Strongly rejecting the decision by Sri Lankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias not to give information on salaries and other financial benefits to the top executive officers of SriLankan in terms of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Sri Lanka Pilots Guild has filed an appeal to the RTI Commission asking that the information be released in the public interest.
Earlier this month, six trade unions blasted Dias asking how the requested information could be refused on the basis that it was ‘confidential’ or of a ‘personal nature’ when ‘it has contributed to the accumulated debt’ that Dias has now declared publicly, may result in the airlines going bankrupt, resulting in ‘a potential loss of employment of nearly 7,000 individuals.’
Observers describe Dias’ shocking letter as a shrewd move calculated at scaring the unions and employees of SriLankan to ‘knuckle down’ under the directions of the top management. That tactic has now failed, they say.
The country’s airline became a loss-making enterprise in the time of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but the unity alliance government of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe has, despite promises by its top ministers that it will ‘turn the airline around’, failed to improve the situation. Instead SriLankan Airlines was kept afloat by public funds from the Treasury coming from taxes collected from citizens. Millions were doled out by the Treasury in equity investments as approved by the Cabinet.
Unions allege that the Government’s appointees to the Board of Directors and the Chairman lack the necessary skills to rescue the airline from its financially unstable state and that they have further aggravated the airline’s financial woes by using it as their personal property and awarding their favourites to the executive ranks, massive salaries and other benefits. Though the Government promised to take action in regard to the allegations, nothing was done.
The RTI appeal filed by the Pilots Guild had asked for all information related to and/or connected to the cost of personal flying training for the A320 jet conversion borne by SriLankan Airlines Limited and/or any party for the CEO Suren Ratwatte. It has also asked for the salaries and other benefits enjoyed by the CEO, the Head of Human Resources (HHR) and the Chief Commercial Officer.
Further, the appeal asked for information (including profits and losses) suffered as a result of the agreement between Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Sri Lankan Airlines Limited and information on the cancellation of the order of the Airbus A350 Aircraft.
Colombo Telegraph was informed by the Guild that the appeal hearing is due to take place before the RTI Commission in early January 2018 with the Commission calling for comprehensive written submissions by both parties in relation to the matter.