Austin Fernando‘s short stint as the Secretary to the President Maithripala Sirisena is set to end soon with high-ranking Sirisena aides actively looking for a replacement, Colombo Telegraph learns.
The likely candidate is current chairman of People’s Bank, Hemasiri Fernando one time Secretary to Sirimavo Bandaranaike who also held chairmanships at Sri Lanka Telecom and Airport and Aviation Authority.
Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that Fernando has been approached by senior Presidential Aide Shiral Lakthilaka regarding this appointment.
Austin Fernando, who is currently in Austria on a special assignment on behalf of President Sirisena, when contacted said that he is unaware of such a move.
It is unknown whether relations between the President and the Secretary have soured, but observers point out that that the ban on the website lankaenews was imposed during a previous visit to Austria by Austin Fernando who is also the Chairman, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC).
Coincidentally, the move to block the television station TNL after it aired a programme criticising Sirisena also happened when Austin Fernando was in Austria.
According to sources close to President Sirisena, Austin has already tendered his resignation.
Sirisena appointed Fernando as a presidential adviser on 15 January of2015. He was thereafter appointed Governor of the Eastern Province on the 27th of January 2015. He resigned in order to become Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka on the 1st of July 2017.
When contacted Lakthilaka said, “Hemasiri wanted the post of defence secretary and he is not interested in the post of the Secretary to the President.” He also confirmed that there is no issue between the President and Austin. “Austin is still the Secretary to President,”he said. Lakthilaka also said “call the ‘lokka’ (the President) for further clarification”. Colombo Telegraph then pointed out that neither Sirisena nor his media staff responded to our queries.
Hemasiri was not available for comment.