President likely to sack SriLankan airline board

ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena is tipped  to sack the board of directors of Sri Lanka’s national carrier, but is expecting them to resign on their own in the wake of a ferocious grilling by the cabinet, an official source said on Wednesday.

Ministers grilled SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias and Chief Executive Officer Suren Ratwatte who were accused of mismanagement and misappropriation in a repeat of profligacy seen under the former administration.

“We were not elected to do the same thing that the pervious board did,” the government source said.

“If this government loses the next election, it will be because of the mismanagement at SriLankan. The current directors will fly to London and Melbourne. Before their planes land, we will be sent to jail,” another minister said, accusing Dias and his directors of causing problems for the administration.

After Tuesday’s ferocious questioning of the SriLankan top management, ministerial sources expected the board to quit on their own.

“If they have any self respect, they will not stay till the President sacks them,” the source said. “Some of them were addressed like pickpockets.”

After the bruising grilling, some directors who are at loggerheads with Dias and Ratwatte told ministers that the questions were just the tip of the iceberg and they had documentary evidence of many more irregularities.

CEO Ratwatte was asked how much he was paid, but he declined to give a direct answer,  according to sources at Tuesday’s meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat. ealth Minister Rajitha Senaratne, who was seated next to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, had asked Ratwatte to confirm that he was drawing a salary of 4.5 million rupees a month. “Very reluctantly, he said he was getting 13,600 pounds sterling (about 2.72 million rupees) a month. This is apart from other allowances and a bonus, which we think is 10 million rupees a year.”

The source noted that the J. C. Weliamuna report, which investigated corruption under the former SriLankan board, noted that a salary of 1.5 million rupees paid to then-CEO Kapila Chandrasena was excessive.

Serious allegations were made against another board director Sunil Peiris who has denied he was paid an allowance of one million rupees for being the “human resources” director.

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“The ministers have called for all the salary particulars of the management team. We are concerned that they are getting payments through third parties to side-step payment ceilings issued by the government,” the source said. (COLOMBO, June 21, 2017)

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