professionals in the specific field.
Apart from technical conferences, Sri Lanka has had a long culture of recognizing the engineers behind National projects like giving engineer Wimalasurendra’s name to the power station he gave leadership to, and naming numerous roads in Colombo after the respective Engineers who built them even in the Colonial times.
I am sure IESL is aware of the reason as to why we do not get politically sensitive guests involved in technical roles in conferences. We avoid that because the whole purpose of the conference is to bring together people with diverse political, ethnic, and religious backgrounds to focus on a given set of technical topics without unnecessary distractions. Sri Lanka is not without major recent projects if you wanted keynote speakers with a local relevance. How about the chief engineer of Hambantota harbor project, Norichcholai power station project, the Southern Highway project, or even the design engineer of Sri Lanka’s first satellite? They may well be Chinese Engineers. But it does not matter as long as he/she could share some technical experience with local engineers. Was there a major reason to skip all those opportunities to get the defense secretary to do this key technical job? If you really wanted to honor him, you could have given him a guest of honor speech, which is not technical. You cannot avoid young members shying away from IESL if they begin to feel that their professional body is getting politicized. I do not want IESL to face that disaster. Therefore, I urge all IESL members to take this issue up in the next general meeting to avoid future disappointments.