Director Operations Lushan Fernando of the Civil Aviation Authority has been caught on tape soliciting bribes and demanding a stake in Serendib Airways in return for the speedy issuance of an Air Operators Certificate, Colombo Telegraph can reveal today.
The recorded phone conversations take place between Lushan Fernando Director Operations of CAASL and Sonal Fernando a Post Holder of the airline (Readers can listen to two recordings at the bottom of the article)
Serendib Airways & Airport Services is an airline which has commenced their application process to commence domestic air operations within Sri Lanka and subsequently to operate flights from Colombo to overseas destinations.
Whilst haggling to seek CAASL Director Lushan Fernando’s support in order to obtain the Airline Operator’s Certificate (AOC), Post Holder Sonal Fernando is heard negotiating a reduction from the monthly fee Lushan Fernando demands as a bribe. Director Lushan Fernando is also clearly heard speaking in the vernacular in various intervals and translated into English saying “I must start my own airline one day. I will get your AOC in two to three months, and if I don’t get a share in your company, then you might as well go fly a kite. I come from good Catholic background. I need to make my retirement plan. I am not a bloody fool. Without me you can’t proceed.”
Meanwhile Prasad Fernandopulle the Chairman of Serendib Airways and Airport Services officially submitted the phone recordings and a letter to H.M.C. Nimalasiri the Director General of Civil Aviation Authority on the 27th of November 2018.
However more than three works later the Director General CAASL H.M.C. Nimalasiri is yet to commence even an internal inquiry into this complaint.
What is further unacceptable is that Director General Nimalasiri is yet to even officially acknowledge receipt of Chairman Serendib Airways’ letter of complaint.
Speaking to Colombo Telegraph the Chairman Serendib Airways Fernandopulle said “I have officially submitted a letter of complaint along with the phone recordings to Director General Nimalasiri of the CAASL. Lushan Fernando made several demands in return for issuing us the AOC to operate officially. He initially demanded US $ 10,000 to be credited to an account of his in Dubai every month. He also wanted these monies banked in such a way that it could not be traced to him from Sri Lanka. These monies were demanded to be credited from the time the application has been submitted. He also wants a post as a Director in our airline and further, he demands that we invest US $ 150 million in a project he recommends. If we had that amount of money we would be operating Airbus aircraft under a different business model. Now even though we have obtained some business we have to pay exorbitant rates to other domestic carriers to transport our customers. Currently we are deliberating in submitting our complaint to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption as well.”
When Colombo Telegraph contacted Director General CAASL H.M.C. Nimalasiri, he confirmed saying “Yes, I did receive an official complaint from Serendib Airways. I have not yet commenced an investigation into this matter. I have instructed Director Operations Lushan Fernando to make up his mind as to what he wishes to do from now on. He is anyway currently on probation. He has been with the CAASL for a year and a half and his probationary period is for three years.”
When Colombo Telegraph further questioned Director General CAASL Nimalasiri as to what course of action he would take if Lushan Fernando does not resign from his post, he said “What he has done is totally unacceptable. If he does not resign then, I will have to make a decision on that”.
What is suspect is in this instance is that Director General CAASL Nimalasiri will continue to brush this aside despite all the evidence being presented.
He has done such things in the past too.
The CAASL has over the years been embroiled and tainted for many such acts of alleged fraud and corruption.
In the recent past, the CAASL also under Director General Nimalasiri was exposed for fraudulently selling the question and answer sheets to pilots who sat their ATPL Examinations.
In that instance the ATPL Examinations was under the purview of the former Director Flight Safety CAASL Susantha De Silva who also oversaw Personal Licensing, Flight Operations and Airworthiness who got away despite the matter been investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department of Sri Lanka.
Despite all these allegations the former Director Flight Safety Susantha De Silva took wing to Bangkok Thailand to secure employment in ICAO’s regional office, a job which he currently still holds. (by Janaka Ranaweera)