COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lankan Airlines was a paradise for sex predators with the top management demanding sexual favours from cabin crew and young employees leading to a breakdown of discipline at virtually all levels, a probe has found.
The Board of Inquiry found that Pradeepa Kakulawala, the head of Human Resources adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards sexual harassment that allowed perverts a free run.
Kakulawala insisted on evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" to take action against sexual harassment and told investigators that the allegation was "as difficult as proving rape" and gave tacit approval for the practice.
"The Board of Inquiry is of the opinion that such an approach is unacceptable especially when female employees can become vulnerable in the airline industry," the report said.
Kakulawala has also been singled out in the lengthy report for his misconduct and dereliction of duty that could lead to criminal prosecutions of him and other senior managers.
"The BoI observed that there were many complaints of sexual harassment, especially against persons holding top managerial positions that were not adequately dealt with."
The BoI has also recommended criminal prosecutions of Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and CEO Kapila Chandrasena who risk jail terms of 15 to 20 years if convicted on charges of defrauding the state in addition to abuse of power and soliciting sexual favours.
The report did not disclose the list of victims, many of whom asked not to be identified, but mentioned several young women employees who were known to have had sexual relations with top management and soared to new heights despite the lack of any other qualifications.
In fact, former chairman Wickramasinghe, 67, was personally involved in the selection of stewardesses and recruited many who failed to pass written exams and initial interviews.
The Prime Minister’s office statement over the weekend referred to the ageing chairman’s penchant for young stewardesses which had caused more problems for the debt-ridden airline.
Some stewardesses were chosen for jobs outside the airline, but provided full pay and perks, including flying allowances, for services rendered. One such woman employee worked for Namal Rajapaksa, MP and eldest son of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The stewardess who told investigators that she had returned to the airline after Rajapaksa’s election defeat had been paid over 4.2 million rupees in excess of her salary by both Sri Lankan airlines and the Presidential Secretariat.
She was also paid a "productivity allowance" by Sri Lankan although her contribution was simply staying away from the airline.
Chairman Wickramasinghe transferred a manager at an overseas station after suspecting him of having an affair with his (Wickramasinghe’s) girl friend who was also employed at the same Sri Lankan office.
Wickramasinghe became a frequent flyer visiting his favoured girlfriends parked at Sri Lankan airlines offices abroad and, in once instance, was nearly stabbed with a pair of scissors by one his women associates because he had come late.
In Sri Lanka, Wickramasinghe rented three houses at different times and insisted that he required these because he often visited the airport at night and did not want to travel after dark.
However, the head of Sri Lankan airlines security, retired major general P. Chandrawansa told investigators that the chairman did not live in the houses, but used them for "other purposes."
The retired general who had been paid 450,000 rupees a month as salary did not specify for what purpose the chairman used his official accommodation.
EconomyNext is in possession of the names of women identified in the report, but will not publish them in order to protect their privacy.
BoI found evidence of ground or inflight attendants appointed with direct interference by the former chairman and political authorities, without any justifiable reasons.
EconomyNext is in possession of the names of those recruited despite failing initial tests and interviews, but decided not to publish their names until they have an opportunity to defend their innocence.