Eng. Suran Fernando
Let the IESL be the Stage for Diverse Opinions
Dear Members & Readers,
The planned walkway along the bund of the Parakrama Samudraya has become the topic of the month. The term ‘Ralapanawa’ has turned out to be the latest media buzzword. While grabbing newspaper headlines, this topic has turned many epidemic advocates on social media into irrigation experts in no time. When people tend to talk about such technical topics on the prejudgments they are in, based on their assumptions, preferences, and political affiliations, ‘the truth’ dies at first place. The loudest message becomes the truth for many. In a platform where such tasks are praised by those who support the government while are condemned by those who oppose the government, there is minimum room for an unbiased interpretation. When facebookers advice their patrons about the stability or erosion of the bund of Parakrama Samudraya, the usual silence of the technical engineers in the respective field can be noted. This is not that healthy for the progression of the nation.
Similarly, when the major national projects related to construction, infrastructure development, power generation, or transport infrastructure expansion are in the discussion, the viewpoint of the respective expert engineers is not being heard, as to the level that should be. Some such engineering projects are heavily being misinterpreted by politicians of all fronts for their political gains. The mass media is always ready to give publicity for these biased views. Lawyers always come forward when there is a national topic related to law while medical practitioners always be vocal when there is an health/ medical issue. Unfortunately, that formula does not work same with the engineers. I believe that the IESL can and should fill this vacuum.
It is true that ‘the truth’ is subjective. That is why we need to listen to the diverse viewpoints. IESL can be the platform for such diverse but fact-based views on the national level projects and engineering issues in the country. It is not to be forgotten that there have been some efforts made by IESL on such matters in the past but that is not enough. IESL should be the national stage for engineering viewpoint.
We cannot be pleased with the current level of the involvement of IESL on the nationally important areas like power generation, transportation, infrastructure development etc. If the stage is not set for conflicting technical opinions, the audience does not have any choice. This will discourage creativity and build the ground for vested interests. The patience to listen to the opposite views will help us to reach the correct stance with clarity in mind. It is the IESL that needs to take the voice of engineers to the engineering community and public, but not by a few over enthusiastic people with other interests than the national interest.
SLEN is always trying to give room to different schools of thought exist among the engineering fraternity to broaden the knowledgebase of its members and to help them to converge towards the best alternative. For instance, in this publication we have created the stage for two opposite engineering views related to power generation. It’s an indirect invitation to the rest of the knowledgeable members on the same subject for a meaningful engagement to take the technical conversation forward with their facts and figures. This will give a snowball effect that will be always beneficial to the community.
This kind of challenging dialogues will finetune and strengthen IESL’s stance on any engineering related area. Then, IESL can widen its boundaries beyond its membership to the national level on such technical areas. IESL cannot survive in the long run, if it stays only within its comfort zone. IESL should go public on engineering related matters backed with a proper studied approach. The nation is silently but desperately expecting that service from us. Let us determine to step towards that goal. The day that Sri Lankan rulers and citizens will look for the IESL’s recommendation for national level technical matters, we can be happy as the engineering fraternity of the country.
Stay safe & contribute!
Eng. Suran Fernando
The topic of renewable energy is very much in the public eye, and there is much debate on the subject in various circles, including among engineers. IESL, as the premier engineering organization in the country, has a responsibility to engage its community in a fruitful dialogue examining this topic from various aspects that affect the nation.
In this context, a podcast of an interview with Eng. Lakshitha Weerasinghe, Head, Long-Term Planning, CEB, is included in the current digital issue of SLEN. With the intent of bringing another point-of-view on the subject, I, as the Editor of SLEN, decided to include a reproduction of an article written by Eng. (Dr.) Vidhura Ralapanawe, a well-known commentator on renewable energy, sustainability and climate change, with his consent.
However, my subsequent reflections on the decision allowed me to realize that the tone of the article, which was published in a national newspaper is not conducive to create an open dialogue among groups engaged in this sector. As the spirit of collective dialogue is not served with this particular article, which was not specifically written for SLEN, I arrived at the difficult decision to retract this article from this edition of SLEN. I would like to express my sincere apology to Eng. (Dr.) Ralapanawe, for my decision and any pain of mind it may have caused. I emphasize that this decision was not due to any concerns on the veracity of the technical content presented in his article.
The podcast mentioned above and the article on sustainable energy created a vibrant dialogue in a short period, confirming my earlier belief on the importance of this topic to our readers. Therefore, I am announcing that we will open a new segment titled ‘Energy Corner’ in the September issue of SLEN to continue our conversations on this important topic. I invite our audience, who are informed on this topic, to contribute to this important conversation. I have invited Dr. Ralapanawe to contribute to this segment in the September SLEN. The members are requested to send their articles to SLEN on or before 19th of September 2021.
At IESL, we strive to create productive dialogues within the SLEN platform on topics such as our path to a sustainable energy future and others of great national importance.
Eng. Suran Fernando
7th September 2021