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Former UL board members appointed in violation of regulations: Official

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By Maleesha Sulthanagoda 

Unqualified appointments were made to the former Board of Directors of SriLankan Airlines, a top official from the national carrier told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) yesterday, with some of these individuals allegedly abusing their privileges. 

The Commission appointed to probe allegations of fraud and misconduct in SriLankan Airlines (SLA), SriLankan Catering Ltd, and Mihin Lanka Ltd, heard SriLankan Airlines Corporate Secretarial Head Darlene Thrukumar yesterday. 

Thrukumar also said that Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe was granted a monthly allowance of Rs. 500,000, excluding a housing allowance, a company car, a company back-up car and a company phone.

During the testimony before the PCoI, she provided evidence to suggest that appointments of Nishantha Wickremasinghe and Lalith de Silva to the Board of Directors was made in contravention of SriLankan regulations, which stipulated that board members could only be appointed if they had experience in the aviation industry, or had finance management experience. The evidence put forward highlighted the national carrier’s shortcomings when following these regulations. Thrukumar also alleged that most of the former SriLankan Board members did not possess the required qualifications to hold their positions. Two specific appointments were highlighted during yesterday’s hearing.

She stated that Lalith de Silva, who served as a consultant to the airline, was appointed to the Board of Directors of the carrier, along with Nishantha Wickramasinghe, in 2008. She alleged that it was against regulations to appoint a consultant to the Board of Directors. “In a letter dated 18 March 2008, under the terms of the Articles of Association, Lalith de Silva and Nishantha Wickremasinghe were nominated and appointed to the Board of Directors of the airline. But in Clause 83 of the Articles of Association, it doesn’t not state that a consultant can be appointed to this position,” she said. 

The evidence put forward by Thrukumar also pointed out that when Nishantha Wickramasinghe was nominated and appointed to the Board of Directors, it was in direct violation of the SriLankan Airlines Articles of Association.

In the 79th Article of Association, it states that a nominee for the Board of Directors of the airline should possess a background in the aviation industry, or experience in finance management, but the previous position of Wickramasinghe was as the Superintendent of an estate owned by Finlays. 

Thrukumar also mentioned that the drivers under Nishantha Wickremasinghe profited by abusing services such as overtime (OT) to an excessive degree. 

“Three drivers working under the ex-Chairman of the airline, earned over Rs. 400,000 per year, especially one driver earning Rs. 139,337 in February 2011 alone. Another driver earned Rs. 398,195 in the 2014-2015 financial year, while the Chairman’s other driver earned Rs. 599,197,” she elaborated.

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