Colombo Telegraph

SriLankan Airlines: Marching Orders Served To Chairman Dias, CEO Ratwatte And Directors By Airline’s Alliance Of Unions

Whilst blaming their Chairman Ajith Dias, Chief Executive Officer Capt. Suren Ratwatte and the entire Board of Directors for their incompetence, the Alliance of Unions of SriLankan Airlines collectively sent in a letter stating that they have no confidence and trust should the current Senior Management of the airline be retained after 31st March 2018.

SriLankan Chairman – Ajit Dias

The letter which was also copied to President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, selected Government Ministers and the newly appointed Committee to look into the restructuring of the airline, was in response to letters Chairman Ajith Dias and CEO Capt.Suren Ratwatte had sent to all staff earlier, issuing them a soft warning of the imminent closure of the national carrier.

Their strongly worded letters stated that state banks will no longer be able to fund the loss making airline and that a proper restructuring of the national carrier will take effect shortly by a team of government appointed Ministers which will include a foreign consultant. Their task is to restructure the airline in order to attract a potential investor or restructure the airline in such a manner that in can be self-dependent if in the event a foreign partner cannot be attracted or if either or both options are not available, closing down the airline.

Chairman Dias’ letter to his staff further reiterated that this process will commence on the 11th December 2017, with a preliminary report to be submitted by the 20th December 2017, as the entire way forward of the airline needs to be completed by the 31st March 2018. Thereafter the letter stated that the Government of Sri Lanka will not be able to fund the national carrier using tax payer funds.

In response the Alliance of Unions of SriLankan Airlines based their reasons on stating that the Chairman, CEO and the entire Board of Directors were all government appointees with not having the prerequisite competencies and with having little or no experience in running the affairs of the airline. It also went on to accuse them of failing to execute their duties during the last three years, drawing hefty sums in salaries and perks and not turning around the airline’s existing financial woes. Further it went on to accuse them of shielding their predecessors of blatant malpractices committed in the past, despite a comprehensive investigation being carried out by Lawyer J.C.Weliamuna and his team in February and March 2015, who recommended that the former Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and CEO Kapila Chandrasena should face public prosecution. This is besides the naming of many existing employees who are also currently shielded, such as Head of Human Resources Pradeepa Kekulawela, who were responsible for aiding and abetting malpractices and fraud in the past.

The letter went on to highlight that there are also dealings which could itself be a conflict of interest for a Director in any company. This statement has a direct reference to Rakhitha Jayawardena whose recent appointment as an Executive Director to oversee the lucrative In Flight Catering Operations of the airline that also supports the airline’s In Flight Duty Free business. His appointment which was done recently in a hushed manner, is still unknown to many employees. Besides this appointment Jayawardena is also the current President of a mega Duty Free operator that caters to multiple airlines across Australasia. The lucrativeness of the airline’s In Flight Duty Free business recently saw the airline being robbed off millions in US Dollars, when the business was outsourced out of tender procedure to Phoenix Duty Free Services (renamed Duty Free Partners) and run by Rumesh Dilan Wirasingha and Raju Chandiram between 2012 to 2017.

Whilst going on to blame Chairman Dias, CEO Ratwatte and the entire Board of Directors, the letter also stated that the airline was used as a center piece by the current Yahapalanaya Government in their political campaign especially in pulling off the Presidential Election in January 2015 and the General Election in August 2015 over the former Rajapaksa regime. .

In conclusion the letter sent in by the Alliance of Unions of SriLankan Airlines stated “We wish to very categorically state that if you, the CEO or any one of your members from the Board of Directors is retained and remains a constituent of the Management of our Company; post restructuring process, we have no confidence in, or trust that the said process will be effective and yield the desired results. We also wish to place on record that we will consider the liabilities and accountability of the Board, for the present state that the employees have been subjected to.

We published below the letter of the Alliance of Unions of SriLankan Airlines in full: (By Mannisha Unantanne) 

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