Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today made a bold move by ordering at the eleventh hour to cancel an event in which Tourism Development and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga was supposed to announce the names of the new chairpersons of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB).
Amaratunga was set to appoint Ranjit de Silva as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and Kishu Gomes as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotional Bureau (SLTPB).
Many ministry officials, employees and journalists were present at the SLITHM auditorium to attend the event when the Prime Minister’s order came. Amaratunga, a senior UNP Minister, appeared flummoxed and instructed his staff to cancel the event citing “unavoidable circumstances.”
It was later revealed that the Prime Minister was unhappy with the two appointments made by the Minister and the manner in which Amaratunga got their names approved by the President. All UNP ministers, when appointing heads for institutions coming under them, first got their nominations cleared by the Prime Minister and then sent them for the approval of the President’s five-member committee, headed by Udaya R. Seneviratne.
In Amaratunga’s case, the Minister had directly sent the names to the President’s office, without consulting the Prime Minister. Then he invited the media and ministry officials at the SLITHM auditorium to make the announcement amid fanfare. The Prime Minister was livid when he heard about Amaratunga’s “modus operandi” and struck back while Amaratunga was preparing to make the big announcement this morning.
The Prime Minister also ordered Amaratunga to send his new appointees to the Temple Trees “with immediate effect” to ascertain their suitability to hold the two key positions in the tourism sector.
When contacted by Colombo Telegraph this evening, a senior official at the Tourism Ministry said they were still not aware whether the Prime Minister had cleared the two appointees. “We were not informed of any new development. The announcement has been postponed indefinitely – which means their appointments still hang in the balance.”