He has been involved in numerous infrastructure projects in Indonesia. His brilliant ideas and innovation have given birth to many spectacular structural designs in the country.
These include the Muria Nuclear Power Plant in Central Java, the Mass Rapid Transportation project in Jakarta and the upcoming Sunda Strait Bridge, which is an ambitious government plan to connect Java and Sumatra. No wonder people refer to him as the great mind behind all of Indonesia’s controversial infrastructure projects.
Being 75 hasn’t stopped Indonesia’s top engineer, Wiratman Wangsadinata, from achieving wonders.
While most of his peers spend leisurely time at home in their later years, Wiratman is still busy working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday at his office on Jl. T.B. Simatupang, South Jakarta.
“This is how I enjoy my old age. I like it this way rather than doing nothing that in the end would make me sick,” Wiratman said.
“It started because construction was Indonesia’s spearhead for development. Economic development would not work without support from the construction and infrastructure sector … Therefore, I wanted to participate in making this development work,” the man said of the main reason he got into the engineering world.
With strong determination, Wiratman took a major in civil engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in 1954.
Another remarkable thing about Wiratman is his integrity and unwavering commitment to his profession.
Despite his close relations with a number of top government officials, Wiratman has always shied away from taking advantage of his personal network for his office projects.
Former president B.J. Habibie is a high school friend of Wiratman, but his company, Wiratman and Associates, has never accepted projects from his close pal.
“In the office, I always direct my employees to avoid unethical practices,” Wiratman said. He has also shown the same principle in the latest project, the Sunda Strait Bridge.
The head of the national team for the project, Hermanto Dardak, admires Wiratman for his integrity. “He rejected the idea of being appointed the head of the advisory board for the government because of his company’s position as the designer in the project,” Herman, who is also the deputy public works minister, said recently.
But apart from his integrity, the father of two also admits to being a “master thief”. The rapid progress in the global construction sector, for him, has required Indonesian engineers to “steal” knowledge from their international counterparts to stay knowledgeable about the latest technology.
“The greatest challenge is learning about the technological developments out there because they can no longer be found in textbooks. If we don’t stay up-to-date, we will end up the fools and lose the competition,” he said.
For the Sunda Strait Bridge, Wiratman said he went to Italy to observe the similar Messina Bridge project and meet engineers and researchers involved in the project.
Wiratman also has a strong sense of nationalism and believes Indonesian engineers have the same capabilities as their foreign counterparts. He himself has proven that by discovering new formulas and systems, which have been applied in engineering elsewhere.
Now more than 50 years have passed since Wiratman fell in love with engineering, but amazingly we still can see the same spirit and strong integrity and continuous hard work despite his advanced age.
News Source: The Jakarta Post
Photo Source: Wiratman
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