25 May, 2022


SriLankan Airlines Chairman Was Once The Key Prosecuting Witness Against President Gotabaya

SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage who was once supposed to testify against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the D.A. Rajapaksa Memorial case, concocted his plan in packing off over 400 staff on compulsory leave without pay, in the plush comfort of his own Softlogic Office Colombo Telegraph can reveal today.

The meeting was chaired by Chairman Pathirage himself and attended by Committee Members representing the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka, Nidhas Sevaka Sangamaya, Flight Attendants Union, SriLankan Airlines Aircraft Technicians Association (SAATA) and SriLankan Airlines’ Human Resources Management and held at 11 am on the 24th of April 2020 at the Softlogic Office.

Ashok Pathirage | Photo via his Facebook

Ironically Chairman Ashok Pathirage who also owns Asiri Surgical Hospital PLC was recently exposed when he was seeking ways to avoid paying Board of Investment (BOI) taxes. He was further exposed when he was caught violating his BOI agreement by depriving the poor of the free basic medical facilities that he was supposed to have provided them.

The national carrier Chairman Pathirage is now being viewed by many aviation professionals as committing a heinous crime in rendering 400 of his own airline staff and their immediate families destitute. This is especially after the government of Sri Lanka clearly instructed that a single employee not be terminated during this current Covid -19 pandemic.

However Chairman Ashok Pathirage’s appointment to the role he now holds and power he wields could perhaps be attributed to the fact that he once was appointed as a key prosecution witness and was lined up to testify in the prosecution of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and six other officials in the D.A. Rajapaksa Memorial case, that was quashed recently. This was reported in the state run Daily News newspaper dated 18th September 2018.

The national carrier Chairman started off his meeting stating that the airline needed to save US $ 75 million to help sustain it for the following three months.

Meanwhile what transpired was that Chairman Pathirage along with those in attendance decided to first protect themselves and then his favourites, his Executives and Senior Management, whilst throwing almost all 400 low end staffers under the (Air) bus.

It is still to be established as to why the respective union leaders at the meeting did not support their members and negotiate to help save their jobs.

Instead they decided to protect their own jobs and sources of income and opted to expose their members to face the horrors of being unemployed during the experienced ten week island wide curfew, sans any income.

For example the Flight Attendant Union representatives Dinesh Fernando and Charith Abeywickrema both Flight Pursers themselves draw well over Rs 7 lakhs a month as take home pay.

However in this instance they chose to remain mute and ensure that they and their permanent cadre of Cabin Crew enjoy the perks of being paid their wages and all their standard allowances, even though they were not flying.

An allowance named Productivity Flying Pay is usually paid to Cabin Crew when they are operating flights. However their negotiations ensured that their minimum number of 60 flying hours would continue to be paid, even though they were unproductive during this period, as they were not operating any flights.

Flight Attendant Union representatives Fernando, Abeywickrema and their group of Flight Pursers were in the interim paid a handsome Productivity Flying Allowance of US $ 1200 each in the last two months, besides their basic salaries, for merely staying at home.

A mere multiplication of that figure into just a group of only 125 Flight Pursers gives Chairman Ashok Pathirage an amount of approximately US $ 300,000 (for the last two months) that he sadly managed not to pick up.

If Chairman Pathirage was to take into account the valued total sum of Productivity Flying Allowances alone, which was paid to over 1300 Cabin Crew for being unproductive over the last two months, his eye balls would surely have sprung out of its sockets.

There are many other allowances that the Cabin Crew does get paid such as make-up allowances and tea allowances as well.

They also get paid an allowance for every day they are on annual leave too.

Had Chairman Pathirage also done a quick browse through the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by the Management and the FAU, he would have been able to discover many ways that he could have cut costs.

The above is a just a glimpse or rather a little scratch of the surface, if he or his Management Team were looking at avenues to cut costs.

However quite sadly the two FAU representatives chose to safeguard all their benefits and allowances and send 44 of its own union membership paying Cabin Crew, who was serving job contracts home. Some of them sent home had already been serving the airline for well over 5 years.

On the other hand the three Pilots who attended the meeting namely Captains Pravin Wettimuni (Management) and Captains Janaka Perera and Gayan Thudawe (ALPGSL) were simply no better.

Instead of adhering to the Labour Laws and ALPGSL Constitution, which stipulates that all members are to be treated equally, they decided to forego only a mere 17% of their wages and secure all other allowances, whilst also packing off 12 Captains,6 First Officers, 2 Flight Dispatch Assistants and 1 Junior First Officers home. Eventually another 30 senior pilots who were also on contract were sent on compulsory leave with no pay.

Incidentally a Management Pilot pockets a take home packet in the range of US $ 18,000. It appears to be normal for a loss making company like SriLankan Airlines, especially in a third world country to do so.

A closer look at the diabolical decision taken by Chairman Pathirage simply exposes him as a person who disregards government instructions, overrides Ministerial orders and one who demonstrated his ignorance in implementing cost cutting measures.

But that too seems quite normal for a person like him to behave in such a manner, especially after it is now public knowledge as to how he created this path for himself to occupy the top most seat in the national carrier. He appears more powerful now by merely not testifying against the President in the now quashed D. A. Rajapaksa memorial case and gives a tuppence to any instructions he receives from any government Minister.

What seems more hilarious is that, here is a Chairman who went on to disregard government instructions despite being cherry picked for this job and still demands the government to provide him funds to keep the airline afloat.

This behaviour was quite expected as Chairman Pathirage did not possess an iota of aviation business acumen prior to joining the national carrier.

For example whilst other airline business competitors in the region took higher pay cuts ranging from 50% to 75% to save their junior employees and wiped out all types of allowances and fringe benefits , Chairman Pathirage decided to shave off only a mere 25% (maximum) off his highest income earners.

For example his CEO Vipula Gunatilleka who incidentally is on a contract himself, still pockets a handsome six figure salary whilst he ensured that his very own 400 member staff was made penniless.

In hindsight if only 50% of wages was deducted off all those who attended this meeting, it could be comfortably said that almost 50% of those that were sent home could have been paid their monthly salaries.

A staff member who was terminated and who spoke on condition of anonymity said “My take home wage was under Rs 30,000. I simply cannot believe that the management terminated us during a time when the entire country and the world is experiencing this pandemic. We were stuck at home for two months during the curfew with no money. From being employed we were suddenly thrown out to face levels of poverty. What boggles many minds is as to why our Minister of Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga continues to remain mute, when many of the 400 staff members who were terminated are from his very own Gampaha Electorate. He seems to have forgotten that a General Election is around the corner. Also it is astonishing that other current government officials continue to also remain quiet when the majority of the airline employees turned up in their numbers to vote for the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They did this then to vote for a man whom they believed would help them save their jobs as the previous government was hell bent on making every move to close down the airline. Perhaps we were all wrong.”

Downsize or upsize or right size or whatever you may want to call it, it surely needs to be done. But not perhaps at a time like this, as the government of SriLanka has given its nationals the assurance that it is making every endeavor to safeguard them from this dreaded Covid-19 pandemic.

Chairman Ashok Pathirage needs to first start living and breathing the values of the airline, especially as a new entrant into this industry and start appreciating the fact that his employees are what really make this airline tick.

Perhaps he ought to also start demonstrating that his people are truly “his world”, before he could even think of telling his customers “You’re my world”. (By Janaka Ranaweera)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 34

    Pathirage, his Executives and Senior Management, and the union leaders in attendance are like the ugliest scavengers on earth – the Hyenas. They only show deference to Gota, the lion. After he’s done, they gobble up all what is remaining among themselves – pushing out the weaker animals to starvation.

  • 7

    I think Chairman Ashok Pathirage made a mistake.
    He should have fired all the PILOTS first.
    If necessary…..
    He can fire ENGINEERING staff and higher management.
    Sound like a good solution by leaders like MY3 or RW or SP.
    Might have happened under”Yahapalana” setup.

  • 13

    Looks like the Unions are running a Mud Slinging Campaign against Ashok Pathirage. When an airline faces a situation like COVID-19, it will be in a vulnerable situation of full closure, if the leadership does not take drastic actions. Making a lean organisation is better than being dead prematurely. I hope the President GR will not be misguided by this and remove Asoka as he is the best in the business to rescue this organisation. Do not give into Unions. Politicians can give all sort of promises about blanket “Zero Job Losses” but it depends on the organisation. How many people lost jobs in developed countries? That happened to rescue those organisations. Losing a job is a tragic situation. However, that is the reality in a situation like this. Hope Ashok will survive from this. This shows CT wants to make sure good people will not support GR. GR should be beware of this plot and not to take haste decisions.

  • 5

    “The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Presidential Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and 7 others have been discharged and released from the Avant-Garde floating armoury case”. News item

    “A Sri Lankan high court lifted the overseas travel ban on Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was linked to the case of embezzlement of nearly $1,85,000 public funds during the construction of the DA Rajapaksa Memorial and Museum”. News Item

    “Lasantha had foreordained his assassination in a poignant and prescient editorialleft for posthumous publication: “When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.” In late 2007, Lasantha had begun reporting on a corruption scandal involving the Sri Lankan military, then headed by Gotabaya. Gotabaya subsequently filed a defamation suit against Lasantha’s paper, and the State Intelligence Service began surveilling his phone. On Jan, 8, 2009, Lasantha alerted colleagues that he was being followed as he drove to work. Shortly after, he was stabbed in the head by unknown assailants clad in black and driving on motorcycles. ” News Item

    He is now surrounded by war criminals, has pardoned convicted murderers of children, and is readying this country for an authoritarian government, which his supporters seems to be thrilled about, as they ignore the many crimes against him that have vanished into thin air, or is it misplaced loyalty?

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • 14

    Coldumbo Telefart doesn’t need to lecture a veteran businessman on how to run a business. Stick your nose where it belongs.

  • 17

    The description that AP was a prosecution witness is sketchy. If a witness is called to testify that say at sharp 11:00 AM the color of the light displayed in the traffic control was red it is one thing. But if he were required to testify that at a given time and date he saw the accused stabbing the victim is another, which is more grave than the first. If some light is shed with regard to AP’s involvement in the case then we are in a position to visualize better. It appears to me that the services of contact would not be obtained for the stated 3 months. If that is so then the action taken by Sri Lankan is much milder than some other Airlines and establishments in the other part of the world. One may say that then why not the same rule by applied to the CEO and not the minions. All these fellows hire the so called cream on “contract basis” to pay “an attractive salary”. Do we get value for money? NO. During “Yahapalana” times Telecom CEO got Rs 10 Million a month. What was the return? High debt levels.

  • 5

    set a thief to catch a thief is the motto in this sad sorry disillusioned nation of pariah cheap crooks where you scratch my back whilst I scratch yours has become the national motto.
    my earlier assertion of the present chairman of the Kotama Uda airways has been proven right. he will milk the business to high heaven.?
    the less said it will be better in this nation of petty crooks who make merry when they get into positions where they can accumulate and hide their ill-gotten wealth.

  • 9

    Sri Lankan is about a billion dollars in the red and has been a white elephant for many years. Just shut it down. We don’t need mismanaged, loss making flag carriers. Mismanaged, loss making Thai Airways is on the verge of shutting down, too.

  • 7

    It looks like CT is running out of material. So, they are developing best selling fictions. In a business, there are many type of employees, casual full-time, casual part-time, permanent full-time, permanent part time, contract basis, performance basis contract etc.etc. There are reasons for these categories. It is based on impact to organisation, not having the particular organisation. Accordingly, organisations invest money on each employees by training them and awarding them. When an organisation face a crisis like this, the decisions are taken according to the risks. To survive as a business, who should go out gradually is decided. Some are temporarily stand down. Some are asked to take own leave. If they don’t have, it would be no pay. Some employees are important for long term for the organisation and they are paid to retain them as replacement and training would cost more time and money. CT writer thinks that running an a multi-billion work air line is akin to running a boutique at a junction. These articles are good for idiots who only know to hate GR. My message to GR and AP is not to give up and make this den a profit making efficient airline.

  • 5

    Changing colors is nothing new to Businessmen. One time when SLFP took power from the Ministry curtains were changed from Green to Blue color. This is the cheap political culture of Sri Lanka Do you all know why the color of CTB busses are Red and Blue. Because of SLFP and Leftist combined government that started CTB. They also say, Cant Trust Banda

  • 7

    Most of the Mid-Level and below Staff at Srilankan Airlines are like domestics.
    Every Head of State had used this Airline for their own purposes.
    a] President Premadasa gave top priority for his son-in-law to transport Flowers from Nuwaraeliya to Japan.

    b] President MaRa appointed his Brother-in-law as Chairman who took over the Air-Hostesses as his toys.
    If I am not mistaken even a Pedigree Pup was also Airlifted from overseas flouting flight schedules.

    Well then the present Hamu has terminated 400 odd employees, who are mostly from Gampaha[ as per this essay ] . The Minister who oversees this Airline is also from Gampaha who apparently has no say in the matter.

    The present Chairman who survived giving Evidence against President Gota must have obviously taken a Leaf from Charles Dickens………
    ……..It is not the strongest or the most intelligent of species that survive; It is the one most adaptable to change…….

  • 6

    Not only Sri Lankan Airlines, all loosing state enterprises should be pruned for excess staff, and excess salaries and perks.
    Does the airline make a profit to benefit the people, should be examined.
    Do we need an airline which loses billions and which is used by only a fraction of Sri Lankans to travel abroad.
    What is the “prestige” in running an airline at a loss when some people do not have sufficient food to eat.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.