By Mr. Wasantha Senaratne
Only a handful of Sri-Lankans were employed in Dubai in late Nineteen Seventies. Generally there were no either facilities or only limited facilities available to them at that time. They had gone through lots of hardships and had experienced enormous difficulties such as weather conditions, living conditions, language barriers and working conditions in a completely new and different environment. However, they had patiently tolerated all those difficulties and had worked very hard with a great ambition of opening various avenues / doors for many Sri Lankans to obtain employment opportunities in the United Arab Emirates.
Most of those Sri Lankans have succeeded in proving and convincing their employers about their working abilities and knowledge. Thereafter, many of the Employers had started recruiting Sri Lankans for their establishments. Thanks to those Srilankan pioneers, especially in the Quantity Surveying field, for opening doors for the younger generation of Quantity Surveyors to obtain employment in the United Arab Emirates.
It was a very difficult task to meet a Sri Lankan in Dubai during late Seventies and early eighties. However, I was very lucky to meet few, who had worked for the State Engineering Corporation (SEC) in Sri Lanka, where I had worked.
Unlike today, we had no facilities to go and meet Sri Lankans in Dubai in late Seventies. Due to lack of transportation facilities, excessive workload or limitation of free time, we were not lucky enough to enjoy life like now a days. However, even under these difficult circumstances, few of us (ex- SEC crowd) managed to meet during weekends.
During the summer in 1988, while our families were away Dayalal Uyangodage, Gregory Payo and myself met at Dayalal’s residence in Satwa for a weekend. Whilst we were having some golden drinks and enjoying all kinds of chats, we discussed about how to organise a meeting of all the Sri Lankan Quantity Surveyors working in Dubai. Our aim was to meet new Quantity Surveyors coming to Dubai and to have a get-together with all of them. After our initial discussions that night, on the very next working day, we started contacting various companies to find out whether there are any Sri Lankan Quantity Surveyors working for them. With lots of telephone calls and efforts, we managed to contact almost all the Sri Lankan Quantity Surveyors, who were working in the UAE at that time and organised the first get-together in my residence at Al Qusais in late 1988. We managed to establish contact with fourteen (14) Quantity Surveyors and all of them eagerly participated in the very first get-together.
You may be anxious to know, who those fourteen participants are? They are:
SLQS Group was born in this manner in 1988. At this early stages, since there were only very limited number of participation, we used to arrange get-togethers at the residence of one or other of our colleagues once in three months. The Sri Lankan QS population in the UAE increased rapidly and almost all the new comers have been participating in SLQS get-togethers eagerly. It has now become a very colourful annual event as QS night.
As the numbers of Quantity Surveyors increased regularly, we had to organize our annual get-togethers in more spacious places like Hotels in Sharjah and Dubai and in more formal manner. The first ever such get together was held in LOU LOU A Hotel in Sharjah in 1994. .
To add more fun and entertainment to the night a musical band and entertaining artists were added to the get-together held in 1997. We should not however, forget our own entertainers Dayalal, Payo, Sanjeewa, Kithsiri, Lucky, Krishantha and several others who had been providing musical entertainment before the introduction of formal musical bands. All our heartiest gratitude and best wishes for them. Guest of honour, Chief Guest, awards to those, who had contributed in various sectors, kids corner and many other activities with grand prices of air tickets became added features in later years.
The period, mid 90s was somewhat a turning point to the SLQS group with innovative young blood participation with novel ideas. This is the period where SLQS has changed its tradition and introduced lot of new concepts to meet new demands and the current trends. Educational programs in the form of Lectures, Work shops, seminars, panel discussions etc were introduced during this period. For the success of these educational activities, the contribution and sacrifice made by our own legend, Dr. Sam shall be noted here.
We have not forgotten the place, our mother land, where we learned our A,B,C of QS education and have generally contributed to QS education and QS profession in Sri Lanka.
The first such program initiated was to donate QS books to University of Moratuwa and Technical colleges. A donation was also made to Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Sri Lanka.
Not only to Sri Lanka, SLQS had made its contribution to UAE too by organizing its group annual blood donation campaigns at Al Wasl hospital Dubai coinciding with the Vesak festival in Sri Lanka.
Also, similar charity/welfare projects were organised by SLQS for the benefit of needy countrymen in Sri Lanka.
List of activities carried out by the group is too long to mention here. Generally, it includes annual trip, picnic, annual cricket match to collection of Christmas charity box and awards in appreciation of professional & carrier achievement and contribution made to enhance the QS profession.
With the motive of globalizing the trade mark of SLQS, the group has a new proposal to honour a distinguished Sri Lankan QS living and working anywhere in the world, who had contributed to enhance the Quantity Surveying Profession in Sri Lanka as well as the Profession itself. SLQS group in the UAE is the most active and efficient group of Sri Lankan Quantity Surveyors existing in the world and this initiation is one of the most humble and appreciable steps taken to honour the distinguished personnel in QS field.
Among the prominent performance of a Sri Lankan QSs, a unique achievement is that Mr. Ivan Sovis, one of the fourteen participants at the very first get together, has started the first Sri Lankan, Professional Chartered Quantity Surveying firm to provide Quantity Surveying Services in the United Arab Emirates. Also, it is the first ever QS consultancy firm established in the UAE (Middle East?) by a Sri Lankan. We all should be proud of him.
I believe, that the contribution made by late Mr J.L.Karunadasa (Chartered Quantity Surveyor) under the encouragement of SLQS group during the establishment of the Sri Lankan Cultural Education Centre at the Sri Lankan Consulate General premises in Dubai, deserves special mention.
The SLQS Group has implemented a scheme to assist SLQSs by providing a small financial contribution towards the funeral expenses of a family member. The group has also started recently a very commendable task of granting a substantial financial assistance to his/her family, in the event of the death of an SLQS.
I am very glad to see how we have grown from fourteen to over three hundred members in the present list and where we are today. Each QS should be proud of its contribution towards strengthening the SLQS Group. Each and every Sri Lankan QS, who had worked at the early years in the UAE will be able to say, that they have done their part and set examples for the new comers to follow the tradition. Finally I have to extend my sincere gratitude to all the members of the SLQS Group in the UAE, for their contribution to strengthening our professional position and wish you al bright and prosperous future.