18 February, 2019

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SriLankan Air Nose-Dives Into Disaster

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

The SriLankan Airline story is now out. Those who still sing the praises of the ten year rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa and cry for his return need not look elsewhere to pause and check their urge and rage.

The episode is part of the narrative of a style of governance that had been disastrously dysfunctional, thereby creating the potential for a nation’s ruin. It adds to the numerous historical instances where authoritarian regimes can go wrong,haywire and sore. It behoves us, therefore, to extricate ourselves of any personal bitterness and examine the episode even clinically as a case study or pointer for the future. In this way, alone, we can convert a major failure into a learning experience.

It is on record that since 1998, under the previous arrangement of partnership with the Emirates, SriLankan Airline showed significant profits. The name wasn’t glamorous but we had a national airline to be proud of and to boost our tourism and international say; yet it was never a burden on our economy. Our staff was gainfully employed and the engine was well in motion. There was no burden on the national exchequer.

Can you remember how the rot set in? Reportedly it was a purely personal incident that pricked the pride of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda had to get back quickly from London to Colombo and his staff demanded special seats in the airline for that purpose. Being a professionally run affair the Airline management refused to make that accomodation because that would have caused inconvenience to heaps of passengers and tarnished the business image of the airline. To the Rajapaksa team it was like seeking accomodation and diverting a CTB bus. But that’s not how it all works when it comes to international airline behaviour.

According to reports the President was annoyed. A few days after, government withdrew the travel visa given to the director Peter Hill and in the unholy year of 2007 the partnership with Emirates was abrogated. Reported profits to Sri Lanka at that point in time was about 7 billion rupees.

Since that tragic action the story of SriLankan Airline was of a business entity going rapidly downhill to the point that, in the Prime Minister’s graphic expression it had become an economic landmine that could explode the whole national economy.

Typically, any ruler endowed with such enormous unchecked power will tend to regard the country under his charge as his personal property. This is precisely what happened. The national airline was Rajapaksa property. Particularly under Third World conditions rulers, Ministers and their cohorts treat the jurisdictions under their charge as their personal property. They cannot separate the personal space from the public space. The two are mixed. One can see such trends even today under Yahapalanaya. It is a political behaviour hard to eradicate under South Asian political cultures. Watch the behaviour across the seas, of the flamboyant Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. The Sri Lankan electorate is a little more literate and advanced than the generality of the Tamilnadu electorate. We can avoid such grubby behaviour. President Sirisena and Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe must resolve to nip this trend in the bud.

This kind of personal ownership style of behaviour was,according to investigation reports ( was it the Weliamuna report?), reflected in the behaviour of the Chairman after take over-Mahinda’s brother-in-law Wickramasinghe. The reports showed how Wickramasinghe had the attitude of a private owner of a corner boutique or suruttu kade.

In the first place, the act of appointing this gentleman to the onerous position was another private property act by Mahinda Rajapaksa. A tree starts decaying from the top and so does any organisation. Wickramasinghe’s only ‘qualification’ was that he was Mahinda’s wife’s brother. Nothing noteworthy as far as education, skills and experience were concerned. And from reports of the investigation he did engage in jocularly amorous forms of behaviour. The financial management of the airline was of trivial concern to the chairman. On occasion the plane was reportedly forced to divert its route in order to accomodate the Chairman. SriLankan Airline was his playground. “No man is a failure who is enjoying life,” said William Feather. Chairman Wickramasinghe was not a failure; but his organisation was. And the national economy was looking aghast.

The boss and his girls ran round the bushes like Hindi film stars. On a lighter side, this is good narrative for a movie. While the chairman dances the audience can applaud with “ammata siri’!

The previous regime’s management of the national carrier exemplified the regime’s same supreme defining attitude of “my car, my petrol” that brought into being the monstrous flops- Mattala International Airport, The Hambantota Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium,The Hambantota International Mahinda Rajapaksa Conference hall and so on and so forth. Don’t forget the harbour.

It is all plainly there for us to see:The narrative of Sri Lankan Air will go down in management history as a case study of how not to govern.

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Latest comments

  • 19
    3

    Shyamon,

    I agree with most of what you have written.

    However wish to point out a matter that may lead one to misconstrue.

    SriLankan Airlines failed to generate profits not only during MRs era but was so since its inception. Mismanagement and political interference was always present but more blatantly rampant during MRs tenure.

    RW pumping US$3.2 billion to rescue this terminally sick giant is utterly reprehensible. One thing is certain, this giant will continue to drain the economy and be a gravy train to the inept filial refuse of the political elite.

    This airline must be shut down or must be privatised. No ifs and no buts.

    • 5
      2

      BBS Rep

      How naïve people could be.The issue is the dire straits that SriLankan is currently in and the measures the Governement is contemplating to salvage it.Though the previous regime was greatly instrumental for the situation every single government before and even the current one upto now have equally contributed towards the debacle.

      Though there are few now singing the praises of Emirates Management only the insiders know the truth as to how they showed Profits during their time.

      It is a universal truth that any Government cannot run successful Business let alone Aviation and Sri Lanka is no exception.We have proven that beyond any doubt

      The course of action to be taken is quite clear and there is no other way.As you have rightly suggested either close it down or Privatize.There cannot be a HYBRID soultion

  • 12
    2

    Well said Shyamon,now over to K A Sumanasekera to begin his defence of the Rajapaksa Govt by using key words such as “Rani,FCID,Diasporians,Dollar a day,Wellalas,Senator Usha”etc and keep us entertained by making a fool of himself on a Thursday morn!

  • 6
    0

    Shyamon Jayasinghe

    SriLankan Air Nose-Dives Into Disaster

    “The SriLankan Airline story is now out. Those who still sing the praises of the ten year rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa and cry for his return need not look elsewhere to pause and check their urge and rage.”

    “The episode is part of the narrative of a style of governance that had been disastrously dysfunctional, thereby creating the potential for a nation’s ruin.”

    “Can you remember how the rot set in? Reportedly it was a purely personal incident that pricked the pride of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda had to get back quickly from London to Colombo and his staff demanded special seats in the airline for that purpose. Being a professionally run affair the Airline management refused to make that accomodation because that would have caused inconvenience to heaps of passengers and tarnished the business image of the airline. To the Rajapaksa team it was like seeking accomodation and diverting a CTB bus. But that’s not how it all works when it comes to international airline behaviour.”

    “Typically, any ruler endowed with such enormous unchecked power will tend to regard the country under his charge as his personal property. This is precisely what happened.”

    Why? Because the average is 79, and it is hard to recruit good talent when the average is 79? The Average of those who served MaRa MaRa Mattu MaRa MoDa MaRa, AmaNa MaRa, was well below 79.

    National IQ Scores – Country Rankings

    http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

    • 8
      13

      “Those who still sing the praises of the ten year rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa and cry for his return need not look elsewhere to pause and check their urge and rage.”

      It is corrupt idiots with vested interests like you, Spring Koha, Ken Dharmapala, Native Veddah and all the other trolls that is making Rajapakse’s return welcome.

      Your diarrheal ass holes are bigger than your mouths. That is the problem.

      We need hinm back urgently to chase rogues like Kumarasinghe Sirisena at Mobitel and Rakhita Ratwate at Sri Lankan Airlines. We also need the Nuwara Eliya land back from “Dudley”, the crony brother of Sira.

      How is that?

      • 7
        2

        Boom Boom

        “We need him back urgently to chase rogues….”

        We need the Black Tigers, or some version like the “White” Tigers, like the White Knights, to clean them up.. Boom Boom and they will all be cleaned up…and the People can live Happily ever after…

      • 8
        0

        This typical, isn’t it?

        When you cannot argue a case, you stoop to abuse and filth.

        It reveals your character and your low level of intelligence.

    • 12
      3

      Mara Mara Come again,
      Ruin the nation once again,
      Mara Mara Come again, for not only
      Won the mines and bombs of VP
      Come again Mara Mara for you only
      Know what kind of bombs and minds set
      Upon the nation on ransom
      To come again Mara,
      Mara mara come again comprehensivly
      Better the VP& Co in ruining the Nation

      • 6
        2

        MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa
        MaRa MaRa AmaNa MaRa
        MaRa MaRa PacHa MaRa
        MaRa MaRa DhushaNa MaRa

        • 7
          0

          Mara Mara go to Spain
          Don’t you ever dare come back again
          You gave the people enough pain
          Some were murdered just in vain
          Widows tears were pouring in the rain
          Take your sons who ran amok without a brain
          And take your Mr Ten Percent don’t let us see him again
          Also that psyco who white-vanned all who went against his grain
          But do return the millions you stole during your reign
          We hope they are kind and nice to you in Spain
          But once there don’t try your monkey pranks again
          The rain in Spain may stay mainly in the plain
          But the heat in their torture camps will make you insane
          So Mara Mara watch your step while in Spain

          …chorus…

          Mara Mara go to Spain
          Hora Mara don’t come back again

  • 18
    2

    None of this (the waste of national wealth, and debt, I might add) will sink into the thick skulls of the likes of H L D Mahindapala and Dayan Jayatileke and others. To them, Mahinda Rajapakse can do no wrong. Sure, even if they do admit to some “flaws” of the Rajapakse regime, the claim that he “won the war” is used to wash away every sin he committed.

    To gloss over the Rajapakse sins, these tiresome scribes points to the road resurfacing and beautifying Colombo. Both of which have enough and more serious issues that would take the shine off them and expose the rot beneath – but who cares to listen.

    Using a country as the private property of its ruler is well documented in studies of such people as Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo, Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Papa Doc Dulavier of Haiti, just to name a few.

    Rajapakse was treading a similar path and he should thank his astrologer for leading him to lose his presidency. Had Rajapakse continued, he’d have join the company of these horrendous rascals in history books of the future.

    This is not to exonerate the current mob who are beginning to traverse the road laid out by previous leaders. Vigilance and public exposure are the only means left for the people to try and keep them on line – if they can.

  • 8
    18

    what do you know about aviation?you old public servants think that they know everything under the sun. Please do remember that it is not only MR all the governments before him and also the present government are responsible for the mismasnagement of the airline.

    • 2
      0

      “what do you know about aviation?you old public servants think that they know everything under the sun” – I’d take my opinions on state affairs from a former civil servant over the current lot, who’re mostly sons and daughters or a*se-kissers who got their jobs not through skill, but by a minister’s letter. I’d take their opinion over some random guy on the internet who offers no alternative, but bashes anyone that criticizes anything.

      “Please do remember that it is not only MR all the governments before him and also the present government are responsible for the mismasnagement of the airline.” – and it was given over to Emirates to manage for a reason. Who was it that ignored that reason, demonized the very notion of privatization, branded anyone that called for the airline to be managed more efficiently as a ‘traitor’ and fed this BS narrative of “ape de dan ape” to get the gallery’s support? Also, how is a government that’s been in power for a year responsible for the consecutive losses the airline has posted the 8 years before it got elected? Have we all teleported to a universe in which time flows backwards? I’m not calling Ranil’s handling of it any better, but what exactly do you want him to do? The only way to save this is to privatize. But then you lot will be on the streets protesting.

      Privatize loss-making state resources, riots. Kill people protesting for drinking water, no one makes a sound. The suddha was right when he said we weren’t ready to run a country.

  • 8
    1

    The writer says clearly how the airline was running at a profit of over 7billion before MR dished out Emirates and put his bro-in-law in to run the property as the Rajapakse reserve

  • 5
    5

    ” A profit of Rs 4.4 billion was declared in 2008, the exit year of Emirates.
    It was by way of sale of aircraft and other assets and not due to the success in the airline’s core business of transport of passengers and cargo. “

    Source : https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/other-side-of-the-coin-on-emirates-deal-a-comment/

    Shyamon’s views appear to be twisted or politically motivated and therefore not worth the time spent reading or the paper its written on.

    Does Sri Lanka need an air line : Yes its good for the image , tourism ( dont forget Sri Lankan has won many air line awards for service). Do not let the air line suffer the fate of ceylon shipping lines ( a century old line now virtually non existent).

    Why : because exporting fish to EU alone is not enough to feed the nation

    Can the airline be run profitably : Yes

    How : Write off the debt as PM has proposed and allow the new CEO do his job

    Does new CEO’s use of the F word matter to the success of the air line : If CEO’s use of F takes Sri Lankan to profitability , he can use the F word at will ( no issues).. He can call him self the f-KING CEO. as the CEO he has to turn the company around. Please let him do his job.

  • 7
    2

    This is a very good essay that highlights the arbitrary and corrupt rule of the Rajapakses. As Shyamon says they ran Sri Lanka like their own inherited property. Why are these rascals not yet in jail. Yahapalanaya is too reasonable.

  • 8
    0

    While Prime Minister Wickramasinghe’s graphic expression is that Sri Lankan Airlines had become an economic landmine due to corruption that could explode the whole national economy his Buddy Charitha’s brother the SriLankan CEO Ratwatte dismisses Weliamuna Report and says that there is no Proof Of Corruption. Are we going to believe Ranil or the CEO Ratwatte.

  • 3
    2

    You know who crashed Sri Lankan Airlines? The Sachin vas Gunawardana family.and where is the corruption now?

    Sachin is the Chief organizer of the UNP May day rally.

    What kind of people hire thieves? People who want the services of thieves. why? ? Because they need how well to hide things in the future.

    Approve this comment Admin. I doubt you will because I’ve mentioned a name. In the end even your online news paper is influenced.

  • 5
    2

    Very well said Shyamon. No further comments. Bensen

  • 1
    1

    Sithum is putting th blame on Sajina Vaas. MR is the fellow who sent Emirates away to revenge

  • 2
    1

    Emirates did not make any actual profits. What they did was, they sold all the air crafts which the airline already owned and got that money in to the bank accounts and leased the same aircrafts on a higher price. It was the start of this whole mess up. Not only that, Emirates took all the profit making destinations like Sydney, melbourne, Amsterdam, to them selves leaving the sri lankan national carrier in huge crisis. No point blaming MR for his actions. Actually he did a great favour to the airline by getting new aircrafts to send off to many new destinations to gain profits. What the new gov should do is kick off the deadwood high paid useless managers from the airline(including the new CEO and Chairman) and get some young blood to the airline. It will be a great blow to the air line if the A350 deal seizes. Im sure chandrika would have profitted a lot from selling AirLanka to Emirates. Ranil and my3 might be thinking the same.

  • 1
    0

    And how do u come to say that the ones who are elected in Lanka compared to India are more literate ? Haha that’s a joke right ?? Or is it the whisky ?

  • 2
    0

    “SriLankan CEO Ratwatte Dismisses Weliamuna Report, Says No Proof Of Corruption”.
    Mr. Jayasinghe! Any comments?

  • 2
    0

    If you know how Emirates showed profits you will never praise the deal . They manipulated the assets and managed P&L the way they want. Srilankan never came under the Auditor General purview. When CEO Peter Hill was summoned to AG he never turned up since he had the immunity. That immunity was granted by JR but during his regime the airline was managed well as far as disciplined and honesty was concerned.

  • 0
    0

    Anybody knows where KA Sumanasekera is?

    • 0
      0

      @karunaratne Gamage

      ‘Anybody knows where KA Sumanasekera is? ‘

      He was abducted in a Green Van last night.
      He is now in the Batalanda torture camp

    • 0
      0

      @karunaratne Gamage

      He was abducted last night in a Green Van.
      He is now in the Batalanda torture camp.

  • 1
    0

    Mr. Jayasinghe: There is no use any more referring to that “Waliamuna Report” because the present CEO of SrLankan has rejected it in saying that there is “No Proof” of any of the allegations.I do not know what “investigation” this CEO has carried out. Yet, I believe, it is now the responsibility of the “Weliamuna Committee” to explain matters and give us the proof that they found in their investigation, as other wise, that Rs. 3 million spent on it will have to be recovered. You also make reference to the “inefficiencies” (nothing strange to us) of the then administration of the airline under MR. What is the DIFFERENCE you see NOW? Who are the people appointed to carry on with its administration NOW? Any IMPROVEMENT you can tell us?

  • 2
    0

    air Lanka was badly managed by the MR regime. Granted. That is why he was defeated and Super A team was elected to run the country and the airline. What have they done to turn the Airlines fortune around. Sweet b%##@r-all. Because they are equally incompetent and corrupt.
    We have no salvation from either of them

  • 1
    0

    KA SUMANASEKERA HAS BEEN REPLACED BY DOUGLAS

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