A planter retires

Tribute to Srikumar

As the curtain comes down on an illustrious career, spanning 44 eventful years, memories of a wonderful friendship flood my thoughts.

Sri, as an energetic young schoolboy was not inclined to the desk-bound pursuits in education at Royal College, as his other three brothers were (the youngest, Skanda retired not long ago as Chairman of George Steuarts). His strengths lay in outdoor activities which was reinforced by his love for rugby.
He secured an appointment with the prestigious Whittalls Estates and Agencies, as a Trainee Planter at the relatively young age of 18, and with that began a career from which he never looked back. His talents combined with his commitment and integrity, not to mention his disarming smile and infectious sense of humour, made him a gem of a choice for the industry. Soon he was climbing the ladder of success. He was given the Acting Superintendent's responsibilities on Gonapitiya Estate in Kandapola at the very young age of 24.

For all of his exceptional qualities, the most valuable of which was his integrity, Sri was a priceless asset to his employers and superiors, whilst his inter-personal relationships and man management skills made him a godsend to his colleagues, subordinates, workers unions and labour forces that came within his purview on the numerous estates he managed. Following the nationalization of plantations in 1975, Sri served as Director on the state's regional Boards in both Hatton and Nuwara Eliya, making an impact on the industry and the powerful labour unions, with his administrative skills. His fair-minded approach, combined with a flair for negotiations made him the logical choice as a mediator in difficult situations.

In the early 80's he did a stint in Malaysia, in the state of Sabah, with the prestigious Sime Derby Plantations where he acquired extensive expertise in the field of Oil Palms. That expertise was swiftly recognized by the then Minister of Plantation Industries, the late Ranjan Wijeratne who appointed Sri, consultant to the oil palm industry, while he was still serving in Sabah.

Upon his return, he re-associated himself with the plantation industry which had by then undergone a drastic transformation.

He was headhunted by Watawala Plantations, where he delivered exceptionally in all related fields as a Director. Sri can look back on his career with the kind of satisfaction that only those blessed by the Almighty can have.

Congratulations, Srikumar, a blessed retirement awaits you.

Wickrema De Alwis

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