Bernard Gunaratne; The Idol of Comradeship
Posted on March 13th, 2016

By Dr. Chandana Jayalath

Professionalism, like so many other leader traits, is one that we can easily learn by being aware of our actions and how they make impacts and influences others. What differentiates a true professional from the rest of the pack? Professionals help us learn how to improve for our customers, how to understand our leader’s thought process. Also, professionals are worthy of being imitated. Are your actions worth following? Does your talk match your walk? Professionals handle challenges…professionally. It’s not a matter of if we’ll face challenges at work… it’s how we’ll handle them. On the other hand, professionals take responsibility for their actions and face negative news with a level head. They don’t make excuses for mistakes or poor decisions, and they never throw their teammates under the bus, instead they look after their subordinates. Today, I have to write about a person who possessed of the foregoing characteristics and who actually acted as an example to others.

Our beloved Bernard Gunaratne, who was till very recently with us, passed away on 20 February 2016. Everyone deeply mourned his sudden death. Bernard died in, ostensibly due to a massive heart attack resulting in sudden cardiac arrest. Bernard is a graduate chartered quantity surveyor who passed out from the University of Moratuwa after earning his bachelor’s degree in quantity surveying.

Bernard stayed in Dubai for brief period and left Dubai in 2006 for a position at UN Office in Colombo. Bernard later started his own professional practice inter-alia with the intention to raise standards of QS profession in Sri Lanka. Also, he was a visiting resource personnel at the College of Quantity Surveying and University of Vocational Technology.

Barnard has been instrumental in setting up the QSAA for the benefit of the entire QS graduates who have been passing out from the year 1991. Being a determined social worker, Bernard involved in many benevolent social activities including his capacity as the past president of Quantity Surveying Alumni Association (QSAA) of the University of Moratuwa. We missed such gentleman whom anybody could always rely whenever needed a help whether in professional or personal capacity.

Professionals carry moral responsibilities to society because professionals are supposed to make and act on informed decisions in situations that the public cannot. They are trained to produce certain outcomes which take moral precedence over other functions of society. Along with this aphorism, Bernard stood against the white-collar mafia that is being spearheaded by few leading professionals. While emphasizing on the importance of harmonious cohabitation amongst the allied professionals, he openly contested that mafia is a menace that should not be overlooked any longer. He blew the whistle when there is great imminent danger of harm to his own profession. He engaged in a great deal of introspection without fear.

He had a distinguished career in quantity surveying and even more importantly he inspired a culture of professional harmony in a whole army of young members who joined the Alumina after him. He was also a fantastic teacher, much involved in the teaching of construction contracts and a whole array of electives pertaining to the core subjects. These subjects are indeed indispensable for a proper commercial and contractual acumen expected of a quantity surveyor. He earned heaps of praise from the students he taught.

Bernard has also been a serving the Construction Industry Development Authority (CIDA) as a panelist of its National Awards for Construction Excellence program. This program is aiming to recognize outstanding performance in Construction Management and organization, high degree of professionalism in technical expertise and quality, participation in the promotion and training of craftsmen and introduction of innovative and appropriate technology in achieving excellence in construction projects.

The details of his contributions, the students he guided, the projects he worked on, the universities where he visited and the academic and professional honors that came his way are none other than his own accolades he earned through hard work, dedication and perseverance. Many would wonder whether his hard work ultimately led to ignore his own health. He deserved much more but his gentle nature and a strong sense of modesty did not allow him to chase rewards.

Bernard had many ideas on professional community development and promoted continuing professional development sharing individual experiences and demystifying gray areas peer members come across in day today practice. The ultimate outcome of well planned CPD is that it safeguards the public, the employer and the individual, Bernard stressed. The contribution he made in continuing professional development is indeed priceless. Reflection is what he believed an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it. Centered on the idea of lifelong learning, he engaged in a self regulated process allowing him to continually update skills and knowledge while promoting reflective management such as coaching, feedback, anecdotal notes and group discussions. He thought so comprehensively and then he followed it up with the passion and zeal that such dreams deserve. His input at assessment of professional competence is precious.

Bernard Gunaratne was one of the finest human beings we ever had the privilege of having amidst us. He was a friend, collaborator, gentle mentor, all rolled into one, for many of us and we missed him sorely. Many of the adjectives that have been used to describe him can be seen in the tributes; unassuming, role model, helpful, accommodative, friendly and compassionate.

I quote Aristophanes, the Greek playwright who said, your lost friends are not dead, but gone before; advanced a stage or two upon that road which you must travel in the steps they trod.

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