SriLankan Airlines appointments in 2017 ad hoc, ‘political issues’ cited: witnesses

ECONOMYNEXT- Management of loss-making SriLankan Airlines had filled senior positions and made promotions in ad hoc ways without following a standard policy in 2017 with then chief executive claiming ‘political issues’ in one case, witnesses at a commission of inquiry said.

Network Planning and Research Manager Priyadarshani Epitawala and Senior Marketing Manager Saminda Perera testified at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into irregularities at the national carrier.

Epitawala said she had applied for the Head of Marketing position in 2017, along with Perera and Pradeep Durairaj, a country manager.

Theyh had replied to an internal staff vacancy notice (SVN), and interviews were held, followed by presentations by each of the three applicants, Epitawala said.

At the same time, interviews were held for the Worldwide Sales Head and Revenue Management and Planning Head, Perera said.

Epitawala said that these two positions had attracted one applicant each. She said that both positions were filled by the applicants.

However, the Head of Marketing position remained unfilled, she said.

Perera said that the he suspected interviews were biased.

"Individually, I can’t decide who was responsible," he said.

Epitawala said that Head of Human Resources Pradeep Kekulawala had sat on the panel with Chief Executive Suren Ratwatte and Chief Commercial Officer Siva Ramachandran.





Epitawala said that this was unusual, since the position being interview for was a Grade 12 position, and officials of a similar grade, such as Head of Human Resources do not usually to sit on the panel.

She said that the human resources department had neither issued a letter acknowledging that she had participated in the interview nor a letter telling her whether she was selected or not.

She said she had later approached Chief Executive Suren Ratwatte to ask why no one was promoted to the job.

"Captain Suren Ratwatte said that there were political issues in awarding the position," Epitawala said.

"He said that I did well and he gave me good marks. He said that he will recall for the position."

Epitawala and Perera both said that some upper management vacancies were filled without an interview. Epitawala said that some positions were awarded without an SVN.

"When awarding senior positions at the airline, there should be interviews. It should be transparent. There should be consistencies in the SVN process. All positions should have a SVN."

"An independent person should also sit on the panel, because biases can come."

She said that inconsistent practices and a lack of transparency in selecting senior management will lead to younger employees at the airline losing confidence in the internal processes. (COLOMBO, 20 August, 2018)

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