By Felix Dias
I consider it an honour and a privilege to say a few words at this Thanksgiving Celebration for the life of our dear friend Michael Emil Joachim.
We have all read the appreciations that have appeared in the Newspapers after Michael’s sudden demise, written by his fellow professionals in the Engineering Field & the Construction Industry and his friends, who have described him variously as ‘Brilliant’, ‘Truly Professional’, ‘Multi-Disciplinary/Skilled’, ‘Straightforward’, ‘Tough’, ‘Fearless’ And Yet As The Same Time, They Have Said That He Was ‘Humble’, ‘Kind’, ‘Down To Earth’ And ‘Very Fair’ And All Of Them Were Unanimous In Their Conviction That He Was ‘Absolutely Incorruptible’.
Now, I do not know of any person in this country, who has been described as such. Our friend Michael was indeed a truly unique person. He was certainly one of the finest Engineers this country has produced.
Those of us, who have known Michael from our schooldays at St. Benedict’s College, always knew that, due to the standards set by his illustrious father Dr. A. W. R. Joachim, the First Ceylonese Director of Agriculture, his family and the education, the boarding discipline and the values he learnt under the De Lasalle Brothers and the great teachers of that time, he clearly stood out from the rest of us.
He was a genuine All Rounder, actively taking part in sports and other extra and co-curricular activities and at the same time excelling in academics. He was certainly no bookworm. Mathematics was his forte. He was a brilliant athlete winning the Champion’s Trophy in all age groups. He opened bowling for College and later represented the University in Sara Trophy Cricket, which was then the Premier Tournament in the country. He was also an outstanding Cadet and won the All Island individual shooting competition obtaining 39 out of 40 points and helped St. Benedict’s to win the overall competition.
Michael and his close Friend and classmate Appiah Amirtharajah topped the All Island Engineering Entrance list and were held as role models by the teachers, to the students who followed them into the University Entrance classes. While Michael reached the pinnacle of his profession in Sri Lanka after returning to the island with a Doctorate from the prestigious University of Edinburgh, Appiah went on to be a World Authority in Environmental Engineering based in the USA.
One aspect of Michael, which was known to persons who closely associated with him, was his deep love for his Motherland, Sri Lanka. He had a strong desire to work for his country in the State Sector, as his great father did several decades earlier. He was a person of rare calibre, who could have got the highest positions in his field in the private sector in Sri Lanka or in any part of the world but he opted to live here and work for the government of Sri Lanka for 33 years, right up to his retirement and even thereafter, when he was requested by the government to take up important appointments.
It is therefore fitting that he passed away whilst serving the State. I think, that is how he would have wished it. During his long uninterrupted career, he served under Presidents and Ministers of different hues. He was equally at ease with Taskmasters like President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Minister Pieter Keuneman.
Michael was also a very humane person who lived a very simple life. His family & friends loved him and colleagues and co-workers respected him. He moved easily with anyone regardless of class, religion or ethnicity. He remained loyal to his family, his old school, his country and his friends right to the end.
I know that for Estelle, Janice, David, his sisters and his friends it is difficult to bear the loss. But God took him away, as he wished without causing him any suffering whatsoever and for that we all thank his Creator.
Thank you and may God bless us all.