The man who took a bribe of Rs. 50,000 from former Lake House Chairman Nalin Ladduwahetty has now committed a great betrayal in ‘horikada‘ style, to sabotage the collective agreement secured by trade unions at the state run newspaper institution.
Dharmasiri Lankapeli, Secretary of the employees union of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (Lake House), has sabotaged the ‘Collective Agreement’ which ensured a Rs. 3000 salary hike for all permanent employees of the state run newspaper institution.
The collective agreement was a main demand of Lake House unions over the past few years and it was on hold, under the company’s previous chairman Bandula Padmakumara‘s tenure.
After long-drawn negotiations with the Lake House management, several trade unions forced the company’s new Chairman, Kavan Ratnayaka, into the collective agreement. Under the new arrangement, the Lake House management should give a salary increment of Rs. 3000, to all its permanent employees, over the next one and a half years.
The unions backed by the UNP and the SLFP signed the agreement. Lankapeli’s union, however, pulled out of the agreement, at the last moment, plunging other unions into an uneasy situation, Colombo Telegraph reliably learns.
Lankapeli, launching a protest opposite Lake House last week, exerted pressure on the company’s management to have a separate agreement with his union and pull out of the collective agreement.
“Lankapeli fears that other unions will take the credit for securing the collective agreement. He wants to push for an unrealistic salary demand and disrupt our collective union struggle. It also gives an opening to the Lake House management to delay the increment further as unions are not on the same page about the matter. This is a betrayal of our collective struggle,” members from the UNP and the SLFP backed unions told Colombo Telegraph.
They said Lankapeli’s act of sabotage has deprived 1600 Lake House workers of a salary increment of Rs. 3000 (within 1 year and four months) – a collective demand by Lake House unions for nearly 8 years.
“As our beloved Leftist leader Dr. Colvin R. de Silva once explained, Lankapeli is a ‘horikadaya’ in every sense of word. He has betrayed a collective union struggle for his own personal gains,” a prominent Lake House union leader told the Colombo Telegraph.
Although Lankapeli is not an employee at the Lake House, he holds a key position in the Lake House Employee’s Union. He worked as a platemaker attached to the Production Department at Lake House, for many years.
A man with a chequered history, Lankapeli got promoted as a journalist when Nalin Ladduwahetty functioned as the Lake House Chairman, under the UNP government in 2001. At that point, Bandula Padmakumara was the Director Editorial at the state-run newspaper company. Both Ladduwahetty and Padmakumara promoted Lankapeli as a journalist, violating all standard procedures at the Lake House.
While heading the Lake House Union and the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions (FMETU), Lankapeli ran as a candidate for a provincial election on the Nava Sama Samaaja Party (NSSP) ticket. Despite running for the election from a Leftist party, Lankapeli begged for a donation of Rs. 50,000 from the then Lake House Chairman Ladduwahetty, appointed by the UNP government.
Ladduwahetty, however, refused to give him any money within the Lake House premises. He asked Lankapeli to wait at the Kollupitiya junction and promised to meet him there, with the ‘donation’.
Delivering on his promise, Ladduwahetty drove to the Kollupitiya junction alone, and threw the bundle of money at the union leader and disappeared in a few seconds.
The incident brought the integrity of the Lake House union leader into serious question and he was literally bought over by the company’s management, with a measly donation of Rs. 50,000.
Lankapeli, who left his employment at the Lake House several years ago, still functions as the Secretary of its employees union, in a highly questionable manner. By ‘hijacking’ the Secretary’s position of the trade union, Lankapeli, without doubt, has violated the rights of its other members, informed company sources told the Colombo Telegraph.
Through the Lake House union and the FMETU, Lankapeli received access to the International Federation of journalists (IFJ), an international media organisation.
Lankapeli frequently attends IFJ events and enjoys financial and non-financial benefits from the organisation. Colombo Telegraph is in a position to confirm that Lankapeli has smuggled people out of the country for money, while attending IFJ events. Those people had no connection with journalism, but Lankapeli smuggled them out of the country claiming they were journalists attending IFJ events.
Meanwhile, under the Rajapaksa administration, Lankapeli was among journalists who came to the US embassy seeking assistance. Leaked WikiLeaks cables disclosed that Lankapeli sought financial assistance from the US embassy.
A cable written on June 5, 2009 by US Embassy’s Charge D’Affaires James R. Moore says,
“On May 29, Rosanne Anderson of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), Lankapeli Dharmasiri of FMETU, and Poddala Jayantha of the Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association met with PAO to discuss their concerns about the statements made by the Army Commander and the IGP. The three journalists expressed fears for their own safety. In particular, they were worried that statements by the Army Commander and the IGP would engender a new wave of violence against journalists by ultranationalist gangs and thugs. The journalists specifically requested assistance in getting Jayantha and his family out of the country. Jayantha had left the country several months ago with support from an EU “Safety Fund” for journalists and human rights defenders, but returned recently because of concerns about his family’s security. Dharmasiri told PAO that he did not want to leave, explaining that he was one of the lone media advocates remaining in Sri Lanka and wanted to continue his efforts in the country. He requested Embassy assistance to increase security. Finally, following the meeting, Anderson shared with PAO that she had applied for asylum in Australia. Later, she sent PAO an e-mail requesting asylum in the United States.”
“Dharmasiri told us he desired to stay in Sri Lanka, but would like assistance in paying for a safe house. Post will connect Dharmasiri with Internews concerning a safety fund grant to pay for lodging. Post assesses that the threat against Ms. Anderson is less severe, and will await the outcome of her pending application for asylum in Australia before seeking travel funds for her.”
There were allegations that Lankapeli misused the financial grants and failed to present bills to the funders, to prove his expenses. Although Colombo Telegraph attempted to contact Lankapeli to get his version on the matter, he was not available to comment. (By Thilini Karawita )