It was with profound sadness that I learned the passing away of Chandra Lal De Alwis, former Managing Director/ CEO of Chemanex Ltd. He was one of the most successful entrepreneurs/technocrats I have ever come across. Lal departed from the world, leaving a permanent void in the hearts of everyone associated with the rubber and chemical industries in Sri Lanka. His demise marks the end of a 40-year-era as a high profile entrepreneur associated with the rubber and agro-based industries in the country.
My association with Lal commenced in the late nineteen seventies, when the sole supplier of the bleaching agent, namely RPA 3, Du Pont Company, a leading chemical manufacturer in USA, suddenly announced its withdrawal from the market. This announcement was a bolt from the blues and posed a big threat to the rubber estates in the country, who were the sole suppliers of this premium grade rubber to the whole world. There was no alternate chemical available for this purpose.
The Minister of Plantation Industries at that time set a three-month deadline to the scientists of the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) to discover an alternate chemical to be used for this purpose. Even though, this directive was an unthinkable task to be accomplished in three months, we, the scientists of the RRI took this formidable challenge with a grit of determination and invented a chemical, which is now available in the market and capable of bleaching pigments in rubber latex, thereby making the rubber produced pure white. When this new chemical was launched in the rubber industry, there was resistance from the plantation sector to accept it, reverting from the oil soluble toxic form to the water soluble and health safe form. Then Lal, who was the General Manager of Chemanex Ltd, took a firm decision to help RRI to fully implement this new chemical to the crepe rubber industry facing all kinds of challenges by the distributors of the oil based toxic chemical. Thanks to his untiring efforts, RRI was able to fully substitute this new safe chemical manufactured by Chemanex Ltd in the crepe industry in the whole country.Lal was a devoted Buddhist who lived according to the teachings of Gautama Buddha. He held numerous positions in temples and many other social organizations. I had the privilege of learning the rudiments of facing challenges of market competitions and marketing a new product thanks to the indomitable support and advice I received from him. He was extremely honest and his heart was absolutely soft. He was courageous and objective in his endeavors.
His death is an irreplaceable loss to the Rubber Industry in particular and to all Sri Lankans in general.
May he attain the supreme bliss of nirvana.
(Dr. L.M.K Tillekaratna, former Director of Rubber Research Institute)