Colombo Telegraph

SriLankan Airlines: Leaked Letter Causes Turbulence As President Orders Cabinet Ministers To Grill Management

The recent meeting ordered by President Maithripala Sirisena which was attended by over 35 Cabinet Ministers at the Presidential Secretariat, to look into the serious malpractices committed by the current management of SriLankan Airlines and especially the non-implementation of the Weliamuna Report, was fueled by an expose made by the four Non Executive Board of Directors Rajan Brito, Rakhita Jayawardena, R.C. De Silva and H.K. Balapatabendi Colombo Telegraph can confirm.

The four Non-Executive Directors representing one side of the split executive office due to an ongoing rift among its Board of Directors, submitted a signed letter to their airline’s Chairman Ajith Dias and copied it to R. Hewavitharana, the Secretary of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development. This subsequent letter triggered President Maithripala Sirisena to summon his Cabinet of Ministers to question the airline’s management last Tuesday.

The purpose of their submitted letter addressed to Chairman Ajith Dias and professionally leaked with a copy to the Ministry’s Secretary R.Hewavitharana, was based on a request made earlier by the Ministry to provide a comprehensive report, seeking clarity if the Chief Executive Officer Capt. Suren Ratwatte had exceeded his mandate in entering into the three lease extension agreements which were binding SriLankan Airlines.

The letter was titled “Lease Agreement dated 12th July 2010 and the aircraft Lease Amendment for two Airbus A 330-200 aircraft”.

With no response being made to the Ministry by Chairman Dias, the four Non-Executive Directors conducted their own inquiries based on the available facts.

They then wrote to Chairman Dias urging him to respond to the Ministry’s request and also keep them copied. The Non Executive Directors also stated in their letter that based on their findings, the Management of SriLankan Airlines had clearly exceeded the Board Mandate and unnecessarily risked placing the company to legal claims.

Their letter further stated that the Lessor of the three aircraft SASOF Aviation, had also sent three letters to the airline dated 30th January 2017, mentioning that there has been a breach of contract and demanded that the airline comply with the signed agreements.

The four Non-Executive Directors recommended that the Ministry, the Attorney General’s Department or an independent panel be appointed by the Minister to confirm the findings, so that the necessary corrective action could be taken.

They also confirmed their willingness to fully assist any investigation if conducted.

Meanwhile a source who attended the meeting between the Cabinet Ministers and the airline’s Board of Directors confirmed to Colombo Telegraph that Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Minister Rajitha Senaratne were the two most vociferous  at the inquiry and went on to grill Chairman Ajith Dias and Director Col. Sunil Peiris.

Questions were raised as to why the recommendations of the Weliamuna Report was not being implemented, especially after the government invested millions of rupees to have the Board of Inquiry led by Lawyer J.C. Weliamuna and his team of lawyers grill the former management staff of the Rajapaksa regime in February and March of 2015.

Meanwhile further questions were also raised by the Cabinet Ministers criticizing the existence of those employees who were severely exposed in the report such as Head of Finance Yasantha Dissanayake, Head of Human Resources Pradeepa Kekulawela and the General Manager of Airport/Ground Services Bandula Weragama.

Colonel Sunil Peiris who is widely known to be currently protecting employees who worked in tandem with the former Rajapaksa regime, was questioned regarding the parachuting of Weragama into the airline to hold a senior manager’s post, especially coming directly from the Sri Lanka Army. Weragama’s subsequent rise and double promotion to his current post too was also questioned.

Chairman Ajith Dias was grilled about his close association with the former CEO Kapila Chandrasena besides the mediocre manner in which he currently runs airline’s the business.

Questions were also raised as to why no action had been taken against the airline’s controversial In Flight Duty Free Supplier, Duty Free Partners – formerly known as Phoenix Duty Free Services and as to why they were permitted to continue after controversially amending the mutually signed contract incurring a colossal loss to the airline. (Chamindri Karannagoda) 

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