Sri Lankan probe to take off in January as airline faces closure
ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena set a January first week timeline to set up an investigation into the debt-ridden Sri Lankan airlines whose chairman has warned of possible closure by March.
President Sirisena said a Presidential Commission will be appointed on the same lines as the Bond Commission which investigated alleged corruption under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s watch of the central bank.
"Frauds and corruption at Sri Lankan and Mihin air that caused immense losses to the people of Sri Lanka will be investigated by a Presidential Commission to be appointed in the first week on January (2018)," the President said.
He did not say which period will be under scrutiny.
The Prime Minister’s United National Party (UNP)-led government has already obtained an extensive report on the alleged corruption at Sri Lankan airlines under former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
However, the Wickremesinghe-appointed Sri Lankan board of Ajith Dias has largely dismissed the findings of the J. C. Weliamuna report which noted that the national carrier was also a paradise for sexual predators.
Some of the predators named by the Weliamuna report were not only retained, but given more importance and power even under the new dispensation.
Dias, who announced to his staff earlier this month that the airline faced a possible closure due to its huge losses, loans and the inability to find an equity partner, had also gone on to say that much of the Weliamuna report was "hearsay" and personal attacks not worth pursuing.
Dias has even had heated exchanges with reporters who questioned why he did not take action against those responsible for illegally releasing an airhostess, Nithya Senani Samaranayake, to work with Namal during the previous regime.
The Weliamuna report recommended that the airline recover the 4.2 million rupees paid to her in excess of her salary for services rendered to Namal Rajapaksa, but Dias has not acted on the report.
The Weliamuna Board of Inquiry found that Pradeepa Kakulawala, the head of Human Resources at Sri Lankan airlines, adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards sexual harassment that allowed perverts a free run.
Kekulawala not only continues in office, but he has been protected from the Pilots’ Guild which sought information about perquisites and allowances paid to him by the new management.
The board, described by the pilots as the weakest ever, was apparently not even aware that airhostess Samaranayake who provided private services to Namal had returned to flying until she was arrested by the CID in connection with different case.
She is currently on bail following a money laundering charge, but the new SriLankan board is not known to have taken disciplinary action against anyone named in the Weliamuna report.
In June, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had told the cabinet that he will sack the entire board headed by Dias and restructure the company. However, it is yet to happen. Meanwhile, several board members are reported to have offered to quit, but stopped short of actually leaving their lucrative positions which gave them cheap tickets and a host of other benefits. (COLOMBO, December 24, 2017)