Maithri Liyanage - Chronicle of a Sri Lankan Planter

M Shantha Perera (2018)
(Pic # 1) GW Factory Photograph
(Pic # 2) Containers run on wheels to carry the ‘dhools’
(Pic # 3) Mechanical Uprooting of old Tea and Forking & levelling undertaken
(Pic # 4) Holing undertaken with power augurs

Reminiscing on events leading to his becoming a Planter, Maithri said: “I was fortunate to be a member of a family of proprietary tea planters. My parents and uncles (William's) owned tea estates, in the Up Country and Low Country. As a child I was blessed with the opportunity of spending holidays at Tillyrie Estate in Dickoya, and play 'pullearr' with the kids, mostly children of estate workers.”

“I loved and treasured the time I spent on the estate and also the company of my friends so much, that I looked forward to returning to ‘Tillyrie Estate’ on my holidays. That I could say was my first exposure to the tea plantations,” said Maithri.

“My innovative ideas towards the tea trade just manifested within me and grew leaps and bounds for the simple reason that I shared this deep passion for Tea. In reaching my goals towards advancement and innovation, my wife, who is a Biochemist by profession, no doubt supplemented me ably in my progression,” said Maithri.

As a young and mischievous young man just out of school, his parents wanted him to embark into the profession of Tea Tasting. However, Maithri was desirous of learning the art of Tea Manufacture before becoming a Tea Taster and his parents agreed to send him to Tillyrie to familiarize himself.

“I am grateful and deeply indebted to my late uncles, Stanley William the Managing Director and Elmo William, Director of Tillyrie Estates Co Ltd. at that time, for affording me the opportunity on their estates. My first planter friend that I encountered was Mr. Rohan Boudewyn who subsequently joined ‘Tangakelle’ as a Junior Assistant Superintendent,” said Maithri.

Maithri occupied the Director’s / Proprietor's bungalow in Tillyrie as a young lad, all by himself since it was family owned. “I was thrust into the world of luxurious living in a meticulously maintained bungalow, organic gardens with a constant supply to the kitchen, trained and yet humble domestic workers at call, recreational facilities of golf courses and clubs around the corner, weekend trips to the forest and hills… Topping this tranquil life was my passion - Tea,” said Maithri.

Visits to the factory to watch night manufacture at late hours became routine and Maithri found that he could no longer afford to take a hands-off approach. Besides, clearly this open air life appealed to him no end. He enjoyed the blessings of this welcome change, and the newfound freedom.

“It was indeed a ‘breath of fresh air’ from city living! It was unquestionably an attractive life for a young lad, just out of school! Moreover, office or industrial life was not attractive to me. To the Superintendent, the late Mr. Bandulage Alfred Fernando, I was the son of the Proprietor, and it took an effort to convince him to address me as Maithri. However, he continued to address me as Mr. Maithri,” he recalled.

Apart from tea manufacture, a fondness to tea planting gradually grew in him. He discussed with his parents his penchant for a career in tea planting in earnest. “I am very thankful and appreciative of the efforts of the late M/s. S. B. Pilapitiya and T. M. Soysa, who very kindly offered me employment at Gartmore Group, Maskeliya to commence planting under Mr. Ramanadan Nagesan. I met my new family of Planters including the late Nihal Gunarathne who was the Assistant Superintendent of Gartmore Group (who passed away due to an unfortunate motorcycle accident) and the rest of the planter friends whom I still respect to date and have great admiration and care for as brothers. The late Fred Amarasinghe (Moray), Dushantha Delvita (Forres), Dilip Gunatunga and later Jayantha Ratnayake (Laxapana), were always there guiding and encouraging me in learning the basics as a Planter,” said Maithri.

(Pic # 5) 24 Cultivars at the Tea Multiplication Plot
(Pic # 6) Lightweight aluminum plucking basket
(Pic # 7)
(Pic # 8) Plastic crates for collection of Green Leaf

From ‘Gartmore’, Maithri came back to Tillyrie to fill the vacancy of a Junior Assistant Superintendent. However, his mother in her great motherly wisdom insisted that he be paid a very low salary, much lesser than the regular salary of an Assistant Superintendent (SD), nor given a motorcycle, for she had decided that her son should not be spoilt! However, she arranged to give him foodstuff free of charge. Thus, he was encouraged to enjoy walking day or night to meet the estate requirements and reach the respective destinations.

“I recall that my salary with all allowances was just Rs. 185/- including P.S.S.A. and P.S.A.A. and sadly the foodstuff given FOC was also withheld. Tillyrie was my cradle, where I learnt the basics in planting and came to realize that I was actually developing a liking to a Planter’s life,” said Maithri.

The boys with whom he had played during school holidays were now young workers on the estate. Some of them were Union Spokesmen and some were Kanganies (Supervisors), and they respected him, taught him what they knew and helped him develop his skills in planting.

“We had a special CTB bus given to Tillyrie staff and workers who used to go to Hatton. This was a great encouragement to them and they enjoyed the facility. I used to travel in this bus to Hatton and go to the Wijitha, Liberty or Princes, the three cinema halls in Hatton. There was always an English film being screened in either one of them. In the absence of English films, we were not hesitant in watching even Tamil films such as 'Chandrodaem' and 'Naan',” said Maithri.

“In the early 70’s when people had to undergo a lot of hardship, due to the OPEC fuel price hike, the price of imported foods skyrocketed! These included flour, chilies, onions etc, and there were drastic food restrictions - ‘Rice barriers, chili barriers”, as they were named at that time. The estate sector was the hardest hit. Flour, rice and other foodstuffs were restricted. Workers found it very difficult to feed the comparatively large families. There was unrest on estates. They would shout in front of the estate office, requesting more food. However, due to the good rapport I had with the workers since I was a kid, Tillyrie was trouble free to a great extent,” noted Maithri.

Following the 1971 insurgency the Government enacted the Land Reform Act of 22nd October 1975, and all large plantations in Sri Lanka were nationalized. ‘Tillyrie Estates Company’ too was nationalized, vested in the Land Reform Commission and eventually with the Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) and the State Plantations Corporation (SLSPC). Being the SD of the estate, even though a son of the owner of the plantation, Maithri too was part of the process and became an SD employed by the JEDB.

“With the nationalization of plantations in October 1975, I was given SD’s accommodation and no more afforded the luxury of occupying the Director’s bungalow”, said Maithri.

While under the JEDB, his good friend Mohan Samarakoon met with a serious motorcycle accident and was hospitalized for a long period, and the late Mr. Chula Samarasinghe, Assistant Regional Manager, on the instructions of the late Mr. Neil Ranawana, the Regional Manager of Hatton, transferred him to ‘Stonycliff’ as the Acting Assistant Superintendent. “Whilst at ‘Stonycliff’ under Mr. Allan Pereira, the Acting Superintendent, who was covering duties for Mr. Ian Macdonald, I received good commendations from all my superiors. However, with Mohan’s transfer to Wanarajah, Manikwatte Division, Malcolm de Costa assumed duties as Senior Assistant Superintendent. Incidentally, it had been Malcolm’s brother in law, Naren Chitty, who had taught me how to ride a Lambreta scooter when he was a schoolboy living on Dickmans Road,” reminisced Maithri.

Then with the transfer of Mr. Gihan de Livera to Strathdon, Maithri was transferred as Senior Assistant Superintendent (SSD) to ‘Yuillefield Estate’ under the late Mr. Ernie Silva. “During this period, I had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with five more great and very dearly loyal friends - Mahen Madugalle (‘Stonycliff’), Jayantha Hulangamuwa (‘Stonycliff/Wanarajah’), late Sujith Jayawickrama (‘Mayfield’), late Lalith Tittawela (“Mount Vernon/ Queensberry’), and late Tissa Ettipola (‘Stonycliff / Mount Vernon’). We were inseparable and were there for one another for all seasons. Mahen was so close and dear to me and a very faithful friend, and was my Bestman when I married,” said Maithri.

(Pic # 9) Pruning Machines being used
(Pic # 10) Introducing an organized workplace
(Pic # 11) Improved crèches, the day care centers for kids of the workers
(Pic # 12) Modernised crèche, the day care centers for kids of the workers

After three years at ‘Yuillefield Estate’ Maithri was transferred to ‘Dimbulla’ Acting for the Superintendent, and overlooked by Mr. Ernie Silva, when Mr. Michael Joseph, (Mike Joe) proceeded on overseas leave.

Mr. Clinton Rodrigo, the Regional Director of JEDB transferred him as Senior Assistant Superintendent to ‘North Meddacombra Estate’ in place of Mr. Mohan Ratwatte. He was on ‘North Meddacombra Estate’, under Mr. Travis Holsinger, a highly respected planter, and gained a lot of experience in planting over three years.

Maithri married in 1984, whilst at North Meddacombra. Anudini, his wife, obtained employment as a young Research Assistant in the Biochemistry Division of the Tea Research Institute (TRI). Maithri got a mutual transfer to ‘Hendfold Estate’ as Senior Assistant Superintendent and succeeded Mr. Gamini Kohona, as his wife was working at the TRI, Talawakelle.

Maithri’s co-SD there was Chandrika Brodie. Maithri was promoted to ‘Uva Highlands, Ettampitiya’ as Acting Superintendent (PD) and thereafter to ‘Bramley Estate’, Kandapola as PD proper, succeeding the late Mr. Pararajasingham. He was at ‘Uva Highlands’ at the height of 1983/4 and the 1988/89 insurgency and most planters and their families underwent immense hardships. Planters lost their lives, and the ‘Bramley’ payroll along with ‘High Forest’, ‘Mathurata’ and ‘Alma’, amounting to millions of rupees was robbed at gunpoint.

“During this period most of the Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents were sent in batches to the ‘Planters Rifle Corps. Headquarters’ in Pallekelle, under the Kandy, Coordinating Headquarters, for ‘Weapons Training and Estate Security’ under Major General H.B. Thibbotumunuwe, then Lieutenant Colonel, My close associate and best Planter Friend Mahen Madugalle was among those who underwent training held from 13th to 19th August 1990. I am proud to state that I was adjudged as the Best Student and also The Best Shooter in the batch,” recalls Maithri.

“The 50 acre private tea property adjoining Neluwa Estate was bought by an unknown person who resided on the property with his wife and two/three children. The so called “boys” used to issue various instructions to stop work on estates and participate in anti-government demonstrations which this person too obeyed. On one occasion, I recall him telling me that the so-called boys had collected his and his wife’s identity cards too. It was only later that we came to know that this person in real life was Rohana Wijeweera!”, said Maithri.

During the height of problems Maithri too became a target when the insurgents threatened to take his life. “I was fortunate to have a dear and a longstanding friend who gave me shelter in his bungalow. Thanks to Mr. Jerome Amerasinghe, I managed to avoid being a target of the insurgents until such time the armed forces took control,” said Maithri.

Maithri was transferred from ‘Bramley’ to Sandringham as the Superintendent succeeding the late Mr. Alfred Rodhe and the late Mr. Nihal Perera took over Bramley Estate. Thereafter, following privatization of the plantations he joined Talawakelle Plantations Ltd and took over ‘Great Western Estate’ in 1992.

“Great Western was the commencement of the pinnacle of my planting career,” said Maithri. Great Western Estate is named after Sri Lanka’s 6th highest mountain, which is 2212 meters (7,257 ft) in height and is only 31 meters lower than Adams peak at 2243 meters (7,359 ft) above sea level. ‘Great Western Estate’ was lined on top with the Great Western mountain range descending down to the Nanu Oya Valley. At the time Maithri took over, a majority of the extent was under old seedling tea, and the factory over 100 years old. Maithri was joined by (Late) Mr. Chandana Karunaratne from Logie, and Mr. Uddika Mahadivelwewa from Uda Radella, as his Assistant Superintendents.

“We agreed that we should work as a team, with the kind of team spirit to transform ‘Great Western Estate’ and prove to the top management that we are a capable team. My wife with her experience at the TRI was a great asset to us. I was happy and glad that at the end of it all, through our tireless efforts Great Western Estate proved to be a success, in a relatively short period of time,” said Maithri.

“My efforts at improving the performance of ‘Great Western’ estate commenced from the factory. It was a 100-year-old factory where all machinery was arranged in a line to operate by conveyor belts and pulleys from a central shaft powered by a single engine. Our tag line was 'Great Western - a Great Leap Forward’... a combination of worker cooperation and management dedication,” said Maithri. (See pic # 1).

(Pic # 13) TV's and video decks donated to the crèches by Merril J. Fernando Foundation
(Pic # 14) Bus to transport children and estate workers to Talawakelle
(Pic # 15) Modern barber saloon
(Pic # 16) Great Western Maternity ward

The workers at the factory were constantly moving from machine to machine to overcome problems, in a highly disorganized manner. In order to streamline the operation, minimize worker fatigue, maximize production and above all improve quality, Maithri obtained permission to rearrange the factory, with individual motors for each machine, arranging them according to the order/flow of manufacture. Gradually the conditions of manufacture improved. Maithri wanted to take a further step forward and bring the factory under the 5-S principles, which he learned from MAS Slimline under the able leadership of his friend Mr. Dian Gomes.

With much encouragement and the backing from the company hierarchy Maithri took the responsibility and carried out the changes. The process line was streamlined and partially automated. As an example, carrying the fermented ‘dhools’ to the drier was an operation that brought about worker fatigue, as they had to carry the ‘dhools’ in buckets to the drier and after a few hours the worker efficiency slowed down. The feed to the drier was uneven and maintaining the moisture of the dried tea posed a problem. Containers were introduced run on wheels to carry the ‘dhool’ to the drier and conveyor belts (see pic # 2), also introduced to transfer the fired tea from the driers to boxes where they were kept prior to grading. The factory was modernized, workers were provided with uniforms, and no tea fell on the floor during manufacture. Hygienic practices were introduced, especially through cleanliness. A Winnower type modernized unit was introduced which was installed above the Fluid Bed Drier (FBD) for separation of dust, sand and other extraneous matter. Dust from the FBD was sucked out through an expeller. Worker toilets were cleanly maintained and the importance of good hygiene was stressed. Great Western was the first to introduce the 5-S principles. The importance of a good leaf standard and efforts at minimizing the damage to plucked leaf was stressed.

With the entire staff and workers willingly contributing to the success of ‘Great Western Estate’, Maithri started an intensive field development program with his SDs, along with the factory developments taking place, to further improve agricultural practices.

He sought to maintain the tea fields as per TRI recommendations i.e. checking pH of soil, reducing the surfeit of moss and weeds in the soil etc. Moss and weeds can result in fertilizer applications being washed off due to the moss formation on the surface, or absorbed by the moss and weed cover, which results in a decline in yield.


Fertilizer which is introduced on a replacement basis (rate of fertilizer to a particular field is calculated on the basis of its yield), often results in the fertilizer application being inadequate after every round. Forking the field with a supplementary estimate before fertilizer application was therefore carried out and the poor old seedling tea bushes got their saline drip for survival and started giving better yields.

However, this was only a survival measure. Maithri was of opinion that it was essential that in-fillings or replanting was the only way to increase the yields and commenced a large scale replanting programme. His planter friends used to tell him that he was too ambitious, but he never gave up. Small excavators were used for uprooting old tea and leveling for initial land preparation. Large rocks were removed from the fields and soil conservation measures as recommended by the Tea Research Institute were carried out. (See pic # 3).

“To overcome the labour shortage, we even made planting semi mechanical by using power augurs to dig planting holes”, said Maithri.(See pic # 4).

Maithri started the estate’s own clonal multiplication plots (see pic # 5) to raise mother bushes to ensure all nursery cuttings were of the highest quality, which made the plant nurseries successful. Responsibility of looking after and maintenance of each block was given to designated ‘Kanganys (KGs), with their names prominently displayed. Each Kangany was more than happy to maintain his respective block, as if it was his own, and did not allow for vacancies. Each block was separated with three rows of TRI 2043, a clone with purple coloured leaves.

(Pic # 17) Great Western Maternity ward
(Pic # 18) Quality Circles
(Pic # 19)
(Pic # 20) Quality Circle

Maithri believed that the quality of made tea started in the field, since the fact that poor raw material can never give a good finished product is a basic in any manufacturing procedure. “The quality of flush that comes to the factory is of utmost importance for a good finished product. A minimum 60% two leaves and bud was his standard and the leaf needs to arrive at the factory with the least damage. If the leaf received is of a poor standard, with a high percentage of coarse leaf, no matter how good the conditions of the factory were made, the made tea produced would be poor and emphasized on the condition of the green leaf received at the factory” said Maithri. He documented his expertise in an article published by The Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka – ‘1925 - 2000 - Twentieth Century Tea Research in Sri Lanka Chapter 20: An Analysis of the reasons for Quality Decline of Made Tea’ by M.P.D.P. Liyanage - (Pages 365-375).

To this end they made many changes. Pluckers were given a new innovated plucking basket which could be carried easily into the thick tea field without hassle. The Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Ms. Ruth Archibald, provided necessary funds under CIDA in assisting Maithri in designing and producing these plucking baskets. He was even granted an international patent for the design. (See pic # 6 & # 7).

Maithri arranged to weigh the flush in-situ several times during the day and had them collected in plastic crates instead of gunny bags (See pic # 8). Flush coming to the factory was a continuous process and they were uncrushed and fresh from the bush.

Machines were introduced for pruning as well (See pic # 9). The power cutters first cut the top 6-10 inches of the bush removing bulk of the foliage. Then the frame was pruned in two stages. In this manner the pruning could be taken away by workers immediately for their firewood requirements, keeping the foliage on the ground as 'mulch' to add more carbon to the soil.

Ultimately, the fields were giving high yields with many VP tea fields, flush came to factory in very fresh form, factory was so streamlined the output and the quality of made tea were at its best. These resulted in ‘Great Western’ fetching high prices and very often becoming the ‘Prime Mark’ at the auctions. The prices were always high, and most often they got the best prices for the BOP, BOPF and Dust No.1 grades and fetched all-time records at the tea auction. The Factory Officer, Mr. T. Nadarajah was a tower of strength and was instrumental in maintaining the factory at a very high standard at all times (See pic # 10). Following the introduction of best manufacturing practices Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) which is an International Food Safety Standard was introduced and subsequently obtained HACCP certification in 2002. Great Western was the first tea factory to obtain this certificate. In 2006, HACCP certificate was made a compulsory, a prerequisite for all tea exports to EU. The Great Western estate financials improved tremendously!

During the year 1999, as the Regional Chairman of the Nuwara Eliya District Planters' Association, Maithri was instrumental in introducing the HACCP (Hazard’s Analysis and Critical Control Points) to all the Plantations within the District through SLSI (Sri Lanka Standards Institute). Presentations were made by SLSI to create awareness among the planter colleagues which was highly appreciated by all concerned.

Worker satisfaction is the secret behind any commercial venture. Simultaneously with the factory and field improvements, the facilities for the workers too were improved. It began with crèches, the day care centers for kids of the workers (See pic # 11 & # 12). Each Division had a crèche, which more or less was were dirty sheds with cradles made of sarongs/sarees.

Kids were not clean and most children had a running nose! This was improved to become model crèches with the 5-S concept. Proper cradles and cot beds were provided which made the crèches clean and attractive. Clean surroundings, swings, seesaws and other play items were provided to each crèche.

Crèche attendants were trained and given uniforms. Thanks to the Merril J. Fernando Foundation, all four crèches received TV's and video decks and were able to screen educational programs for the children. Incidentally this donation was the beginning of Merril J. Fernando Foundation. (See pic # 13).

“Thus, the poor attendance of workers improved when children were encouraged to be sent to the crèches and parents being able to go to work rather than remain at home to look after the infants/toddlers. The worker outturn improved tremendously,” said Maithri. The estate school was improved with 5-S standards. The two Cooperative stores which were running at a loss were improved and most of the workers’ day to day requisites could be bought in the co-operative shop. After a few years the profits from the Cooperative shops enabled Great Western to purchase its own bus to transport children from the estate to schools in Talawakelle and also provided transport to workers. (See pic # 14).

The maternity wards were upgraded with improved health facilities, a modern ambulance, dispensary and maternity ward (See pic # 16 & 17). During this period Mr. Sisira Wijewardena assumed duties as the SD, with the transfer of Mr. Uddika Mahadivelwewa, The developments continued.

Modern barber saloons (See pic # 15), milk collecting centers, model muster sheds and even model tool sheds were established in the four divisions and also a full-fledged post office was established in the estate.

The numerous cash awards received (Given below), was doubled by the company, ‘Talawakelle Plantations Limited’, and was utilized to introduce scholarships for the workers children to encourage schooling. Workers were given different coloured uniforms, depicting each to represent the respective Division and Factory, whilst the watchers were designated as Security Officers and given uniforms. With all these changes implemented worker dignity was established; they worked with dedication and commitment and the workers were almost self-sustained within the estate!

(Pic # 21) Motor Car Accident at Ginigathhena
(Pic # 22)
(Pic # 23)
(Pic # 24) National Productivity award for the year 1996/97 presented by Hon. C.V. Gunarathne

With the formation of Joint Employee & Management Committees (JEM), workers cooperated with the Management in all departments and together worked together towards the betterment of the Plantation. They became part of the decision makers. Quality Circles were established (See pic # 18 & # 19), and workers sat with management to discuss solutions and in fact some good suggestions arose from them which were implemented.

“I had no worker problems at Great Western, as all youth after schools came in search of work and did not proceed in search of work in garment factories etc. For them Great Western factory was a better workplace than a garment factory,” said Maithri.

However, in the midst of joy there were heart rending experiences too at Great Western Estate. Maithri’s family was personally affected in 1995, when they lost their eldest son who was 10 years of age. However, their darkness was lifted to a certain degree, and they were blessed with their younger son Pasan in August 1997, a year and a half after the sad demise of Praneeth. Then there was heartache again when Maithri had to get their son Mithun to leave Royal College, Colombo and attend Republican International School in Nuwara Eliya. “We had to make this sacrifice in order that we would be together as a family whilst committed to our respective job roles in the Tea industry,” said Maithri.

The second tragedy was in October 1995, when Maithri and his wife were returning to the estate late at night since they had to be at work the next morning after a long break due to Deepavali Festival holidays. Their driver fell asleep on the wheel and went off the road just before Kenilworth Estate, Ginigathhena. The vehicle rolled 87 feet down a precipice, then fortunately hit a boulder and stopped ( See pic # 21 & # 22). Maithri ended up having a dislocated shoulder. Fortunately, his wife Anudini, who was sleeping across the rear seat, fell on to the floor, between the two seats which acted as a cushion and saved her from injury. The driver escaped unhurt too.

“Many thanks to our dear planter colleague, Jayalal Mendis, the then Manager at Torrington Estate, Agarapathna who turned his vehicle at Ginigathhena when the Police Officer informed him of the accident, and drove me to Nawaloka Hospital, Colombo by 5.00 a.m. even amidst the fuel crisis we were experiencing following the bombing of the petroleum refinery by terrorists. This did not bother Jayalal, who had made up his mind to help a person in trouble. A big ‘thank you’ to him for being such a great Samaritan. Nothing could have pulled us down from the dedication and commitment we had towards our livelihood,” said Maithri.

“Without any hesitation I could say that ‘Great Western’ became the model tea plantation in Sri Lanka. Great Western was the winner of the National Productivity award for the year 1996/97 organized by the National Development Bank,” said Maithri. (See pic # 23)

Great Western was the winner of the Taiki-Akimoto 5-S merit award in 1997 organized by JASTECA (See pic # 25). This was the first time a tea estate was given this award. Great Western won this award once again in 1998. This time the award was not only for the Plantation Industry. They won the overall National Taiki Akimoto 5-S award and became the Island’s best 5-S venture.

“I am proud to have been selected as the ‘Best Divisional Manager” for introducing employee involvement projects to enhance quality and productivity, organized by Sri Lanka Association for Advancement of Quality and Productivity. As mentioned earlier the cash prizes we won were channeled for the development of worker facilities in the estate and a scholarship scheme for 5th grade students who were children of Great Western estate workers,” said Maithri.

During this period his friend Mr. Charitha Martin introduced Maithri to Mr. Srinath Amarasekara from Ingiriya who was contemplating constructing a Tea Factory in Ingiriya. He sought Maithri’s assistance in the plan to construct a modern Tea Factory and Maithri was fortunate and privileged to design the first 5S Tea Factory namely, 'WINWOOD TEA FACTORY' in the low country, keeping the concepts of the 5S principle. No teas touched the floor. Hygiene and worker fatigue was a key focus and optimising worker productivity and quality of the end product went hand in hand. Apart from Srinath's brother in law, Mr. Sarath Senarath who was a qualified structural engineer, there were no other engineers involved in the planning and construction of the project. It was a winner all the way. Though the ownership has changed, the factory stands out on its own as one of the best designed Low Country Tea factories.

“This project gave me the opportunity to master low Country Manufacturing techniques which was put into optimum use when I was entrusted by Mr. Lucille Wijewardena, to assist the low Country Plantations belonging to Talawakelle Plantations Ltd, in Deniyaya with factory modernization and Development,” noted Maithri.

“We in fact took a great leap forward in Great Western in the most successful manner and my divorcing Great Western, in fact the tea industry, to join ‘MAS Bodyline’, to assume the post of HR Manager at their factory at Gurugoda, Horana, was a hard decision but was a necessity as it pertained to the betterment of my family. At Bodyline we won the National Taiki Akhimoto 5S award organised by JASTECA. It was a fitting tribute when under my guidance as HR Manager, MAS Bodyline won the Overall National Award for HR Practices and Management,” said Maithri.

John Weatherstone, a well-known writer, editor published a book ‘The Early British Tea and Coffee Planters’ and their way of life. 1825 - 1900 ‘The Pioneers'. This book was sponsored by Lipton’s International. In the year 2008, John Weatherstone wrote his second book titled ‘Tea - A Journey in Time, Pioneering and Trials in the Jungle’, and had added illustrations on “Great Western Tea Estate”, under the chapter, 'Views and Around Plantations in Producing Countries', “Sri Lanka” and sent an autographed copy of the publication to Maithri.

Today, Tea Planter Maithri Liyanage is a satisfied and proud man. “Being born to a family who were proprietor tea planters I reckon that tea is in my blood and an inherited character. Having worked for the State and private Plantation Management entities this inherited character awakened and activated in me to give my best to the industry. I never worked for commendations or awards but, I gave the best I could, as the situation deserved, all that came after me! Even at this age, partially away from tea plantations and engaged in various other business activities is a love for tea planting, and I always admire the better managed tea estates,” he said. Presently, having got the opportunity to work for Ms. MJF Holdings Ltd, as the General Manager (Plantation Development), Maithri is confident that his vision for the plantations will eventually be a reality. He has pledged to work towards that goal and “look forward to a better future for the plantation industry,” said Maithri

“I always believe that our duty and responsibility as citizens of Sri Lanka is to at least maintain the present status of what we have been handed over as temporary custodians, for those that come after us, even if we are unable to make improvements on it. However, a question arises as to whether this is happening in the Tea Industry or in the many other fields and areas in Sri Lanka today. Be it may, that, if one cannot improve on the present conditions, he should at least make an effort to maintain the status quo without allowing further deterioration, for the sake of this great nation, Sri Lanka!


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