Sri Lankan airlines board to be sacked soon

ECONOMYNEXT – The Cabinet of ministers on Tuesday lambasted SriLankan Airlines management for high handed action, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly promised to sack the entire board of directors of the national carrier.

A senior government source said minister after minister criticised SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias, a Royal College mate of Wickremesinghe, and demanded that President Maithripala Sirisena dissolve the airline board immediately.

"There was very severe criticism of the board and the management team,” the source told EconomyNext. “They have been acting like a government within a government. They have treated their own minister (Kabir Hashim) very badly, ignoring his orders and treating him very shabbily."

The source who asked not to be named said that the airline had been recruiting staff despite running at a huge loss.

"They have not informed the government about their recruitment. They also have a lot of people from the previous regime…. Although the government changed, these key people have not."

Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka told the cabinet that several henchmen of former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa were still holding sensitive positions within the airline.

"Last time, the staff of SriLankan voted against (president) Rajapaksa because of brother-in-law (then Sri Lankan chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe) ruined it," the source said. “Next time, all employees will vote against us because of this (current) board.”

The cabinet of minister decided to question the entire board by summoning them before a parliamentary committee next week to examine their work.

-Firing of Capt Sujith Jayasekera-

Ministers were also distressed that Dias had terminated the services of a captain after a flawed inquiry and having overlooked requests from both the President and the Prime Minister to reconsider.

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Captain Sujith Jayasekera’s alleged refusal to take a test on the night of August 27 just before operating UL 402 from Colombo to Bangkok was "tantamount to a positive reading," SriLankan had said, but he was allowed to operate the same flight with a full complement of passengers and crew.

Jayasekera had been a president of the Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka, which had been a thorn on the side of SriLankan management, and his termination is seen by many as victimisation for standing up to corrupt and illegal activities within the carrier.

Dias had allegedly informed the prime minister that it had been a decision of the SriLankan board not to renew Jayasekera’s contract, but a copy of the board decision was not so clear.  The board had noted that Jayasekera would be granted the use of the flight simulator while he was grounded, but that was never communicated to him.

Jayasekera has taken the matter to higher authorities who are miffed by the SriLankan chairman’s actions.

-Snubbing Kabir-

State Enterprise Development minister Kabir Hashim who is responsible for the national airline vowed earlier this year to "clean up the mafia" at SriLankan.

Several ministers came to Kabir’s defence on Tuesday and pointed out to both the President and the Prime Minister that Dias had been allowed to get away by snubbing his own minister for too long and called for his immediate removal.

"At this stage, the Prime Minister intervened to say that he will very soon reconstitute the board with new people,” a minister said.

"I regret that I have not been able to make any changes, but I am determined to clean up the place," Hashim said in January. "I will not give up. I will fight to get rid of them."

Dias was also criticised for not taking action against an air hostess who worked for former president Rajapaksa’s legislator son Namal and continued to be paid by the national carrier.

 In April 2015, the Weliamuna report said SriLankan Airlines was a paradise for sex predators, with the top management demanding sexual favours from staff, leading to a breakdown of discipline at all levels.

The Board of Inquiry of Weliamuna found that Pradeepa Kakulawala, the head of Human Resources, adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards sexual harassment that allowed perverts to run free. (COLOMBO, June 13, 2017)

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