Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Center for Policy Alternative, one of Sri Lanka’s major think tanks, told Colombo Telegraph earlier this morning that Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala must choose. “Given the information now in the public realm,” he said, “ I believe that the two positions – one within Dialog which blocks Colombo Telegraph and the other within Friday Forum which champions democratic governance – are incompatible. In that position, I would choose between them.”
Dhanapala is an “Independent, non-executive” director of Dialog Axiata PLC and also a leading member of the Friday Forum, which states it is committed to supporting the “rule of law,” “freedom of information and expression,” and “an independent media.”
Earlier, on the 19th of March Dr. Saravanamuttu had said that, “I am sure that Ambassador Dhanapala will act within the framework of good corporate governance and in so doing uphold the best principles and practices of governance in general.”
Even though the blocking of CT by Dialog is an established fact, and has even been reported by an uncontested 2013 US State Department Human Rights report on Sri Lanka, Dhanapala continues to serve on the board of Dialog Axiata PLC, the holding company of the broadband telecommunications provider, which is one of the larger corporates, traded on the Colombo Stock Exchange. He has also said, he only learnt about the blocking from Colombo Telegraph itself, and also maintains that he can not speak for the company.
In earlier statements to Colombo Telegraph, Dr. Kumar David, Dr. Nirmal Ranjit Dewasiri, and Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan all pointed to the grave ethical issues raised by Dhanapala’s continuing presence on the board of Dialog. Dr. David, has as wondered if Dhanapala,“..may be influenced by the apparently large payment he receives for his services on the Board.”
While Colombo Telegraph has no direct information of the quantum of compensation Dialog pays Jayantha Dhanapala, the 2013 annual report of lists an amount in excess of 76 million Rupees, as directors compensation for the entire board of 8 members, who meet 7 times a year.
Dr. Dewasiri said, in an earlier statement to CT, “ Perhaps business interests are more damaging for freedom of expression and right to information than the state repression because the former is more subtle.”
Contacted for comment a few weeks ago, Dr. Jeganathan’s said, “It is certainly fair to say that Ambassador Dhanapala can not speak for Dialog Axiata PLC. But certainly, he can consult his conscience and speak for himself. And more importantly, act ethically…I have a deep disquiet about the very concept of ‘good governance’ – which implies that public affairs, and common interests can be ‘managed’ in the same way as a for profit company. This is perhaps where we need to rethink our collective ethical stance.”
History of Colombo Telegraph blocking
First -December 26, 2011 – We are blocked but we will not be stopped
Second – May 8, 2012 – Colombo Telegraph Blocked Again
Fourth – August 23, 2013 – Colombo Telegraph Blocked, How To Reach Us Now: Sri Lanka Telecom And Mobitel Joins The DPI Club!