Science, Technology and Research Minister and UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha yesterday charged that the cost of cancelling an order for four Airbus A350-900 aircraft exceeded annual Samurdhi payments and lashed out at the Board of Directors of SriLankan Airlines for cancelling an agreement to purchase four Airbus A350-900 aircraft without Cabinet approval.
“The penalty for cancelling this order for the four A350s is between Rs. 15 billion and Rs. 20 billion, while the total annual Samurdhi payment is only Rs. 12 billion,” he said, adding that the matter of the second order of similar aircraft from 2020-2024 needed to be addressed.
Minister Premajayantha made these remarks while addressing a media briefing held at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party head office yesterday.
The Minister noted that these aircraft had been ordered according to decisions made by the former management of SriLankan Airlines and that the present management had thus far failed to mitigate the financial losses of the institute resulting in several of its directors vacating their positions.
“As someone who has followed this, I can assure you that this is the best time to appoint a Presidential Commission of Inquiry. A lot of directors have resigned after this announcement because they know that they have not performed and even the Minister in charge had to learn of their departure from the media,” he said.
Furthermore, the Minister pointed out that both Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank had lent significantly to SriLankan Airlines and that the stability of the two banks had serious implications on the entire economy of the country.
“We can consider a private-public partnership (PPP) because a large infusion of cash is needed. However, this can only be done within certain limits because the national carrier is a source of pride to the nation. The SLFP is firm in its policy of preserving State assets,” he said. (SG)