Stating that the ‘cure and the remedy’ of the Right to Information Act must not be rendered redundant or its purpose to ‘foster a culture of transparency and accountability in Public Authorities’ defeated, the Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka decided on 23rd March 2018 that SriLankan Airlines cannot argue that it is not subjected to RTI.
Sources at the Pilots Guild informed Colombo Telegraph that SriLankan had argued that it was outside the RTI long after it had filed its responses on the main merits of the Pilots Guild appeal before the Commission (in effect, accepting that it was under RTI) and had also acted in line with the RT Act since it came into force in February 2017.
Filing a late objection to the appeal however, SriLankan had submitted that it was not a company that was ‘incorporated’ under the Companies Act of 2007 as required by the RTI Act for it to become a Public Authority. Instead, it said that it was a company that was already in being and had merely re-registered in 2007 after the new Companies Act came into force. But the Commission did not accept this argument saying that SriLankan’s own certificate of incorporation indicated a contrary fact. The Pilots Guild’s team of lawyers appearing before the Commission was headed by Nalin Ladduwahetty, PC. SriLankan was represented by Shivaji Felix, AAL.
Disagreeing with the argument put forward by SriLankan, RTI Commissioners Mahinda Gammanpila, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, Selvy Thiruchandran, Rohini Walgama and SG Punchihewa pointed to Sri Lankan’s certificate of incorporation in 2007, which clearly stated that the company was ‘as if incorporated’ under the Companies Act, 2007.
The Commission order followed SriLankan refusing to comply with an RTI appeal filed by the Pilots Guild before the Commission asking for financial benefits of its senior executives including CEO Suren Ratwatte, the cost of the CEO’s personal flying training and other information related to the losses incurred as a result of the agreement and its later cancellation with Pakistan Airlines and the cancellation of the Order of Airbus A350 Aircraft.
The Commission had adjourned the matter for April 24th 2018 to continue the hearing into the merits of the RTI appeal and advised SriLankan that it had the right to appeal against the Order dismissing the initial objection to the Court of Appeal within one month.
Pilots Guild contacts told CT that the Commission had requested SriLankan to decide as to what approach it was going to pursue without delay as the Commission wished to dispose of the matter as soon as possible.