7 July, 2020

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SriLankan Airlines’ Chairman Who Once Deprived The Poor Also Terminated 400 Airline Employees

SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage who earlier was reported to have deprived the poor of basic medical facilities as the Chairman of Asiri Surgical Hospital PLC, has once again been exposed as being the chief architect in terminating over 400 employees from the national carrier, besides sending scores of other employees on compulsory leave without pay.

Ashok Pathirage the national carrier Chairman was earlier exposed in an article published by Colombo Telegraph on the 30th of July 2017 titled “Asiri Hospital Wants New BOI Board To Help Facilitate Tax Evasion Whilst Continuing To Deny Free Services To The Poor.”

Ashok Pathirage

In that instance the Softlogic Chairman Pathirage besides seeking ways to evade taxation, failed to also honour his contract with the BOI, by denying the poor of much needed medical services such as offering them free OPD services and a free ward consisting of a minimum of ten beds.

However in his unprecedented new move now as the Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Pathirage has been unveiled as being the sole perpetrator who orchestrated the ouster of 400 staff, who besides also went on to blatantly disregard directives made by the government.

He in fact bull dozed his way over Ministers Bandula Gunawardane (Cabinet Spokesman), Dinesh Gunawardena (Ministry of Labour) and Prasanna Ranatunga (Minister of Aviation) making them nothing but mere muted puppeteers in this fiasco.

Despite being in the knowledge that local Labour Laws had been blatantly flouted, it is yet to be established as to why even the often eloquently spoken Minister of Labour Dinesh Gunawardena also chose to remain mum.

Earlier Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane reiterated the fact at several media briefings that the Cabinet of Ministers in consultation with the Employment Federation of Ceylon (EFC) had come to the conclusion that only a salary deduction of a maximum of 50% could be enforced upon any employee or a payment amounting to not less than Rs 14,500 need to be paid to staff during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the fact that the national carrier is viewed as a semi-government organization, the Government of Sri Lanka owns majority of its shares and is the sole investor who pumps in treasury funds and signs sovereign guarantees to keep its national brand in the skies.

The jobs of these 400 employees could easily have been saved if a more strategic approach could have been maintained.

However Chairman Pathirage who disregarded the option provided by the government to slash 50% of staff wages, opted to instead protect his executive staff and higher ups by slicing off a neglible portion such as 25% of their lucrative wages.

For example even his Chief Executive Officer Vipula Gunatilleka, who incidentally is also a contracted staff member, still earns a handsome six figure take home packet during these trying times.

Whilst Chairman Pathirage instructed his CEO Vipula Gunatilleka to make this decision, it can be confirmed that many of the high powered corporate Board of Directors were kept in the dark and unaware of these arbitrary decisions been made by Chairman Pathirage.

A reliable source close to a Director of the Board said “Many Directors were also shocked and left bemused that Chairman Pathirage had also gone on to make a decision to send all contractual employees on forced compulsory leave without pay. The Chairman needs to have decisions ratified, approved and minuted by the Board of Directors, prior to orders being given to those running the operation of the airline. It is quite evident that Chairman Ashok Pathirage is exercising and abusing his authority under the powers of an external force.”

A senior staff member speaking on condition of anonymity as he has been directly impacted said “For an international airline of repute that supposedly exercises good employer/employee ethics, I was shocked to receive an email from one of our Human Resources managers named Lasantha Liyanage which stated ‘We are compelled to inform you, that we shall be placing you on compulsory no pay leave for a period of 3 months from 1st April 2020 to 30th June 2020. However, this no pay period is subject to extensions at the discretion of the company’.”

He concluded by saying, “If all contract staff is sent on compulsory no pay leave, then the rule should be applied even to the current CEO Vipula Gunatilleka who is also under contract, but still enjoys the luxury of a part payment in wages.”

Chairman Pathirage’s actions and decisions taken as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appointed golden boy, now further fuels the underlying current and tension felt by the general public regarding the ongoing sibling rivalry between the current President and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

After all with Chairman Pathirage chopping heads of employees in such an unprecedented manner, it was Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who himself was once the champion and iconic Minister of Labour, who always looked into the best interest of employees. He in fact was responsible once for stamping the Labour Charter and ensured that matters were made more stringent in favour of the employee.

However despite this topic being circulated widely on many social media platforms, mainstream media houses besides carrying titbits on this topic, have strangely continued to remain quiet. (By Janaka Ranaweera

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Latest comments

  • 38
    15

    I think that it is time we stopped beating about the bush and acknowledged that after the Supreme Court also stopped standing up for us, we have a military dictatorship “for ever and ever”, and it’s time we stopped talking about small injustices.
    .
    I know it is already dangerous to speak out so bluntly, but what else can people like me who were never involved in any political party do?
    .
    Beyond saying that, I have no intention of doing anything about it. However, I do appeal to all Sri Lankans who have any sort of intelligence to recognise the brute fact.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe NIC 48 3111 444V

    • 17
      40

      Mr. Sinhala_Man,
      .
      Yes.
      .
      It is high time for you all to STOP beating about the bush.
      .
      You have a short memory.
      .
      There was two provincial elections last year.
      THE PEOPLE of this country overwhelmingly rejected yahapalana setup and it’s manipulaters.
      .
      And…..
      There was a presidential election on November.
      .
      People like “Whole Idiot” shamelessly worked against GR before, during and after election.
      .
      THE PEOPLE of this country selected GR as their PRESIDENT.
      .
      Now you idiots should stop trying to impose your will upon us.

      • 31
        11

        6.3 million should have learnt the lesson atleast now. A war criminal who used the armed.forces to spread Corona effectively every corner of Sri Lanka during their holidays.
        War criminal could have stopped easily Corona when first Chineese woman was detected with Corona by quarantining all foreigners especially the chineese Corona makers and spreader.4
        Parliamentary election will reveal whether the some of the 6.3million idiots lead by people like PASQUAL learnt or not.
        Otherwise we may need a wijeweera or pirapaharan like people to save Sri Lanka

    • 10
      22

      Mr. Sinhala_Man,
      .
      And
      .
      I don’t see you are telling Mr. rj1952 not to use bad words against some distinguished gentlemans.

      • 19
        7

        War criminals are distinguished men in this land

      • 11
        5

        Ms Pasqual,
        .
        watch this VIDEO.
        You will see it right…. are u happy now ?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vug1rIHTHzM

      • 3
        1

        Dear Pasqual,
        .
        The simple answer is “Yes”. He had recently given an e-mail address, so I have written to him.
        .
        Shouting insults in return is not a solution.

        • 4
          1

          Mr. Sinhala_Man,
          .
          It’s nice to see someone notice.

    • 3
      14

      Mr. Sinhala_Man,
      .
      And
      .
      I don’t see you are telling Mr. rj1952 down below not to use bad words against some distinguished gentlemans.

      • 13
        2

        S. C. Pasqual – the one with dislikes all 24 hours of the day.
        =
        who are these distinguished gentlemen I am using bad words.?
        =
        are you trying to infer that the political and money greedy rajapuka clan and their fellow hora boru criminal gang members have anything in them to be called as distinguished gentlemen.?
        little by little, step by step the lankan innocent masses are begining to become smarter and smarter by the second, in the near future the entire rajapuka infidels will be history.
        better dead than alive.
        =
        If you are living in Germany or anywhere else please enter into a lunatic asylum and undergo a course in gaining self-respect.

      • 3
        2

        Ms SCP,
        .
        It is not SM s duty to ask the others to behave on this platform. Why not you behave in compliance with guidelines ?
        We are all fed of Rajapakshe backlickers. I really dont know why people stay further blind.

    • 15
      5

      Sinhala_Man,
      True that Srilanka is leading to a military dictatorship. It is the duty of all those who love this land to inform the public whether it is small or big impact on the life. People are kept in the dark under the military rule. We don’t need to do anything but people should know the threats that may face under the iron rule. This land is very small to stand alone. Many dictatorships like Irag, Libya, Pakistan are good examples where the countries lost everything after loosing millions of lives.

      • 2
        1

        Dear leelagemalli,
        .
        “Skolemahathathya” has taken a look at the Sinhala section as well. You’re doing a truly amazing job even there.
        .
        And Champa. I have a confession to make: while my “Skolemahathathya” persona is genuine, and I interact a lot with villagers in Sinhala, that quite effective communication is mainly oral. My Sinhala reading is so slow that it’s just not worth my while – at this age. The crying need is to educate the Sinhala-speaking voters. They imagine that the country is full of folks who know how to vote intelligently. They don’t, of course.
        .
        I hope that Champa and you are hitting it off This is important – that those who hold somewhat divergent views yet succeed in communicating and agree on countering what is worst. That applies to the Supreme Court as well. Your approach is sensible – to appreciate small mercies. And those mercies won’t come our way if we keep antagonising others. Applies to handling Pasqual too. We know that he’s a paid lackey, but the time has come to eke even from them the little favours that we so desperately need. Also, I’m sure that he’s happy that I’ve tackled “rj1952”.

        • 2
          1

          Good morning to you Mr SM.
          .
          Thank you for your post. We need you the kind of good educated SENIOR citizens to do the due at this critical juncture of this nation. Your posts make it very clear not just-Uni or school education but wisdom is the factor when identifying charactors. As no others, you have the talent to do so. May be that you have collected over the decades. Unfortunatley, we cant notice this in EAGLE eye s persona, if i believe he should be that ” MAHINDAPALA from Melbourene”. Oldcodger added that EE is no means that Mahindapala. But mind you if I would not add it if i was not aware, that Sharmini Serasinghe was the person who once added to her comments that EE may well be known MAHINDAPALA.

          Now with the dictatorship is in making,, the situation is turning out to be like push in to the fire. If Our late Sobitha Hamuduruwo was with us, he would ask us ” did not I predict all these 5 years earlier”. How intelligent he should then have been ?
          . Suppression of oppostion is not overlooked today but how many of the citizens living in the country would ever notice it is the million dollar question.

      • 3
        1

        Rohan Johnpillai writes quite decent English in his emails. He imagines that he’s achieved something by ruffling feathers. Rubbish. The really good writers don’t read the comments at all – e.g. Professor Kumar David. He lives a full life and doesn’t have time to read guys like Mallaiyuran. Rajan Hoole doesn’t waste time either. He’s writing whole books, the value of which will be realised a hundred years from now. Jeevan – well, you know him!
        .
        I’ve told Rohan that he would be much better off if he wins the respect of readers; besides which it is irresponsible for people living in Melbourne to be ruffling feathers – we guys will pay the price. he foolishly yearns for the UNP years – not seeing how much those guys (exception, Dudley Senanayake) have also contributed to the mess.
        .
        Ajith’s assessment is absolutely correct.
        The people have got what they so much desired. The Supreme Court Order has been followed by the dream appointment – a Task Force guaranteed to make us a Virtuous and Disciplined Society. Right now just a few intelligent people have told me that they realise what chilling news this is. We are doomed.

        • 5
          1

          S.M,
          In Saudi Arabia, there is an institution called the “Council for prevention of vice and promotion of virtue”. I kid you not. So Sri Lanka will soon be as virtuous as Saudi Arabia.

          • 2
            1

            OC,
            .
            We warned this already prior to Nov 2019.

            :
            If the masses dont care, what can we do ? Even today, if you would live in SL, you can talk to a cross section of the society and judge it by yourself, people would not easily change their thinking patterns.
            Media mafia has brainwashed them to the very same manner they did it shortly before last PE , about that Nagaya-Relic fiction

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3BhK3pAxJ8

            I spoke to few physicsts/psychologists in Europe- they criticised this to the core.

            Since this incident, NO SO CALLED senior investigative Journalists uttered a single word on this yet today.

        • 1
          1

          Yes, old codger,
          .
          We are well aware of the strategies used by politicians, and this Task Force thing is deadly. Yet ask the average person: he welcomes the idea.
          .
          I’m sure that you know this Parable of the Boiled Frog. I’m putting it on for anybody who doesn’t know it. If you know what’s coming, don’t bother to click on the link. This really is a response to Ajith who asks that we pass the word around.
          .
          http://www.lessons4living.com/wmaz_week200.htm
          .
          It is a useful parable to relate if people will listen. As Ajith says, we must do all that we can to warn; if enough of us tell it, we can safeguard our freedoms. We are heading for something much worse than Military Government, where some rules apply. What Gota is well on the way to doing is to tame all dissent.
          .
          Don’t imagine that our voters are sharp, just because we are just a wee bit better. Many will read old codger’s comment and not understand it.
          .
          Discuss this!

          • 0
            0

            S.M,
            I don’t think there is going to be a permanent long-term dictatorship. Sure, many people seem to want a military government, but that is because they think the military is some kind of superhuman outfit. This is reinforced by propaganda such as that showing them “building a hospital in 2 days” when what they really did was knock together a pre-fab field hospital. You and I know that those who join the military are neither especially brainy or especially patriotic. When this fact dawns on the hoi polloi, fancy uniforms are going to be very unpopular. Already, the military’s limits are showing. I think you know how Gota was forced to agree to the terms of the rice millers in spite of much bragging by the CAA chairman, another General. So don’t despair.

        • 1
          1

          Dear Mr SM;

          we read the article written by alleged BOND Scam criminal – AM a week ago.
          .
          Day before yesterday, former president Siirsena MADE it very clear that he signed 21 000 times to get him extradited from Singapore AND according former President, AM lives in Spore further wearing a fake ID. ::: Can this ever be possible ? Anyone that accuse AM, could easily contact CT and get AM s details or not ? And CT would not publish any articles if CT adminstration would NOT be sure of the particulars of the writer or what do you make of this ?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U3bETuSmXI-

          We perfectly know that former Prz Siirisena is a joker going by that SAMAN KUMARA (so called informant of CID) and the kind of drama series. But current media men to allow former Prez to mislead the nation further should not be allowed any more.. because he himself is the key person to be charged for EASTER sunday bombing disaster… ? Please add your thoughts on this…. thank you.

      • 2
        2

        Even after this place has become hell on earth, the majority will not understand. Read up the history of the island of Hispaniola, shared by two countries. Dominica is prosperous with a population that is “almost white”. Black Haiti is the disaster that Sri Lanka will become. Dominica started off with more whites than the Western part of the island. They killed all the dark babies born for many generations.
        .
        Haiti was the first independent black country, full of promise when they began. Wordsworth wrote a sonnet. A little after Toussaint’s time, they killed all the whites, so it has all black citizens. Read what the Duvaliers – father and son – did for 39 years.
        .
        It looks as though we will have 49 years of the Rajapaksas. I’m glad I have only a few more years to live. This time last year, my grand-daughters were studying in Colombo in the Sinhala-Medium. Hush! They are now in Malaysia in an International School learning English and Mandarin Chinese. Ask a Sri Lankan – they’ll say teach French, German and Malay! I think you’ll agree – one European language is enough. We’d better all get realistic – and selfish!

    • 4
      2

      Mr. Skolemahathathyo aka SM

      I am glad to see, Ms Pasqual seems to be respecting you today :)

      Thank you also for your posts. I really dont know why whole lotof our people stay either silent forever or behaving like our Ms Pasquals-like would do. As we know only teenagers in their puberty would not care much about rational thinking even if you would repeat them on a daily basis. How can the people as adults behave the way Pasquals (Sexagenarians) and Eagle Eye (Octagenarian) if they remain mentally healthy? I guess – these could well be timeworth dissertations for any young candidates in Humanities. That should be held as a research work based on meta analyses focusing on like minded societies of ours (developing, with comparable socio-economic conditions, I guess Nepal, Venzeula and the like would be a match).

      I really dont think that SC has stopped standing by us – AND I have no doubt, in the days to come there will heavy rain style petitions to come because the situation is turning out to be worst day by day under brother duo.

  • 20
    7

    running a business with once upon a time amude clad bugger now going about town in Saville row suits bought out of second-hand shops a moron whom I am sure has forgotten his past.?
    =
    the said airline is running at a colossal loss by the second has to suspend firstly the pay packages of the board of directors, the senior managers and the other executive ranks should on their accord take a substantial pay cut till this coronavirus curse is resolved.
    =
    this is what happens when an army nincompoop with no managerial experience in running any sort of enterprise or two expect yonks of experience in killing the innocents, running a white van syndicate and making tons and ton of illegal monies by raking in commissions in the much needed foreign exchange which is banked safely in currency hoarding havens.
    =
    as long as the rajapuka mangy fleece ridden rajapuka’s who are the worlds best boru hora kaarayas are running jarawama rajapukistan this beleaguered nation will always be at the bottom of the cesspit in the bog.

    • 5
      1

      Dear rj1952 / June 4, 2020
      What matters, if all high volumes of damages made by Rajaakshes Kalliya (abusive bunch that would not care about LAW AND ORDER but expect peoples to repsect laws ha hah ) would be welcome by masses filled with punnaku drinkers ?

      Improvement awareness among all walks of people must be the way which I think is the need of hour. See what happened that 25-dollar-allowance proposed by UNP led opposition the people, and how it ended up but in favour of the same highly corrupted clan – because the heavy criticisms made by EC and their request either to stop or distribute to all was interpreted by RAJAPKAHSE-BIASED MEDIA mafia as ” we stopped it because EC and opposition asked us not to continue”. But the facts as everyone with some sanity would see, they distributed it only to their SLPP supporters not even to 40 lacks of people but louuded as ” 78 lacks of people were among them”. There is no truth at all in any news item of crucial nature, when being passed tothe very same poor people. People s inability has been targeted by Rajapakshe trick players manipulated them further. How can this continue further ? And what impact would it have on long term in this nation if Rajakshes would continously spread blatant lies to the very same audience ?

  • 15
    8

    “…running a business with once upon a time amude clad b***** …”
    Oh dear!
    Does it mean that an amude clad person shall not come up in life?

    • 5
      1

      SJ –
      they can come up in life but I do not like one to forget their roots do not allow power to get into their heads and be kind to those who have to work under them.
      =
      that’s the principles I followed and still follow to this second.

    • 3
      1

      SJ,.
      .
      yes very good question Mr. SJ – Some beleive yet today, only some in the society deserve shall come up while others stay bound to their castes and creeds…. what a mentality ?

      This is why I dont like to return to my home country Mr. And my plans to help ou tthe poor of the poor has now been blocked for this year due to COVID crisis and various other grounds.
      :

  • 19
    2

    Facing massive losses, airlines everywhere are laying off employees. So what Sri Lankan did was not unusual. This is the new reality, and there will be many more layoffs in SL in the coming months.

    Sri Lankan has been bleeding Money for years, so some trimming was also necessary. In fact, the best option is to shut down the airline and have an open skies policy. Who needs a flag carrier when people are starving.

  • 7
    3

    I really feel for 400 people who lost the jobs. Also I really feel for many millions who lost jobs all over the globe. This is the impact COVID-19 on all businesses. Air lines went down. Virgin Australia gone into liquidation. Air line ticketing agencies vanished. People who bought tickets are still in limbo. Sri Lankan airlines is not a company which was governed well. GR had the leadership to appoint a business executive who had proven record of business acumen. Business means that there is an exploitation of labour in some form within the law. All over the world, the first people who lost the jobs were casual and temporary employees. After that people who were employed on a term contract basis. Next lot will be the permanent employees. Before that happens, all permanent employees will be asked to take own earned leave and then a pay cut. Last ditch would be the release from the job as per the mutual contract between the employer and employee. This is the reality. Anyone can criticise business decisions viewing at distance. No one knows the actual conditions such as liabilities, commitments and revenue streams.

  • 5
    3

    Hence, CT writer should not talk about what is unknown and judge the outcome this way. There are no people in the world who don’t have a father, mother, friends and colleagues. How can GR is accused of appointing a renowned businessman just because GR had a good professional relationship? I have some photos taken with renowned people who met at social events. If I behave bad, is it a reflection of the person I had a chat or photo with. This is the gutter level the journalism has gone down in Sri Lanka. There are many such news outlets. CT is trying to lead the pack. Is CT suggest find a person who does not have any friendship or connection to anyone for a position? Why only GR is accused on a business decision of an appointee who has business acumen? I have no problem of questioning whether there were better options and why senior management did not take a pay cut, but asking a senior management officer to go home being on contract basis is a pathetic argument.

  • 6
    1

    In many organisations, senior management is appointed on contract basis under a performance contract. Sending employees home does not mean the boss also has to go. Obviously, I feel for anyone losing a job. This is the risk one would take joining a private sector organisation instead of lowly-paid public sector organisation. It depends on the selection of the industry as well. Remember people who are still employed in Sri Lankan airline may be praying for survival of the business even accepting termination of employment of some and asking some to take no pay leave. CT writers should leave GR alone and let him to do his job. They are barking at the wrong tree.

  • 3
    0

    This is the result of not been “PROACTIVE” by the Government. For the last few decades, we had all types of “SOCIALISTS” who ran the Government of the People and for the People. Did any of the “Architects” from “Pancha Maha Balavegaya”, “Dharmista Samajaya”, “Yahapalanaya” now to “Saubagaye Mawatha” ever think of having a “Scheme” to compensate all those who lose their earnings in an event of a “CRISIS”. That “crisis” can come in various unforeseen eventualities, such as a weather-related or a pandemic disaster or unforeseen circumstances that force an employee to be “Laid Off”. This type of a “Scheme” has been in operation in the “Americas” (e.g. USA & Canada) and it is called “EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE”. It is an “Employer/Employee” funded scheme that compensates up to about (presently) 65% of the wages earned as of the date of the “Lay Off”. The terms are too lengthy to state here. But my question is: Have any of the Governments or those “Socialists” who were in the Opposition ever thought of studying a “Scheme” of that nature? NO. But there are so “PATRIOTIC” and “NATIONALISTS” to find fault with countries who have established such “SOCIAL” schemes. But the “LEGISLATORS” have been quick enough to “PROVIDE” for themselves by way of “Pensions” and other lucrative “Perks” to safeguard their “Earning Capacity”.

  • 6
    4

    Mr.Ashok Pathirage is a business magnet, built his empire on his sheer hard work and sweat. Started his entrepreneurship as an IT enterprise and grew magnificently to became a reckoned force in Sri Lanka. His business entrepreneurship can’t be a bed of roses but in the light of dedication and sacrifices. We have witness in the past many business conglomerates crashed without a trace including few IT companies defaulting depositors and non payment of EPF and ETF. Hats off to this man rose up against all challenges and he was able to with stood ups and downs in the market. Good luck for him. It may be the fact that Mr Ashok Pathirage an effective business leader given employment to thousands of employees is an achievement. Sri Lankan Airlines went through many bad patches some were too far serious and it had come to a situation where the government is no longer sustain its existence by pumping billions of rupees annually. Therefore president was looking for a strong business leader to turn it around. President gave that daunting task to Mr Ashok Pathirage which is a Himalayan task. In the past chiefs of Sri Lanka Airlines had the habit to grant employment to their kith and kin or to political personnel which in turn became over staffed white elephant.

  • 5
    0

    Paramanathan K. Agree beyond any questions. This Chairman has a lot to his credit. My only hope is he will be given a free hand to settle matters in this “National Headache”. It was MR who ruined this Public Enterprise after he took over on an “Ego Centric” decision and placed his Bill in the helm of affairs. That “Chairman” made an “Ass” of himself and ruined the whole outfit. This Chairman, if he is to put the house in order has to make decisions which could be very unpopular, but useful to turn around things. He has begun to realize the “Manpower White Horse” in the stable that has become cancerous. Next, an important aspect he must immediately look into a large number of “Commercial Agreements” that the Airline has entered into, “Willingly” or “Unwillingly” by the Top Management. Those would include, “GSA Agreements”, “Pro-Rate Agreements”, “Procurement Agreements”, “Service Agreements” e.t.c. I am certain, he would be able to assess what proportion of “Earnings” that go into payout on these “Agreements” and what “Remains” for other expenses. All these measures need to have a “Political Will” and “Backing” to turn things around. If not, however much “Credentials” he holds, the “Failure” is inevitable. I wish him Good Luck and Success in his endeavors.

    • 2
      1

      What baffles the people is the so called leaders claiming themselves as nationalist or patriots of this gifted country. But when it comes to handling of public enterprises they alienate themselves to a different realm and resort to wrong doings involve in huge proportions. People who elect them are illiterate or ignorant. Unable to come to terms.

  • 2
    0

    At a time when the airlines all over the world are retrenching staff, the Board of Sri Lankan Airlines has taken the correct step of re-trenching excess staff employed on contract basis. With the steep drop in revenue, further cost reduction measures are necessary to minimize the losses, which need to be borne by the government grappling with unprecedented financial constraints.

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