25 September, 2020

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SriLankan Airlines: A Tale Of State Abuse & Mismanagement

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

It is now convenient to blame the Rajapaksa administration for all the ills and losses of SriLankan Airlines. There is no doubt, the former administration plundered the airline for 10 years and did immeasurable damage through their “unqualified political lackeys”, as described by Minister Kabir Hashim. However, that is not the sum total of it. Every administration, commencing 1989 must take its fair share of responsibility for the present situation of the national carrier.

Key to this tragedy is the active participation of the state in managing the affairs of the airline through successive Boards of Directors, appointed not based on relevant professional capabilities and experience in corporate governance but on loyalty to political parties and personal friendships with party leaders.

In fairness, President JRJ having entrusted the airline to Capt. Rakitha Wickramnayake and a Board comprising of several Public Servants and two Industry Captains, never interfered during first six years of the airline’s operations. A Presidential Commission appointed in 1986 to inquire into affairs of Air Lanka found many irregularities and financial mismanagement. It faulted the board members of servitude to the first Chairman/MD, instances of conflict of interest and negligence. It was a case of breach of trust placed on them by the Head of State.

The second Board headed by a Civil Servant with industry captains of the likes of DS Jayasundera (Hayleys) and MTL Fernando (Ernst & Young) made a sterling contribution and were responsible for developing and implementing strategies which resulted in the airline discontinuing Treasury handouts. Sadly, by then, the Board had been dissolved due to a change of Head of State.

The third Board was appointed by President Premadasa. The Chairman/MD of this Board lasted less than three months and was succeeded by a senior SLAS member with Secretary to Treasury, a lawyer, a Businessman friend of the President and another young Businessman (who later became the President’s son-in-law) as board members. President Premadasa and the all-powerful Secretary to Treasury were the only persons issuing instructions to Chairman/MD. Two directors from state banks were appointed much later. During the tenure of this Board which ended abruptly with the assassination of President Premadasa, the airline financed their own operations without Treasury handouts except in the case when an order was placed for 2 new Airbus A320 and 5 new Airbus 340 aircraft (subsequently reduced to 3). During the tenure of this board, they voted to grant two sets of free tickets annually for life, to retiring Board members. President Premadasa upon hearing it ordered the Board to rescind the board decision. Interference in recruitment and appointments, especially of Pilots, Cabin Crew and Overseas Managers commenced during this period.

President Wijetunga appointed a retired General as Chairman/MD with two Air Vice Marshals and a UNP lawyer as Executive Directors to assist him. In short, all of them were clueless in commercial aviation. They had no knowledge to contribute in key areas such as Marketing, Finance, HR, Engineering, Service Delivery etc.

From its inception, the national carrier came under the purview of the President. The Chairman/MD reported to the President. No interference was tolerated from cabinet ministers and bureaucrats. This practice changed in 1994 when the national carrier was assigned to the Ministry of Tourism.

Much is said, quite rightly, of the manner in which aircraft were utilized by President Rajapaksa, for his overseas visits disrupting regular operations. He took this practice to dizzy heights resulting in the loss of millions of dollars by the airline.

Prime Minister Premadasa boarded a London bound flight which went to Zimbabwe carrying him and his delegation for a conference, before proceeding to London. Once installed in the Presidency, he visited only SAARC countries. However, two aircraft were always taken out of regular operations as the old Tristar aircraft were unreliable. During his visits to Delhi, Islamabad and Dhaka, the public were informed he travelled in regular commercial flights. He would travel in a regular flight to Chennai designated as a Commercial Flight. Flight departure was based on astrological times and not the scheduled time. The aircraft would disembark regular passengers in Chennai and proceed to the President’s destination designated as a VVIP flight. It would then return to Chennai designated as a Ferry Flight, board passengers who would have waited at the airport for around six to eight hours and return to Colombo as a Commercial flight. Ticket sales in the Colombo/Chennai flight would be frozen 72 hours prior to departure to enable intelligence services to vet all passengers booked in the flight. It was a deception all the way but for public consumption, the President travelled in a regular flight. A special Tristar aircraft was dispatched to Kolkata carrying the gold plated barrier and canopy for the Sri Maha Bodhi and then trucked to Bodh Gaya. No payment was received for any of these flights.

As this writer recollects, President Wijetunga did not undertake any foreign visits during his brief Presidency.

His successor President CBK too utilized SriLankan Airlines aircraft for overseas travel. She used commercial flights as well as commandeered aircraft from the national carrier. A Tristar aircraft with its crew was taken to Seoul on a state visit and kept for three days. An Airbus A340 was taken to Antigua Bay in the Caribbean via Frankfurt and kept for the duration of the visit. An A340 was taken to Doha, Qatar on state visit despite availability of regular flights. Invoices for such flights were eventually settled by the Presidential Secretariat. However, money spent compensating passengers for delayed flights, missed connections and cargo not uplifted had to be borne by the national carrier.

Presidents Premadasa, Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa are all shareholders of the cumulative loss of the airline in excess of Rs 140 billion. It was unthinkable for our People’s Presidents to travel in regular commercial flights, as done by great leaders such as Lee Kuan Yew.

Presidents Premadasa and Wijetunga granted traffic rights to two foreign carriers at a time Sri Lanka had a restricted aviation policy. There were hardly any Sri Lankan migrant workers in Jordan and Lebanon at the time. The sole reason was the local GSAs of these carriers were close confidants of the two Presidents. These two carriers became notorious in undercutting Air Lanka in the European and Middle Eastern markets.

In the run up to privatization and handing over management to Emirates, there were only two persons in favour of privatization i.e. President CBK and deputy Finance Minister GL Peiris who had to find the money to keep the national carrier in the air. The rest of the cabinet of ministers, government MPs and the Opposition were all against privatization for different reasons. Official travel was in First / Business class full fare tickets paid for by the government. Such tickets were often returned for refund, two discounted Economy class tickets purchased for person concerned and spouse using refund vouchers and tickets sent to the Chairman/MD for upgrade. Ministers, MPs and senior officials could not bear to part with this unique facility. They feared privatization would put an end to it.

Much has been said of offloading revenue passengers to accommodate a Presidential delegation. CEO Peter Hill refused as it involved the entire Business class cabin. Had it been two or three seats, request would have been accommodated by offering booked passengers free tickets to travel another day. Many a passenger would change travel dates for a free ticket plus a refund of paid ticket and none would be the wiser. The fact is that revenue passengers have been bumped off not only for VVIP and VIP passengers but even for free ticket holders, from the inception of the airline. Sometime in 1992, a strange practice was put in place for a short period. A Board member or one of several Head Office Managers was assigned to be present at the Airport each night in an effort to facilitate quick solutions for difficult situations. On a night when it was this writer’s turn, the Airport Manager informed, the flight to London was full and First Class was overbooked by two passengers. A check of the Passenger list indicated a Director and daughter holding free tickets for travel in First class. I requested the Airport Manager to inform the Director the flight was full and to travel the next day. I was later informed the Director had insisted on travelling as she was accompanying her daughter to USA for admission to University. The Chairman had been woken up, who issued instructions to off-load revenue passengers and uplift the Director and daughter. Since I worked closely with this particular Chairman, I got away with a ticking off for not knowing and understanding the world in which I lived!

During the Premadasa Presidency, a colleague of mine who was Manager in Singapore waived excess baggage charges for 80 kgs and charged for balance 80 kgs from a deputy minister (no longer alive) to transport a Cooker and Washing Machine. This grandee was a close confidant of the President. A complaint was lodged with distorted facts which resulted in the Manager being recalled to Colombo. In contrast, sometime in 2003, this writer, then serving as SriLankan Airline’s Manager in France received a call from a cabinet minister (no longer alive) informing he was travelling by vehicle from Brussels to Paris to join the SriLankan Airlines flight, he might be a bit late and if that be the case, I should hold back the flight. I informed him flight departure as at 1410 hrs and he should kindly be at the check-in counter no later than 1325 hrs if he wished to join the flight. He rang off after reminding me he was a minister! He did not check-in by 1325 and the flight was dispatched at 1410 hrs. A massive complaint was lodged in Colombo of my rude behaviour which Peter Hill marked File & Forget. Under Emirates management, staff did not need to fear to do what was right for the airline whereas under state management, doing what is right for the airline could easily result in punitive action or worse.

President Rajapaksa commandeered an aircraft and proceeded to Rome in November 2014 to meet the Pope. Minister John Amaratunga (then an Opposition MP) was invited to join the delegation which he accepted. The aircraft taken off the national carrier’s fleet for the trip, remained with the group for two days in Rome and one day in Milan. Neither Minister Amaratunga nor his Party had any qualms in his travelling in an aircraft which resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, compensation and expenditure. Privilege of kissing the Papal ring took precedence over taking a principled stand against the abuse of state resources. Much has been said of the flight diverted from KL to Singapore for the sole purpose of picking up former Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and his wife. Fact is Wickramasinghe diverted the flight in order to transport a cabinet minister who was in Singapore and was summoned to Colombo. The Wickramasinghes too hopped into the flight. The worthy minister is a cabinet minister in the current administration as well.

These are but a few examples to assist the public to understand the manner in which the state has managed and its leaders have abused the national carrier. Such instances took place in the thousands between 1989 and January 2015.

Social media is agog with abuses, acts of mismanagement and bad decisions during the Rajapaksa era. It is as it should be. The missing part is the prosecution of the miscreants which is yet to materialize. It is this writer’s contention, history will repeat itself. The culprits will escape punishment similar to offenders during previous administrations.

Airlines fully owned by the state cannot be found in the world over other than in SAARC countries and in Africa. These airlines are worse managed than our airline. Reputed Middle Eastern carriers though state owned, are managed professionally with no input or interference from the state. In the west, airlines are either privately owned or else the State is a minority shareholder.

The national carrier lost Rs 16.5 bil in 2014/15. The Chairman is on record stating losses have been reduced drastically but another loss making year is inevitable. Many loss making airlines, judging from quarterly figures are expected to declare a year end profit. Their profitability is largely attributed to the reduction in fuel prices, the single largest cost factor for most airlines. It generally accounts for around 40% of expenditure. Manpower cost of carriers in the west amounts to around 25% – 30% of expenditure whereas at SriLankan Airlines, it is around 15%. Even if previous year’s loss is reduced by 50%, it does not speak well for the revenue increasing and cost saving measures adopted during last one year.

Meanwhile, it is understood Pilots, Cabin Crew and Engineering unions are demanding their annul increments which the company cannot afford to pay. At a recent stormy Pilot’s Guild meeting, its President had requested members to consider foregoing increments which had not been well received. Some Pilots supposedly may consider request provided the new CEO and CCO would set an example by taking a voluntary salary reduction themselves.

This country did not learn its lesson from the failures of Air Ceylon. The undeniable fact is the state is simply not capable of managing an international airline. Despite all the glorified statements by cabinet ministers present and past, fact remains, 27 years of state management has been an unmitigated disaster.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    All state organisations of the past and especially during MR s Regime has been directed to the benefit of the ministers and their henchman not the benefit of the country. No one is accountable. These corrupt individuals must be made to account. Unfortunately in this country no politician is accountable. Unless the politicians and their henchman are made to account no government institution will be run professionaly. It is interesting that even the present regime has 93 ministers when it was managed earlier with about 15 ministers. Why this excess? It is to give the corrupt ministers an opportunity to earn money. It is interesting that only one minister has ended up in jail in the whole of the 67 years of independence. That was Marrikkar in 1958. In spite of many a allegation no one else has been made to account. Lets face it this is corruption at the highest level in the UNP and SLFP regimes.

  • 11
    4

    SriLankan Airlines: A Tale Of State Abuse & Mismanagement —– the state never abused anything. It was the Rajapaksa buggers who abused the whole country and the gamay buggers kept voting him in.

    • 4
      3

      yeah the rajapakses abused the sun goat in mullavaikkkal royally…sad da?

    • 7
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      gamay buggers? are you seriously saying that? if you haven’t noticed, the article is about how the airline was mismanaged since 1989. but all you got out of it was, rajapaksa’s mismanaged everything :D

    • 3
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      there was actually a very dark man with mustache from the North and east who slavishly pandered to all the abuses whether under Peter Hill or Nishanta W. He had been sent home for making false claims like charging the airline 2 salaries and also getting Airlanka to copy for his mothers orthopedic shoes claiming that it was for his wife.

    • 2
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      To return to the very dark man for the North and east with a mustache, one day he went to a reception and told a gathering of people that the Chairman of the Airline was highly unsuitable because he did not have a degree. Little did the very dark man from the North and east know was that among those listening to him was the wife of the Chairman. Needless to say our black mustachioed friend was given an excellent briefing by the then Chairman, a captain of industry.

  • 3
    0

    A super piece on the political interference at Air Paradise.
    Blame none, but the political masters who played ” pandu ” with the setup.
    Kudos to the professionals who work at UL, holding the airline together amidst interference.

  • 9
    0

    Fabulous article Rajeewa.
    Thank you for highlighting many areas that remained ambiguous until now.
    Superbly explained and so very true.
    Keep going Rajeewa and please do write a weekly column on this topic.
    You are a legend in this area and subject.
    It is a pity as to why anyone with an ounce of a brain would not seek his help even as a consultant at this stage.
    Ajit Dias as a Chairman has no bloody clue about even basic aviation.
    CEO Capt. Suren Ratwatte is a pony trying to compete the Derby run by thoroughbreds
    The Board of Directors are all in it for the free ride.
    If these guys are the ingredients to make a perfect ‘dish’, all we could ever end up making is a watery and tasteless ‘kiri hodhi’.

  • 9
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    This is the simple truth as to how various Governments regardless of the Color has been abusing the National Carrier.Though much of the problems of the Airlines have been rightly attributed to the Rajapakse regime,as a person who has served the Airline during Airlanka/SriLankan days I could very well say it was during the Premadasa era the Airline was politicized most.

    It was headed by an ageing Bureaucrat who was spineless and always awaited for Directions either by the President or the all powerful Secretary to the Treasury. SEctretary to the Treasury was in fact the defacto Head of the Airline deciding on every aspect of the Business whether it is the appointement,promotion or even transfer of key people.While no country head was appointed without his blessing he even used his veto powers to override any valid appointment to make way for his choice of candidate though unqualified to hold such a post.There were some managers who managed to serve Overseas for a long period of time due to their association with the Kingmaker and no matter how their performance has been poor they could not be touched or reprimanded by the Head Office.

    Even at the time, spurious Consultants were recruited. while One such was a Indian national looking after the Airport operations of Indian Airlines in Colombo ,there was another,an empty headed Son of an ex SEnior Police Officer who was close confidante of the President.

    While the escapades of the Director(son in law) is well documented even other Directors used the Airline as their personal property.Upgrading of politicians and their close associated were Oder of the day and excess baggage their right.Any Manager who dared to defy such expectations would have to face consequences which the Management did not have any say.

    • 0
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      Ha ha PS had a good run. A good bugger too.

      I do give it to the king maker who got down the Jetley/Mahajan consultancy to right the ship. They were professionals. They were ahead of the curve. I learnt much more from the Duo, than any local expert in commercial aviation.

      When Premadasa exited, so did the board and so did the consultancy. That was a mistake.

      I recall telling the New Directors as our paths met in Europe, that they made a wrong call.

      • 0
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        vishvajith

        glad to know there was at least one person at UL who has learnt something from the consultancy of Jetley/Mahajan.With all due respect most of us at the time did not think much of them and their track record at Air India too did not speak much.You would know very well how they managed to right the Ship

  • 2
    0

    Thank You Mr Jayaweera for your summation.

    Having listened to the many beneficiaries of this valuable perk, there is NO likelihood of any of them giving up access to this highly desirable honey pot.

    The people had better accept that they will continue to be screwed for some time to come.

  • 6
    0

    Rajeeva,

    Wonderful insight on the past involvement of government in the management of the airline.
    That said, given the present situation of certain ministers common to the previous regieme yet trying to get their favours done, would not finding a suitable avenue for privatization be the practical way forward? The government has indicated intensions to bear the accumilated debt in order to make the airline a fresh in terms of balance sheet and then handover to a willing external party.

    Clearly it has been communicated that the parties that have offered to even consider taking up the airline, require changes in the staff head count and a change in the average age of staff as well as a reduction in the power or removal of unions.

    In the bigger picture or greater scheme of things, it seems these changes regardless of a 3rd party taking over are the need of the hour.

    Senior staff in UL are awaiting the possibility of a VRS scheme to get ablarge pay day and leave in a high. However one mist consider this airline as a business, if the goal is to make money, then unnecessary spending should be avoided.

    Over the past 8 ueara or so the recruitment of staff has grown significantly. However there are a decent number of which happen to be university graduates, there have also been 2 batches of management trainees. Majority of these employees are already recognized as high performers in the organization.

    Given that they are talented and educated, work at a leasser cost than most senior staff, perhaps a relooking at the retirement age is in order. Getting the same work done at a potentially more efficient level at a lower cost seems is perhaps more practical.

    An area of major concernt hat nobody seems to address is the excessive staff at the HR department. This depart is filled with staff who barely have any qualifications. Certain executives barely have the knowledge on what the purpose of an HR department is. Some of these staff have paper qualifications with no background. Would you believe that my firends who have contacted this HR department several times over the years have found that the so called HR executives cannot even provide an external party with a brief idea of what role a particular department plays in an organization. This is apalling, furthermore why on Earth would a staff strength of 50+ be needed in the HR department.

    If indeed a VRS system is introduced, it would be a further cost to the airline and require even more funds. However if that is the only possible scenario, the management needs to ensure the VRS is targetted at the right people. Younger talented individuals should not be eligible for this scheme so as to ensure there isnt a talent drain which would be detrimentatl to the airline. If a VRS doesnt sort this out, a compulsory retirement scheme clearly targeted at non performing staff has to be carried out. If further action is needed, the early retirement of elderly staff will need to be enforced. Current retirement is at 69 years, a minimum adjustment down to around 55 years will be absolutely necessary. At least for the next 3 to 4years.At the same time the bootlickers such as Snr. Manager Government and Public Relations who has licked more than boots as of late in order to ensure the CEO was overruled and thus he be granted a 2 year contract of employment on same perks and benefits even though he turns 60 years next month. This man has done favours for all through his plenthora of connections with regard to passports, visas, police fines etc. He is even reported to be an addict of female escorts and involved in the support of same to powerful individuals. He also has managed to use his influence in past for his own offspring and the extent to which remains to be seen as his intentions appear to be less that forthcoming and most certainly sneaky.

    It is an absolut requirement that contracts for staff over 60 years unless employed for a specofic purpose be terminated. This cannot apply for Cheif officers a believe as they have been receuited purely extwrnally for an identified need and task.

    However open to suggesstions. Rajeeva, surely you are the man with the potential to bring these concerns to light at this time.

    Look forward to discussions to follow.

    Saman

  • 3
    1

    This is an excellent article however might fall on deaf ears….Bravo Mr. RAJEEV JAYAWEERA….for a fantastic insight into the the details…..excellent article will all the facts.

  • 3
    0

    Hi Rajeeva,

    Have been following your articles for a while now. Clearly you have much interest in the national carrier. There is much depth to the topics you have covered, it is also very evident that you are getting your information through reliable sources, same can be said for a few active commentors above.

    It is very disheartening how everyone seems to assume that the staff of our beloved national carrier are similar to or worse than some lazy government service workers whos main objective would be not to miss their tea apppintments or lunch dates.

    This is most certainly not the case, staff is not to be blamed for the shortcomings in management, quite frankly there are very senior stakeholders involved in such.

    Perhaps as Saman has said, there are excess staff that need to be handled properly, however a clear plan for same is needed. I ha e friends who are decent hardworking individuals in this airline, the commitment and dedication with which they work must be commended. However sadly it is always the lousy rodents that do anything but work that are highlighted and resultantly the entire workforce is blackmarked.

    I truly believe young blood with proper educatiobal background and proven talent is what is needed for the future of this airline. Reconditioned vehicles can only last so long, they also need expensive maintainance and are lagging in efficiency one would note.

    Interesting to see views of the readers.

    A concerned yet informed citizen.

    • 3
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      What Rajeewa has stated is public knowledge and anyone having worked at UL during the period in question would bear testimony to same.Politicians regardless of the color have always being using the National Carrier as their personal property and it is valid even of date under so called Yahapalanaya.Every single President/PM from JR to RW is equally guilty in varying Degree in the abuse of the Airline.

      With regard to Staff having such a large workforce for a fleet of 22 Aircraft obviously is a serious issue and needless to say has to be reduced one way or the other.The difficulty would be as how to weed out the unproductive ones.Beginning towards the latter part of EK Management days the rot started to set in where staff promotions were more or less based on allegiance to Divisional Heads rather than on merit.This created a separate class of Senior Managers(now even General Managers)at the expense of hardworking staff and they continued to survive/thrive under last Chairman/CEO

      If ay redundancy is to take place these are the lot one first has to take a look at.It should not matter what the VRS payments are going to be for if would be worse off in the long run if the misfits are being kept.

      To begin with it would be a good idea to revise the retirement Age to 58 with immediate effect keeping inline with the state sector and if needed extension could be considered on case by case depending on exigencies of services but certainly not on whims and fancies of Politicians or even retired Politicians(as in the case of Snr Manager Govt RElations)

      There always have been cases from the beginning where extension of services have been made on reasons other than valid justifications but the recently highlighted case as the above certainly take the Prize for there is absolutely no justification whatsoever to consider such given the degree of importance of the Job.Those who have worked in the Middle east would certainly recognize the similarity of the Job where every company maintains a Local in their staff cadre to attend to Visas/Exit Permits and related Government matters and never it would be a Senior Position.

      I wonder what his Job Description and KRAs were ? It surely must have been the same since he joined the Sales Department in early 90s.

  • 2
    0

    Rajeeva: Fist let me give you and the readers the background as regards the Presidential Commission appointed in 1986. You must know how and why that Commission was appointed. This inquiry was “Prompted” by tow persons. One was a pilot who was subjected to a disciplinary inquiry for straying into Iraq, a country under war at that time, as a result “No Fly Zone” for civilian flights. When he “strayed” into that “No fly Zone” he was given 30 minutes time to “get out” failure would result in “shooting down” the flight. He panicked and as per rules, he made a “flight plan” and sought permission to land at Daharan International Airport, but which time of waiting and circling, almost ran out of fuel. However, with the timely intervention and efforts of the then Country Manager of UL based in Daharan the flight was given permission to land. On arrival at the base (Colombo) this pilot was, immediately suspended and took no time in instituting disciplinary action. He was issued with a charge sheet, (although the then Chairman/MD wanted and insisted that the pilot be dismissed forthwith)and an inquiry commenced by a panel. While the inquiry was going on and by the second day, he knew what was his punishment going to be, because he could not “defend” himself at all of any of the charges leveled against him. He also knew a “Dismissal” means his whole career was over and lose his life. Generally that is the FATE of a pilot who losses his job due to a “Dismissal”.

    Now you must be wondering who this pilot was. He was very closely “related” to the President JRJ by way of marriage to a daughter of his own younger brother. The rest of his “DEFENSE” you could decide for yourself. Before the 3rd day of the inquiry, the “ORDERS” came to immediately to “STOP” the inquiry and that was “tragic” end of the disciplinary inquiry. When this happened, there were many a “disgruntled” pilots who were disciplined by the then Chairman?MD who was also a Commanding Pilot. Among them was a very “close associate” of him from Air Ceylon days and who was also one among many responsible in bringing Capt. Wickramanayake as the Chairman/MD of Air Lanka. This “Pilot” tried so many times to gain his “Command” Position so many times through that association, but the Chairman/MD did not budge an inch to do it, because he failed all the tests that were required to be passed to gain that promotion. So this “Group” “Engineered” the process to get rid of the Chairman/MD to which the President’s own son was also made use of, because of “relationships” and “close association” of some of the pilots. that is how the Presidential Commission came about.

    Now it is interesting to note who comprised the Commission. One member was the “Brother-in-law” of the “Suspended pilot”. Another was a Judge whose son was terminated from the services of Air Lanka. The other member was a lawyer from the UNP. Do you need any more details to tell the tale and the outcome of that ‘INQUIRY commission”. The only “outcome” was the Chairman/MD and the entire Board of Directors were asked to RESIGN. The REST who initiated and did the ground work for establishing the Commission lived happily thereafter.

    All the above I related, because your assertion that “Board Members Servitude to Chairman/Md” was a factor for their “Dismissal”. You are wrong.

    Now Mr. Rajeeva: I have read so many of your contributions as regards our National Carrier, UL and all that gave a very clear picture what has gone wrong all these years. Apart from that I also note that your were also one contender of a “TOP POSITION” of the now functioning Sri Lankan Airline. You are also an “Industry Expert” with your long years of working experience. Now I have a question for you: WHAT IS/ARE YOUR PROPOSAL/PROPOSALS TO TURN AROUND THIS AILING NATIONAL CARRIER?

    NB: Please do not think I am trying to “Interview” you for that “TOP POSITION” you have applied and not even called for it.

    • 0
      0

      Wow! Douglas. I recall you had a front line seat at these events.

      The same Presidential Commission in ’86, was shocked to learn that a Country Manager for UL, who ended up being the CMO later had made arrangement to charter aircrafts to take Srilankan Refugees to Berlin.

      A bloody smart lot we were.

      We can’t blame the politicians all the time.

      We too must say Mea Culpa.

    • 0
      0

      Douglas

      If you could go back in time I am sure you would have been in such an Interview Panel

      Cheers

  • 2
    0

    Rajeewa- You have exposed Airlanka/Srilanka well and truly but you
    are just pouring water on ducks back as reports by commissions and inquiries are collecting dust at the Chairman’s office and no one sits on it to ponder, what next step to be taken to restructure the airline to make profits, or at least make no loss. For the last one year or more, many people of all walks of life have commented on the colossal waste of people’s money, on the airlines & that too in foreign currency(@ Rs.140/- a USD) but the current govt. did nothing to stop the rot in the national carrier as national pride did not permit the govt. to go in for foreign expertise to restructure the airline. With the money wasted on the national carrier,we could have cleared all our national
    debts. Reading the recent report sent to ICAO, by an unlawfully dis-
    missed Capt, one could be in a shock to learn that some pilots have handled millions dollar worth aircraft just like toys,narrowly avoiding
    air mishaps . A book could be written as more dirty linen available
    for washing in a book form.

    The ugly incidents happened in these two airlines for the past two decades, stink , except for a brief period when Capt. Rakitha Wick
    -remanake took charge of the airline. At least, tho’ there were few
    hic ups during his period, the Operations dept., including aircraft maintenance services, marketing and Inflight services, the nerve center of an airline, functioned perfectly without in fighting like today and the airline made profits and won awards. The reason for it was Capt. Wicks, assisted by foreign experts, was directly answerable to the President, JR and he never tolerated any interference by the other politicians, not even by the Aviation minister because the President (JR) stood by his word, unlike today’s flip-floppers.

    So Rajeewa, pls do not waste your valuable time, writing stories of this white elephant, as it will be treated as just reading material,
    unless the Govt. takes the writings seriously and agrees to privatise
    our airline with a promise of no interference by the govt. except dis
    -cussions on policy matters OR hand it over to another experienced airline with financial backing to run it for us, putting the pride aside. It is sad that the cream of management staff like you Airlanka had, are gone and political stooges and novices are trying to run the airline now, like a bus service. Some hearts burn when they read about the colossal waste of public money and unchecked corruption in the airline, which was once the pride of Sri Lankans and envy of Asian airlines.

  • 1
    0

    “Paradise Lost”: Well said. Now those still alive to see the Pride of A National Carrier” have to work at least through these dialogues to “Regain The Paradise”. I say it is possible; but the Government must STAY AWAY from its management after leaving it in the hands of a “COMPETENT BOARD OF DIRECTORS” who would and capable of adhering to NO NONSENSE administration of its affairs.

  • 0
    0

    There were many bootlickers during Premadasa era.
    Have they forgotten their past?
    It was a honey pot for all of them.

    • 2
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      Yes one of the bootlikers of the Premadasa era used to wait on the Chairman’s daughters like a domestic servant and carry the old fool’s motorola mobile phone. Since the chairman was a bit of a pervert, this airline executive use to regale him with dirty stories.

  • 5
    0

    Douglas

    Judging from your past and current comments, it would appear you have some knowledge of the inner workings at Air Lanka during start up years

    Have you heard of the Unholy Trinity of Douglas Wickramasinghe (Wicks) – Personnel Manager, Lakshman Welegedera – Manager Ground Handing and L Premeratne – Manager Saudi Arabia – all Sinhalese, who obtained Business Visas for Duty Travel using their positions, utilized free tickets, travelled to Canada and obtained political asylum?

    Yes, that Douglas Wickramasinghe did interview and recruit many including female cabin crew with less than 5 feet height when minimum requirement was 5 feet 2 inches (non on JRJ’s instructions by on Capt. Wickramanayake’s instructions).One was a Restaurant Hostess from Lanka Oberoi Hotel.

    Do get a copy of the Presidential Commission Report and educate yourself especially of how Capt. Wickramanayake paid a consultancy firm named Aero Space Finance Ltd for advising on leasing of 2 L1011-500 aircraft to British Airways. The agreed fee (one shot payment) of USD 25,000 was converted to monthly payments for 3 years the DAY AFTER lease agreement was signed with BA and how his side kick Shanmuganathan paid for the visual used for the ‘Birds of Paradise’ Drink Coasters. It would be right to say Capt. Wickramanayake was Rajapaksa’s avatar in the 1980. All details are available in the Commission Report.

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    Saman

    In my subjective opinion, the airline’s cadre issue is too far gone to be rectified with a VRS. Further, as observed in previous several VR Schemes, the majority who leave are the performers as they can secure employment whereas non-performers will remain due to difficulties in obtaining employment else where.

    Compulsory Retirement Schemes targeting non performers will not work. Company will be inundated with Fundamental Rights cases. Besides, most politicians will interfere to save their favourites, such as the case of the retiring Snr. Manager Govt. & Public Relations

    Key to addressing the issue is the lack of political will on the part of the government in changing mind set of people that the state is not one big Job Bank. Take a walk past Cinnamon Red hotel and you will get the gist of what I am saying.

    Unfortunately, all 7,000+ staff might eventually find themselves in the same position as experienced by Air Ceylon employees in 1978.

    On the issue of retirement age, I am of the view it should apply to Chief Officers as well. Date of Birth of all staff is not secret. In a properly structured organization, career and succession plans are drawn well in advance. Potential Chief Officers candidates need be identified and groomed, training needs addressed and the most suitable person spend the last one year understudying the incumbent to ensure a timely and seamless handover / takeover. Such a practice is not in place. Regrettably, the prevailing culture in most instances is that potential candidates are side lined or demotivated thus ensuring they leave the company.

    Fall out of negative national traits get further highlighted when the organization competes in an international environment.

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      Rajeeva,

      Agree with your sentiments that a VRS could potentially be adverse to the company situation with the true talent in the organization opting to leave causing a scarcity of talented staff. However is it not possible to offer VRS and management decides on whether application is accepted or not ?

      With regard to your concerns on the legal remifications of a CRS scheme, if a clear cut criteria for identification is highlighted, based on perhaps minimum years of service and staff grade (long years at low levels indicated inefficiency and sub level performance). Maybe if the airline staff evaluation records can be referred to identify further below par performers.

      The proposal to reduce retirement age to 58 is agreed, however an age of 55 seems more realistic a d help to adress current high cost high staff count.

      However if these dont work, what would you action plan to reduce staff be? Regardless to say let us all pls acknowledge staff reduction is needed.

      Saman

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        Saman or Mr M

        Interesting idea the retirement age of 55, do you suppose this applies to pilots (today they work until 65) and engineers (today 60) -in which case what is the replacement plan

        Feedback here is negative about the next level of (politically appointed- as comments here say) general managers who will inherit the management if all above 55 (including Chief commercial) is gone.

        What real options have you got in mind?

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          Navin,

          In general i would think a 55 year cap on age of service across the company would be ideal.whenever UL takes a batch of cadet pilots, there are many to apply and accordingly we have decent supply of pilots at mid level.

          I may not be an expert in this category but i would think it a good opportunity to train local pilots a d build up the tiers. Surely cadets need significant bond mechanisms in place.

          Engineers the same scenario should apply.
          If at all maybe curtail each category by 5 years lesser than present. A clear cut criteria based option to offer contractual based work for identified critical staff to help groom new layers of staff perhaps. This needs to be properly controlled snd not abused.

          Took a while to get some information about these GMs. It seems only 1 GM is a clear political apointee at the aviation college, however his performance in the area seems quite impressive. Another GM hs some questions raised about his past as country manager. The other two GMs are deserving of their position. Ive verified with multiple sources and the feedback on these two individuals are that they ideal for their positions. 1 individual is also reported to ha e lead his departments to very positive revenue advancements over the past 6-7 years or more.

          In fact rumour has it that the GM current at Marketing was intially in charge of sales, thus making the HWSirrelavant and outdated. However this mam who was ex election campaign manager for a former supervising senior minister used his connections to move this GM to marketing and safe guard his role. Furthermore few of these GMs are former management trainees with over 15 years experience.

          My sources also informed that UL has had 4 to 5 management trainee batches thereafter over the last 16 years. Clearly there is potential for groomong replacements.

          There is another fresh batch to be taken in the coming months, the timing of which could have been better.The errand boys need to be kept far away frm this airline.

          Just a few ideas Navin. Do share if you have more views to share.

          Saman

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      rajeewa,
      thanks for the excellent piece that records some of the classic happenings of the 1980s 1990s and 2000s. But do you remember the executive who used to walk behind a chairman carrying his oversized 1980s motorola phone and relate to him vulgar stories while the old perverted fool giggled away? Do you remember the story of the lost Whiskey and the executive who tried to put the blame on some minor staff? Do you remember the printing of the corporate diary where the map had Jaffna marked as Colombo and Colombo as Jaffna for some obscure reason. Do you also remember the manager in Oman whose wife filed for divorce after the manager was caught in bed with his housemaid? Do you remember the executive who used to help his Chairman get tailored suit, arranging for the Manager in Switzerland to send European cloth to Colombo which would then be sent to Hong Kong for the mager there to arrange for the tailoring? those are all old stories that need to be recorded.

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        Victor,

        I am sure there would be volumes to be written if details of this nature is to be highlighted and not many who worked at UL at the time would be spared.

        But what is the relevance to the subject ? The issue is the abuse of UL by the relevant Governments

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    Jurassic: Thank you. Sorry, I cannot stand witness to identify any one named in these comments. If what you say about them viz. “Obtaining Business visas on Duty Travel” is correct, they should have been very severely dealt with and terminated their services immediately.

    As regards knowledge on internal matters, if you followed the media during and after launching Air Lanka, all these were in public domain. This incident of “straying into war zone” received wide publicity for two reasons: (1) The “Safety” aspects of the Airline and (2) It was reported one of the passengers on board in “First Class” was a highly acclaimed Srl Lankan scientist who was attached to NASA. There were very many matters that came to public domain during the Commission’s sittings and so many of those related to internal matters. So it was “Public” knowledge. As and when matters relating to such subjects come up, I will use those to give in my comments.

    Thank you for directing attention to the Commission Report. There were two reports: (1) Interim Report and (2) Final Report published in 1987. I know (again through media) that both reports were sent to Attorney General to examine and take legal action against anyone responsible for any of the lapses brought to light by the Commission. Now how long; so far no one has been taken to courts. Then on the other hand NO ONE who has filed “Complains” received redress or settled their grievances. The only outcome was the resignation of the entire Board of Directors and the appointment of a new Board of Directors under the Chairmanship of Mr. Luxman De Mel, the then Secretary to the Ministry of Transport.

    Let us get on with the task of “Regaining Paradise”, without allowing it to be taken over by outsiders.

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    Hic hic, Douglas Wicks is backward tracking, he don’t remember himself from a previous live, that of asylum seeker. There are a few in the airline who remember Wickramasinghe a Personal manager who shamed everyone by using duty documents to get visa to Canada and then apply for asylum. Similarly will Rajeev Jayaweera too backward track from remembering his record at airline. Will he remember how he was a blue eyed boy of Dunstan “a chairman he worked closely’ because he was doing marketing and accompanying his daughters through airports. Will he remember being found out that he stole whiskey from company stores for his use- which he was transferred out by General Attygalla- another Chairman. Or that he used a gem of HR manager (ex)to get his promotions and allowances while he was in France and then broken promises, no marriage after honeymoon in his Paris apartment paid by airline. Will he remember his failure to be promoted by Peter Hill or Barry Brown that he left to Qatar airlines thanks to that gem of HR manager again. Will he remember Qatar airlines releasing him from his contract because he was a failure. Will he remember his failure as country manager Germany during Nishantha Wickramasinghe as Chairman. Will he remember his record of always looking for rich lonely women to marry. Those in glass houses…………

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      All that you say about is true about Rajeewa[Edited out]

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        Let’s assume that all that’s being said about Rajeewa is correct.Yet they have no bearing on what he has written about the abuse of power by the state and that cannot be disputed.

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    Can we please be civil. Let’s keep people ‘out’ and issues ‘in’ the conversation.

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      Matt. 7:1

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        Thanks for the reminder Navin.

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        Navin

        So,you seem to be a devout Christian.But why quote scripture when it has no relevance to the subject.Whatever mr.jayaweera’s personal issues are,they have no relevance to the Article.If there are inaccuracies lets point them out

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          Citizen or ex UL Employee- your identicon is same so tat is why I address both of you

          I am not a devout Christian not even a ex seminarian but I quoted scripture to let Norbert Anton know why people here are now exposing the true Rajeev.Rajeev is creating trouble for his former colleagues by indirect reference to them, so much so Norbert Anton even identified a former colleague by initials P S. People who believe Rajeev’s writing here do so because they think that he is a independent credible source but everyone knows that he is not objective and his intensions are not clean. So Rajeev must know that not to judge his former colleagues, otherwise he too will be judged in the same way he judges others with the measure he uses.

          Proverbs 13:3 he should know that by now

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            Navin

            Given that you are not claiming to be a devout Christian,your knowledge of scripture is commendable and made me to refer them to know what they mean.At least I am learning something here

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              We can quote 2Timothy 3:16 and to support my good faith

              or we could even be the devil quoting scriptures as in Matt. 4:6

              Which role we play will depend on Rajeev- it is up to him to
              write on any topic but if he bring his long forgotten ex colleagues in he has to face his long forgotten past too. Its only fair after all

              Exodus 21:24

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                how about John 8:7

                may be it is time to put matters to Rest

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                  Sorry for late post, wasn’t keen to write during all the eating. Rajeev should have read John 8:7 first, before he started his virtuous stories self praising condemning others . If you read the bile you know that in this case JC refused to act until he could not be indifferent anymore. We refused to counter Rajeev’s grand standing at his ex colleagues expense till it was unbearable. Rajeev needed to be exposed- 2 Peter 2:1-3

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    [Edited out] Please write instead of posting links – CT

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    Hi Navin,

    I heartily endorse your comments and vouch for some them.

    Bravo.

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    The Article was purported to highlight the abuse of national Carrier by successive governments and the writer to a greater extent succeeded in doing so.Any comments thereto were to be related to the issue as such.

    While most the readers just did that,it is so unfortunate that few ex colleagues of the writer elected the forum to grind their axes againgst him stooping so low as to bring about personal issues that have no bearing to the main issue of Government Abuse.To make matters worse even scriptures have been freely quoted to justify same.

    Those who are levelling accusations must certainly be ex UL staff and are using pen names instead of their real identities.Perhaps if the real names are known there could very well be counter accusations made againsgt them as well and more dirty linen would be washed in public.

    To those self professed evangelists let me say ,instead of trying to be so righteous please refer

    MATTHEW 7.4

    To all those ex UL staff let me say, please take your dirty linen elsewhere to be washed and keep CT as a Forum where meaningful and constructive ideas could be exchanged

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    Yes we are ex airline people, I thought we made that evident in our comments. Yes we are writing under identities but never multiple identities. So are you Shevan. Yes, we too could have accusations levelled against us, yes we admit that.

    But are we to remain quiet when Rajeev publishes here and in other places article/ stories that are self-praising virtuous stories that is condemning others. We believe in Matt 7:4

    We have no desire to wash anyone’s dirty linen in public. All references to Rajeev here are not personal, they refer to his conduct related to his work, even all comments related to his numerous alliances are because he either used his position in the airline or premises provided by the airline to do the dirty. We have not gone so far as to reveal a single name which we could have

    We acted as we cant be indifferent any more, Rajeev has forced us to act. As much as we would like to turn the other cheek Matt 5:39 he leaves us with no option but to seek the biblical guidance of Exodus 21-24

    So Shevan, please stop meddling in this, Rajeev opened himself up for this, he hasn’t had the full dose from us yet, if we do his near, dear and not so near and dear readers will know that all his rants are driven by personal motive and that he cannot vouch for his credibility

    So Shevan, here’s some divine guidance for you too Proverbs 26:17

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      Thank You for trying to provide divine guidance and accordingly I shall leave for Mad Dogs to fight it over the issue.

      But I have a question for you.Other than your claim.
      over Rajeevas efforts to condemn his former colleagues and all these accusations,do you have any views on the government abuse of the Airline which is the topic of the Article ? obviously as a person who would have survived many years at the Airline during many administrations you should be qualified to comment of same as well .( appreciate if you could please spare me of further quotes from Scriptures)

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    The loss of 140 billion by Sri Lankan is a crime against sri lankan citizen. A simple ego problem of Mahinda Rajapakse terminated the contract with Emirates who are managing sri lankan with profit. The President could have purchased a s aeroplane for his tour which costed very less than the lost amount. There are many airlines owned by states are running with much profit, safety record, punctuality, and award winning airlines.

    Why sri lanka state owned enterprises are loosing billions of rupees while the politicians promising hard work, good governance and accountability. Though every citizen work very hard for prosperity , the politicians do every actions to discredit our economy, management and politically motivated actions.

    The state owned enterprises lost which are billions can be used to uplift our people’s life much more but unfortunately we select our representatives who are making our destiny more harmful.

    Sri lankan, once called as paradise becomes hell now and the president who made it more bankruptcy hold responsible for crime against its own people.This is more than than the chemical weapon used by sadam Hussain again his own people.

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    A serious drawback of Social Media is, it gives an opportunity for even nobodies to become cardboard heroes.

    Having read both article written by Rajiva Jayaweera, I did not find any direct references to ex-colleagues by name or designation. In fact, the only reference by name is to a cabinet minister, which may have been best avoided.

    Some of the comments by commentators seem to emanate from those suffering from pathological problems.

    I endorse sentiments expressed by Shevan.

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    Are their any Virgins amongst the staff at Air-Lanka?
    IF so Pl.keep Namal Rajapakse informed!

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    ok that’s why yahapalanaya paying 40 Lacks a month to Ratwatthe, ha all these guys a thieves stealing poor sri lankans bread money, it will come down on their children you will see

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    Let’s not log a dead horse

    II Corinthians 2:6-8

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