ECONOMYNEXT – Security officers of SriLankan Airlines given ‘duty leave’ around the time of the last presidential election were not released for political work, the current acting head of security of state-run SriLankan Airlines, told a commission of inquiry.
The Presidential Commission is probing alleged irregularities at the airline from 2006 to January 2018.
Titus Kannangara, acting head of security at SriLankan Airlines said no vehicles or staff of the security department were used for election campaigning.
"According to you, were personnel and vehicles in the security department used for political work?" Deputy Solicitor General Shanaka Wijesinghe questioned.
"No, not for political work," Kannangara said.
He said that he had received a request from the human resources department to provide duty leave for seven individuals, and he had approved, since this was routine procedure.
He was presented with an email written by then Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya (SLNSS) General Secretary Janaka Wijayapathiratne to the airline’s human resource department, requesting the release of seven union members in the security department for campaigning in the Pelmadulla area in December 2014.
Kannangara was asked which candidate’s election campaign the letter referred to. He refused to name ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“I can’t say the name. It was the person in power,” he said.
Evidence was also presented from the log book at the guard room which had recorded the leave of one of the individuals. It had said that one B. Sunil was given duty leave to engage in campaign work as requested by Kannangara.
"The reason written here is erroneous. It was written by a different person," Kannangara said.
Security Officer Hasantha Yasaratne, who is also General Secretary of the airline’s SLNSS trade union, testified a week earlier that security department officials who were union members and airline vehicles were used for ex-President Mahindra Rajapaksa’s campaign in Kolonnawa.
He said it was authorized by then Group Head of Security P. Chandrawansa, an ex-military official.
Yasaratne told the commission according to company guidelines, staff is not allowed to engage in political work.
Kannangara is also a former military officer, having served in the army and the volunteer naval force. (COLOMBO, 1 August, 2018)