31 October, 2020

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Sri Lankan Airlines – Alleged Corruption – Accountability: Acid Test For TISL & ‘Friday Forum’

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

It is becoming clearer by the day that those concerned in the top management of Sri Lankan Airlines rapped for alleged corruption and abuse of power by the Weliamuna Report will go scot-free. This is because it is highly unlikely (almost impossible) that the long standing auditors and then high profile directors will ever be held accountable for any dereliction of duty. From all indications, Mr. J. C. Weliamuna and his team have let them off the hook! This is the ground reality in Sri Lanka. It is nauseatingly apparent that it is ‘BUSINESS AS USUAL’ for all concerned.

The Weliamuna Report which confirms the corruption and gross abuse of power the public has long suspected, has been SELECTIVE in allocating responsibility for this. Weliamuna is the Chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka and previously its Executive Director. The positive feature of the report is that it has described the alleged corruption and abuse in lurid detail.

Based on the Prime Minister’s statement (which Weliamuna has not refuted) the report which castigates Chairman, Nishantha Wickramasinghe, Kapila Chandrasena (CEO) and some others in top management, questionably neglects to state that this took place UNDER THE WATCH of long standing auditors – Ernst & Young and its then Board of Directors which included corporate bigwigs – Susantha Ratnayake, Nihal Jayamanne PC, Sunil G Wijesinha, Sanath Ukwatte and Manilal Fernando – many of them also in its Audit Committee – some even as Chairmen!

SriLankan airline 1While recommending “criminal investigations” into instances of alleged corruption which includes the entire re-fleeting process with brand-new aircraft costing $2.3 billion and “noting instances” where former Chairman Wickramasinghe and some others in top management should be “prosecuted” the report is apparently silent on any proposed punitive action against the airline’s auditors and Board of Directors for ANY NEGLIGENCE of fiduciary responsibility inimical to the PUBLIC INTEREST.

By what stretch of imagination can purported advocates of ‘good governance’ baulk from DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY from the airline’s auditors and then directors – particularly members of the Audit Committee?

This is the ACID TEST for the CREDIBILITY of particularly ‘Transparency International Sri Lanka’ and ‘Friday Forum’ of which the key figures are Messrs. Weliamuna and Chandra Jayaratne respectively.

RS.250 Million: Accountability

I will not sidetrack the focus of this article by addressing issues such as the reported reluctance of Weliamuna to reveal the breakup of the Rs 3.5 million said to have been received by his four- member team (including him) or at the very least the fee paid to him for the Sri Lankan Airlines assignment.

My only comment is – this is not surprising since the public are yet to see the financial accountability for the whopping RS.250 MILLION foreign funded ‘SRI LANKA ANTI- CORRUPTION PROGRAM’ of which the main local partners were inter-connected NGOs – Transparency International Sri Lanka, Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Free Media Movement. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of CPA was then a Director of TISL while Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, then Convener of the FMM was then a Director of CPA! Mr. Chandra Jayaratne was also then a Director of TISL of which Weliamuna was then Executive Director (presently Chairman).

The ‘Free Media Movement’ is one of the four parties that established the private media controlled ‘Sri Lanka Press Institute’ purportedly towards an ethical media. The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) is a crucial part of the SLPI.

Both Weliamuna and Jayaratne are also members of the ‘Friday Forum’.

My simple urging ref. e-mail of 27 August 2007 to also include on their respective websites

“project based donor information (inclusive of amount and source) together with concomitant expenditure appropriately broken down to also reflect administrative and personnel costs and payments to individuals” does not appear to have yet materialized.

The auditors of TISL, CPA, PCCSL and John Keells Holdings are Ernst & Young who are also the long standing auditors of Sri Lankan Airlines!

Conclusion

It is wholly untenable to maintain that NGOs are only accountable to their donors. Their accountability should ultimately and crucially be to the people of this country since all their efforts are purportedly to alleviate the ‘miseries’ of its peoples!

It is also crucial that the public push hard for a ‘MEDIA COMMISSION’ or any other appropriate mechanism (Ombudsman?) to be brought under the ambit of the 19th Amendment as an ‘INDEPENDENT’ entity to bring an acceptable level of integrity and credibility to our media.

These are all cogent reasons why the Corporate and NGO sectors MUST BE INCLUDED in the proposed ‘RIGHT TO INFORMATION’ legislation which has still not been placed in the public domain!

No doubt these proposals will be STRONGLY RESISTED by vested interests.

On the Sri Lankan Airlines accountability issue which is the FOCUS of this article – the million dollar question is:

WILL TISL & ‘FRIDAY FORUM’ PUT THEIR MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTH IS AND BITE THE BULLET?

Weliamuna has all the INFLUENCE NEEDED to do so, since he obviously has the ear of the ‘movers & shakers’ of the government (i) as a member of the ‘Special Presidential Task Force for the Recovery of Illegally Acquired State Assets’ (ii) leader of the team appointed to investigate alleged corruption in Sri Lankan Airlines.

Those reluctant to hold professionals and corporate bigwigs accountable and ‘name & shame’ wrongdoers have clearly lost the moral authority to speak of good governance and any pretense to combat corruption. If they fail to do so – they must forever hold their peace!

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Latest comments

  • 11
    2

    Thank you Amrit for the brilliant insight and the well documented piece written. It is extremely sad to know that it is our very trusted people who have gone on to rob this airline and the country. The fraud still does take place in the airline through well informed sources. But our hopes and dreams for a change of good governance and a corruption curtailed airline ( corruption will never be eradicated in the national carrier)was voted for by employees in support of MS & RW. These revelations make us sick in the gut and we can only watch as those in power swindle and continue to rob the airline in broad day light.
    As for Weliamuna’s Report, those found guilty should be prosecuted. If not I will have to decide once again whom to vote for at the next election.

    • 3
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      Runaway – This government is conducting media shows – they are trying to show the public their desire to catch guys who had robbed public money during the previous Gov.- If they really want to punish the culprits they do not need to employ NGO/INGO combinations to conduct fact finding investigations and give publicity to their reports and be happy with it – while the guys who mismanage these corrupt Government institution are roaming freely still and nothing in these corrupt institutions had changed for the better.

      The points raised by Amrit in his article are exactly correct – NGOs in in this country are heavily funded by INGOs and the operatives are well looked after by these INGOs – all the activities on these NGOs are very well funded by INGOs – Therefore the operatives of these NGOs should not double charge to carry out their missions

    • 0
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      Runway
      Your comment is no more a sidetracker, a red herring, than the Weliamuna fee scandal. The issue is that the long term auditors and accountants as well as the top business community happily shared profit from whatever corruption that took place. If you are to clap, you need two hands; and the other-hand is the private sector and the so called human rights and good governance movement. It continues to happen and in an accelerated pace under the new Palanaya it seems.
      The whole good governance team including the TI, CPA, FMM and other individuals act in unison to destroy the very thing that they declare to protect.
      They are the instruments of neoliberal world order working at local level in any country and especially in democracies.
      Mistakenly people think that these ‘good governance’ fellows such as TI an FMM are against Sinhalaya. They are against all of us. All Sri Lankans, All Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims are at stake. The Transparency International is Funded by the World Bank, which is the institution which formulate treaties, pacts, laws, acts, regulations, charters and what not to destroy Non-western economies around the world.
      We have a bunch of really nice economists who come out with policies straight out of A/L textbook. So the WB can get things done with little assistance from this ‘good governance’ fellows.

  • 8
    0

    Ahhhhh! Finally, a man with the courage to connect the dots and smell the stink, for what it really is.

    For the clueless, who comment on anything and everything…here is the lesson- Nothing is what it appears to be. You can only connect the dots that are visible. You will never have the complete picture unless you know how many dots there were to begin with.

    Sri Lankan and Mihin Airlines have been swindled by everyone. The board of directors, its executives, its suppliers AND the politicians who were supposedly protecting the interests of the country!

    Let this be a warning to shareholders of the companies where some of these idiots hold very high positions. If they could allow such happenings at Sri Lankan, where they just occupied seats to feather their own nests. Guess what is happening in companies where they are functioning executives of……

    Is anyone awake at the SEC?

  • 2
    3

    Srilankan Airlines is one place where Rajapaksas couldn’t put Dalits .even as those High altitude Waitresses,

    Emirates is already running the ruler over our National carrier, which is not as bad as some other International Carriers.

    SLA has done well considering the constant UNP, Elite , Anglican bashing it received for the last 6 or 7 years since the Govt did reverse engineering on Ranil’s Public Asset Sales at mates rates.

    Emirates is e one of the best of the few good airline today, for service and the fleet.

    And I myself is a loyal client mainly because their pricing has appeal to even Dalits. .

    They can do better than the rest because of Govt subsidies.

    Galleon Ravi seems to have already done the deal to sell it back to Emirates,

    There shouldn’t be a problem if that happens and the Fleet gets upgraded and SLA becomes a partner in the Global Network not the Budget wing of Emirates.

    Ranil’s mate Welimuna can’t go after the Board , because they are in the Elite Camp.

    The few Captains whom Welimuna has rubbished in his report are dispensable .

    In fact it is a good excuse for Emirates to give them the flick.

    • 6
      2

      Amanasekara,

      Had your mentor MR reelected himself in Jan. all this muck would have been hidden from the public eye. Thanks to the power transmission to MS and RW only that it has become public knowledge. So just shut up! You have no moral right to speak of good governance.

  • 4
    1

    Who could have said it better?

    “This is the ground reality in Sri Lanka. It is nauseatingly apparent that it is ‘BUSINESS AS USUAL’ for all concerned.’

    Yahapalanaya indeed!

  • 5
    1

    Thanks to Mara, Sri Lanka has achieved the status of an African banana republic by the virtue of lack of laws and discipline.
    So there is no wonder that we ate able to hold anyone responsible for their actions.
    This is not something that should come as a surprise.

    If you ask me I will categorically say that the whole idea of Mara winning the LTTE struggle is because he was having personal goals.
    Hence he pushed the military to achieve a victory at all cost since he wanted to benefit from the victory.
    This he achieved perfectly, and after this everything he did points to the fact that he fought with Prabakaran only for his own gain. By the way, I think The bloody bastard Prabakaran also was doing the same thing at the cast of the Tamil masses.
    They were both hoping to find oil in coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Prabakaran had asked for undue coastal territory simply because he thought there will be crude oil in those areas.
    If you can remember the first thing Mara did after defeating Praba was to ask for extension of the number of terms as president.
    Mara then brought oil firms and started prospecting for oil. Praba would have done the same.
    Sadly we didn’t find oil in commercial quantities. Thank God we didn’t. If we did perhaps it would be a different story today, much like an African banana republic.
    Anyway Mara then went ahead and bastardized the established system with corruption. Mara and his cronies are responsible for the state in which our country is today.
    So the fact that Sri Lankan airlines is corrupt or the fact that the corrupt parties will not be punished should not come as a surprise to anyone. For the past 10 years we have been living a fallacy under the dictatorship of bloody bastard Mara and his scum.
    it will take a while to cleanse Sri Lanka of 10 years of shit.

  • 3
    3

    There are wheels within wheels.
    These humbugs band together so they can cover up for each other!

    It is because of the lack of investigative reporting that a fraud like Jayaratne can acquire a stellar reputation and promote himself as the king of good governance.

  • 2
    0

    This has been ,unfortunately, the style of horse deals in a pig style full of these so called elements of modern day educated, living the high moral ground and shamelessly exploiting CSR and CC to their advantage with cunning publicity. Even the highly recognised auditors were in the recent pass were involved in questionable coverups that helped the takeover of public property and have even collaborated with their clients to dupe shareholders.

  • 3
    7

    This Govt: is run by he NGOs and western interests. Sirisena is only a puppet.

  • 4
    0

    It is important to understand that there are many checks and balances and looks like all of them have failed.

    1 board of directors
    2 CEO and corporate management
    3 internal audit
    4 Treasury and MoF
    5 Line Ministry which is Ministry of Civil Aviation
    6 External Auditiors
    7 COPE

  • 2
    1

    Acid in the Test apart, The Citizen would like to have a look at the Invoice for Rs. 3.5m submitted by this Head of the TISL NGO Mr. Weliamuna or the absence may be due to he is not familiar with Ruppees.

    It is further disparaging to note the ex-TISL & now FF squeaky clean Chandra Jayaratne too has got himself sullied a little.
    What on earth is wrong with these ALLEGED honest Intellectuals?
    Smell of money? Why can not they be neutral?
    How can and why a renowned NGO head accompany Mangala [Edited out] on a visit to the USA?
    Is this jaunt a reward at Government expense OR for what purpose?
    Or was it to influence anti-GOSL HR guys in USA OR Does the paymasters of TISL come from the USA ??????????????

    Aiyo… aiyo Amrit.M you have just popped names at the drop of a hat and of that E&Y who incidently are the Audiotrs of TISL who receive $$$ in the millions… Will SL experience another earth shattering quake?
    The citizen IS confused….as you have just set fire to the TISL,CPA, FMM, E&Y, Organisations, their present and past heads, That Friday Forum ect., IT APPEARS YOU HAVE PUT OUT OF BUSINESS THE CREMATORIUMS AT KANATTE & ELSEWHERE AND HAVE EMBARKED ON A LUCRATIVE BUSINESS YOURSELF.

    AT THIS RATE, VERY SOON THE ENTIRE YAHAPALANAYA WILL BE ON FIRE.
    WILL SRI LANKA BE ABLE TO RISE FROM THE ASHES AFTER THE SMOKE HAS SIMMERED AND THE ASHES SETTLED.
    For now from Ashes to Ashes and Dust to dust.

    Yes Mr. AMRIT MUTTUKUMARU lets have more of the same but beware of the White Van Culture as it existed during JR’s, RPs & Ranil’s times as well.

  • 2
    0

    Brilliant article !!

  • 2
    0

    The artical is good even though Amrit has over looked COPE’S responsibility which is represented by the UNP as well.
    the other amazing thing is weliamuna has virtually become the investigator, prosecutor and the judge.
    There seem to be no room given for the accused to defend themselves which is a democratic right.
    Then again, it may be the jahapalana way of dispensing justice.
    Who are we to know all those thing!

    The sole pupose of the Weliamuna investigation seems to be to pay for those who screamed for regime change.

    • 0
      0

      Well said – short n sweet & to the point.I borrowed your words & posted in my Twitter & FB as well…

  • 4
    0

    ” The positive feature of the report is that it has described the alleged corruption and abuse in lurid detail.”
    As far I see it, WEliamuna has submitted his report and it is for the government to act. All commissions give the report to those who commissioned them and it is the duty of the government to implement it. I don’t think TISL nor Friday Forum can be blamed for this.
    Author of this article goes from one topic to the other and blames Weliamuna for not using his INFLUENCE to push for the implementation. The old saying goes ” you can take the horse to water and you cannot make him drink” . It is the yahapalanaya giants who has to answer this. Otherwise at the next election we the mahajanaya will have to answer. That will be unfortunate after the 8th of Jan

  • 0
    0

    Another piece to discredit Weliamuna!

  • 1
    0

    The sum and substance of this story is:

    (1) There was a fraud cum thieving amounting to say millions and billions
    (2) Investigator who was appointed to look into says there was a fraud cum thieving.
    (3) Investigator charges fees for his work.
    (4) Knowledgeable people (Assume senior investigators) say that the report of the investigator is crap and it does not provide an avenue to prosecute the thieves, other than the mere naming of them.

    What follows from by this summary?

    (1) The investigator really has not unearthed evidence of value but makes sweeping accusations which is already known to people.
    (2) His charge of fees amounts to charging really for nothing but paying a price for a garb only the “wise can see”.
    (3) His report and charge of fees is really a cover for the alleged miscreants of millions and billiions to escape.
    (4) What can be the benefit in allowing the miscreants to escape? A small share of the loot amounting to a few millions? I HOPE NOT.

    • 0
      0

      Jagath
      Thank you for the summary. we need to cultivate a culture of fear among professionals, public servants and top managers to prevent corruption.

      In my view, there are more dangerous than Medamulanism.

  • 0
    0

    Dammit! SriLankan Airlines seems to have it all. Sexually incontinent executives,knickers dropped at will, ghosting employees, rescheduling to suit shopping, missions to bring home a puppy, dodgy pilots, wanking auditors and a haemorrhaging trading account. All old hat, really. The culprits (and you could fill a refurbished A330-300 with them all) must be splitting their sides, hooting with laughter, at the sheer consternation of those who would catch them.
    What was a tragedy, turned comedy, and now comes the farce.

    Just don’t think the show has ended.

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