Degree Speeches

 Summer 2000


Nihal Jinasena, Hon D.Tech

Public Orator, Professor Harry Thomason, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on Thursday 13 July 2000 at 10.30am

The history of engineering and the development of engineering manufacturing companies that now straddle the world can be traced to men of quality and vision who satisfied a local need in the first instance - Henry Ford and Sir William Lyons are good examples. The ability to satisfy the local market and continue to develop quality products at competitive prices has been at the centre of most successful companies.

At the turn of the last century Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) was under British rule and the engineering sector was the sole province of the British. In 1905 a young Ceylonese, C. Jinasena - a brilliant practical engineer who put his talents to repair and servicing machinery used in the tea, rubber and coconut industries - formed the first local owned engineering company. Realising that practical expertise was not enough, he came to Britain and obtained membership of the Institute of Mechanical Engineering in 1914, thus starting a relationship with British Education which is alive today in the graduation of his great-grandson, Lalin, here at today's ceremony.

In 1932 the mantle of M.D. passed onto his son, Mr T S Jinasena, who, whilst studying engineering in Glasgow had been impressed by the mixture of theory and hands-on experience offered in the courses we ran here at Loughborough. He determined to ensure that his sons benefitted from this education - 3 of his sons have since been successful in gaining engineering degrees from Loughborough University. Nihal Jinasena was the first of the sons to arrive at Loughborough. He studied mechanical engineering, graduating with honours in 1962. During his time here as a resident of Hazlerigg Hall he struck up friendships with fellow students which have endured to this day. His standing amongst his peers was demonstrated by his election to President of the Student Union, a rare distinction for any student and the first Sri Lankan to be elected.

After graduation Nihal Jinasena took up a position with Girling Ltd as a Senior Development Engineer specialising in research and development of advanced braking systems - a worthy career for someone who had and has a passion for automobiles and was the foremost racing driver of his time in his country.

In 1965 his father, T S Jinasena, took a momentous step and turned his company over to his 4 sons. At this stage in a company's development the qualities demanded of a M.D. are many, not least financial acumen coupled with technical expertise. Such a man is Nihal Jinasena, who became M.D. - a position he still holds today.

The 1960s were a difficult economic period for Sri Lanka. There were extremely severe foreign exchange restrictions. The company was a small engineering company employing 40 people with an annual turnover of RS 200,000. A company founded on quality, integrity and service, faced the future with vision and engineering knowledge gained in part from this University. The 1970s saw the start of substantial growth with the formation and successful operating of companies in the areas of electrical motor manufacturing, agricultural machinery, hotels, clothing, seafood export, computer software and solid rubber tyres (the world's no.1 producer).

Throughout the 80s and 90s the company has continued to embrace new technology in all areas of its activities, but always mindful of the environment around them. The group now consists of 17 companies employing over 6,000 employees, with an annual turnover in excess of RS 5.5 billion. It has thrived against imports from overseas and is the premier conglomerate in Sri Lanka.

The third generation of engineers have taken the original ambitions of the founder to even greater heights, ensuring at all times that they meet the needs of the country. Ably assisted by his brothers, and supported throughout his career by his wife, Nihal Jinasena has played his part in Sri Lanka's industrial expansion. He has worked for his government and profession by being a leading player on many influential committees. Like many Loughborough graduates he has all-round ability, which he demonstrated by representing Sri Lanka in yachting events in the Asian Games.

Therefore, Vice-Chancellor, I present Tissaweera Nihal Jinasena, Loughborough graduate, industrialist of distinction, environmentalist and sportsman, to you and the University for the degree of DOCTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, honaris causa.



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