10 August, 2022


A Tribute To Dr. Michael Emil Joachim; A Man Who Was Absolutely Incorruptible

By Sivaguru Ganesan

Michael passed away on the 28 Th of May after a brief illness, leaving his family, friends, fellow professionals and co- workers in deep sorrow. His father Dr. A.W.R. Joachim was a former Director of Agricultural Research under the Government. He grew up with his female siblings in a privileged family that imbued into him magnificent personal values to guide his life that we, his friends, professional colleagues and co workers saw in great abundance in our interactions with Michael over the last five decades.

Dr. Michael Emil Joachim

After his graduation in civil engineering in 1963, he joined the National Housing Department and was later absorbed into the State Engineering Services. Early in his professional life, he secured a doctorate from the prestigious University of Edinburgh. That endowed him with advanced multidisciplinary skills. On his return to Sri Lanka, he served in a series of high level positions in the public sector: Superintending Engineer, Housing, Director of Programming, National Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Director, Urban Development Authority, and Head of the Department of Buildings being amongst these. He served several ministers of the state with great distinction, being recognised by them as being among the finest of our Engineers. He was a favorite of former Ministers Hon Pieter Keuneman, Hon Srisena Coorey, and Hon Prime Minister R. Premadasa who all called on him to carry out exacting tasks. His most admired character was that he was absolutely incorruptible in a system that was plagued by corruption at every level, a trait that would surely have flowed out from his early upbringing.

On his retirement from the public sector around 2000, he put the skills he commanded into play in order to handle outstanding challenges in the private sector. He served as the Managing Director of Colombo Land Ltd, focusing on infrastructure planning and buildings. He thereafter set up his own Consultancy Firm, Project Management and Development, of which he was Chairman. This firm collaborated with Aitkin Spence and other investors on major tourism projects within and outside Sri Lanka. In 2015, Hon Sajith Premadasa appointed him as the Chairman, the State Engineering Corporation. At his demise, he was the Chairman, of the Construction Industry Development Authority.

It is wonderful to know that Michael always did his best for his family, his loving wife Estelle, and two wonderful children, Janice and David. I recall that in the 1980s he was offered an attractive job with the Hong Kong Government, but he declined it in order to stay with his young family in Sri Lanka. In turn, his family gave him immense strength to overcome many problems he faced.
Michael will long be remembered by his friends and co-workers for his serious professionalism, his kindness, his deep concern for those around him, his eagerness to help others, and his somewhat aggressive yet endearing conversations with us. Michael will be deeply missed by his family and all those who came close to him.

May his soul rest in peace.

*Sivaguru Ganesan – Professor( Retd), the University of Hong Kong

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Latest comments

  • 6

    I had some connections with Dr. Michael Joachim during the period of President JR Jayawardena’s administration in the 1980s when the economy was opened out after the long disastrous period of ‘socialist’ experimentation. He was in charge of the UDA at that time and a trusted member of Mr. Premadasa’s team in charge of urban renewal and housing projects.

    Attached to a multi national French civil engineering company awarded the Rukmalgama and Prima housing projects and the construction of the new St. John’s Fish Market, we saw Dr. Joachim as a dynamic, courteous and efficient public servant who was not afraid to take quick decision based as they were on his quick grasp of facts, his professionalism, competency and honesty. As Professor Sivaguru mentions, his sardonic quips were part of his makeup.

    In Dr. Joachim we have yet another example of the high quality of public servants that Sri Lanka was blessed with in the past. Men whose learning, background and moral character compelled politicians to respect and be guided by their advice. Alas ! this was a Sri Lanka not to be.

    Requiescat in Pace

  • 4

    he was absolutely incorruptible in a system that was plagued by corruption at every level – A rare breed in Sri Lanka that needs to be protected by competent authority

  • 1

    He was a truly wonderful guy. It was an honor to associate with him. A great loss to the country.

  • 1

    In 1993, the government decided to build 1,000 houses at five rural locations in Vavuniya District. A GOBU was appointed to produce and supply cement blocks. Every week the progress reports from all five Resident Engineers had to be presented and there was one complaint from all five: delivery of cement blocks was very slow. Every week the representative of the GOBU had something to say as an excuse but always talked big about the company and assured a speedy supply. At one of the Progress Review Meetings, Dr. MEJ, fed up with excuses of this guy, shouted: “I say your company may be big but no bricks at site. Big fart no shit”. There was a new guy representing that company at the next meeting and there were no further complaints from Resident Engineers.

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