Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Dr. Priyath B Wickrama was among the jubilant ten outstanding young Sri Lankans who received their Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Sri Lanka (TOYP) awards at the gala HSBC JCI TOYP awards ceremony, held at the Grand Ballroom, Waters Edge, Battaramulla. Dr. Wickrama has won this award in recognition of his extraordinary achievements in the realm of “Business, Economic and/or Entrepreneurial Accomplishments” which have satisfied the judges and auditors who worked on an arduous selection criteria. The scope of the awarding, which has been compartmentalized into ten different areas, encompasses the whole gamut of human endeavors aimed at improving the living conditions of human beings in the world, ranging from community development to international projects. Contenders for the award should have demonstrated their social responsibility and should have improved themselves through participation, leadership and action.
The world’s local bank, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has been in partnership with the Junior Chamber International Sri Lanka (JCISL) to hold the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Sri Lanka Awards annually and this is the sixth such annual event held since the bank became the strategic sponsor for the event in 2005. The JCISL is the Local Branch of Junior Chamber International (JCI), the world’s largest Youth Leadership Development Organization. JCISL has immensely contributed towards enhancement and recognition of youth talent in Sri Lanka. The TOYP Programme is one such programme conducted by JCISL towards that end and it recognizes ten outstanding young individuals between the ages 18 - 40 for their exemplary personal and professional achievements. Winners who receive the TOYP award will be recognized internationally through the worldwide community of young active citizens. This prestigious event honours young people who have reached the heights of progress in numerous human endeavours thereby serving as an example to other young people in the country and encouraging and inspiring them to follow suit, and help them realize their dreams and visions for the future. Local TOYP winners are nominated to vie for the World TOYP programme, organized by the JCI each year.The global presence of JCI, spans over 115 countries and the TOYP programme is a brainchild of Mr. Durwood Howes, president of the JCI USA and was adopted by USA Jaycees in 1952. The TOYP programme was first introduced in Sri Lanka in 1980 and it has now been constitutionalized as the major Community, PR/media project of JCISL.
Glowing with youthful tenacity, a humble and aged 37, Dr. Wickrama whilst bagging the award commented “ I am delighted to have received this award because I did my best to act in the best interests of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and my country. For me the most important objective was the progress of the organization through the progress of the employee. I have always strived hard to do the right thing as per my conscience and the professional experience I gathered from my organization so that I could now say that I have discharged my duties conscientiously as the Chairman of SLPA and that my hard work has paid off. We had limited monies to spend on infrastructure enhancement projects and I had to make the best use of our scanty resources. I gave prominence to local talent and was fortunate enough to be backed by a strong management team. It is no exaggeration if I say that I left no nerve unstrained in forging deals with banks to find monies for getting our projects off the ground”.
Born in Magampura District, Dr. Wickrama had his preliminary education at Embilipitiya
and entered the University
of Moratuwa to follow a degree course in engineering after getting through his A/L at the first attempt. Within a very short time he became a student leader and was appointed as the Vice President of the University Student Council. He developed his management and administrative skills at the university by giving leadership to a number of student activities in order to secure the rights and welfare of his fellow students.
Dr. Wickrama joined SLPA as a Mechanical Engineer in 2001 and he was subsequently promoted to the post of Executive Director in 2004. He has made history by being the first permanent-employee-turned-chairman in SLPA. Dr. Wickrama obtained his doctoral degree in Operations Management from the International University of America in the United Kingdom.
Immediately after assuming duties as the Chairman of the SLPA, Dr. Wickrama challenged the status quo and could positively bring about a paradigm shift in the organizational procedures, business processes, the ways they handle business and even the mindsets of employees and was able to establish accountability, transparency and good governance throughout the organization. He was also instrumental in introducing drastic changes into the organizational culture as well. The Three-Year-Development-Plan, Dr. Wickrama’s own brainchild, which was put forward by him as soon as he was appointed Chairman of SLPA, convincingly set the organization on the correct track during the time of Global Financial Crisis that hit the entire Shipping Industry. This plan steered SLPA away from many errors that it would have otherwise committed in the crisis period.
Many a shipping veteran opine that under Dr. Wickrama’s leadership, the SLPA is sure to strive hard to act in furtherance of its role in national development and it is pleasing to note at this juncture that the SLPA, when it is currently passing its thirty-second year in the timeline, has endowed the nation of Sri Lanka with several epoch-making and dazzling development projects which have stunned the entire world.
And to mention a few of them, the Colombo Port Expansion Project has been expedited and the development work at Oluvil port is also expected to reach its culmination by the end of this year. The Port
of Galle is also being developed as a cruise destination with a view to reaping the economic benefits of the lucrative tourism industry which is now booming in Sri Lanka.
The phase I of the Magampura Port Project, the other foremost mega development project initiated by Dr. Wickrama, has marked its successful culmination by now and the newly-constructed inland harbor basin began to embrace its first inflow of seawater at an auspicious time in August this year. This made history in the global port construction sphere and with every current of water that fills the port basin, the idyllic climax of the Port
of Magampura becoming a fully-fledged hub in the region is becoming nearer and dearer to all Sri Lankans. It is expected that the first vessel will touch the waters of the Port
of Magampura by the end of November, this year.
Dr. Wickrama has been able to bring many port development projects which had not gone beyond just paying lip service in the past, into realities through sheer hard work, unswerving determination and perseverance.
While departing the hotel premises after the end of the ceremony, Dr. Wickrama finally commented “I am pleased to state at this time that every plan on the part of Ports of Sri Lanka, has been formulated with a view to developing our motherland as a Commercial Hub, which could serve as a key link between the East and the West, using our strategic geographical location effectively. I firmly believe that our organization, with all its might, would be a strong contributor to the socio-economic advancement of the country which will undoubtedly be resulting from the successful culmination of its current gigantic projects and would eventually be able to shoulder the task of elevating Sri Lanka to the status of the premier maritime and logistics centre of the region. I am pleased to share with you that SLPA recorded its highest ever monthly container volume (201,217 TEUs) in the month of August 2010 and this betokens a great future ahead of us”.