Sarath Wijesinghe, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UAE, with his wife Geetha, hoists the Sri Lankan national flag at the embassy premises in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to mark the Independence Day of Sri Lanka. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Sri Lankan expatriates in Abu Dhabi will get free training in Information Technology and English language skills, thanks to a new initiative launched on the occasion of the 64th Sri Lankan Independence Day yesterday.

Sarath Wijesinghe, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UAE, launched a Knowledge Centre at a ceremony to celebrate Independence Day at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The centre operating at the embassy will impart free training to expatriates to improve their skills, Wijesinghe told Gulf News. "An Indian company has helped us to set up the centre which will be run by the embassy staff and the volunteers."

More Sri Lankans are coming to the UAE these days — thanks to the improved bilateral relations between the two nations, he said.

"The number of Sri Lankan nationals in the UAE has increased to more than 300,000," he said. About 45 per cent of them have white-collar jobs and the rest middle and lower rung jobs, the ambassador said.

Business hub

About a year ago, it was estimated that more than 200,000 Sri Lankan nationals were living in the UAE.

A large number of Sri Lankan expatriates attended the Independence Day celebrations at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate-general in Dubai.

In Abu Dhabi, Wijesinghe and in Dubai, M.M. Abdul Rahim, the country's consul-general, hoisted the Sri Lankan flag.

Messages from Sri Lanka's President, Prime Minister and the foreign minister were read out after the rendition of the national anthem. Prayers were also offered at the ceremonies for the welfare of the country and its people.

The ambassador said increased economic relations between Sri Lanka and the UAE helps more Sri Lankan nationals find jobs in the UAE.

The UAE is investing heavily in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan businessmen are increasingly depending on the UAE for business, he said. Earlier most Sri Lankan businessmen used to go to Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok but now they are visiting Dubai.

"Dubai has become a hub for Sri Lankan businessmen," Wijesinghe said.

Political relations between both the countries are improving thanks to the frequent mutual visits of high-ranking officials, he said.

The top UAE officials who recently visited Sri Lanka are convinced about the progress in the post-war situation, the ambassador said.