SriLankan in severe financial crisis
By Ruan Pethiyagoda
The national carrier, SriLankan Airlines has
confirmed that it is facing its worst ever
UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake first brought this
matter to the attention of the public in
parliament, wherein the government denied
that SriLankan was facing any significant
financial problems, but the airline's CEO,
in a memo, has admitted that the airline's
situation is dire.
"We will not tell you fairytales about our
situation today," SriLankan CEO, Manoj
Gunawardena has written in a memo
distributed to all employees of the airline.
"SriLankan Airlines is undergoing its worst
ever financial crisis. We are not alone;
bigger and stronger airlines too are facing
this crisis but that is of little comfort to
Gunawardena confirmed this to The Sunday
Leader, and outlined several steps that the
airline was taking to bring itself back to
profitability. In an unusually frank and
candid statement from the head of a
government enterprise, Gunawardena told the
SriLankan Airlines staff in his memo that
although the company earned Rs. 80 billion
in revenue, it spent Rs. 82 billion on
"If we go on like this, last year's loss
may be doubled soon and this company's
future will be under threat," Gunawardena
wrote. "We cannot go on like this. Our
nation cannot afford us to do so."
The objective of the memo, Gunawardena said,
was to keep the staff informed of the
airline's true position, and enlighten them
on the steps being taken at management level
to resolve the crisis.
He has informed staff of an action plan to
reduce overheads by Rs. 6 billion, and
increase revenue by Rs. 8.8 billion, whilst
asking staff members of all levels to look
at ways that they can reduce the airline's
costs from the bottom up, and asking for
The eight page document is the start of "a
new culture" of open communication with the
airline's employees, Gunawardena told The
Sunday Leader. In it, the CEO outlines
several new company policies which, it is
hoped, will rejuvenate the airline, stem the
losses, and make it commercially viable.
SriLankan will be slashing routes and
frequencies to make its flight schedule more
profitable, and expects to save Rs. 3.3
billion in the financial year with this
measure, the CEO's note tells employees. It
also expects the 15% fare increase
introduced in June, and the fuel surcharge
started in July, to increase revenue by Rs.
Across the board, the airline is adopting
cost cutting measures small and large,
according to the staff memo. The SriLankan
Airlines offices at the World Trade Centre,
apart from those related to customer
interaction, are being moved to Katunayake.
"We already have land and buildings in
Katunayake," the CEO's memo stated. "So why
do we need to pay expensive rent for so many
floors in the country's tallest building?"
The CEO says that SriLankan's management
"does not intend to continue making losses.
We expect to turn this airline to
profitability. This is not a dream. It is a
promise that we will deliver, with your
The document also states that come what may,
SriLankan will be independent and will not
take money from the Treasury. "We have not
received a cent from the Treasury since
privatisation, and we don't intend to start
now. If we are going to start off the new
era by becoming a strain on the government
and our fellow citizens, we will have failed
45 injured in Pettah bomb
Forty five persons including two children
were injured when a bomb placed under a
watch stand on Olcott Mawatha exploded
Eye witnesses said that the bomb appeared to
have been placed under the racks of a
pavement stall selling watches just opposite
the M D Gunesena Book Shop in the heart of
“The blast came from the under the stall
while I was looking for a watch for my kid,”
Nishantha Silva who suffered leg injuries in
the blast told The Sunday Leader while
receiving treatment at the Colombo General
A native of Chilaw, Silva who works in the
Pettah fish market was at the watch stall to
buy watch for his eight year old child on
his way home when the explosion occurred.
Defence authorities in
said that the blast occurred around
12.15 pm under the stall, one among hundreds that line the
pavements on Olcott Mawatha.
The explosion may have been caused by a
small parcel bomb connected to a timer.
The government blamed the Tigers for the
Hospital authorities however said that none
of the injured were in critical conditions
though few had suffered serious injuries.
Director of the General Hospital Dr Hector
Weerasinghe said that few of the injured had
undergone emergency surgeries yesterday.
“The blast came all of a sudden, there was
nothing unusual, people were just walking on
the pavement,” Anoma Chandrani from Kegalle
and an employee at the Biyagama Free Trade
She too was receiving treatment and said
that she had fainted after the blast.
“When I gained consciousness I was on the
The area of the blast was cordoned off and
several roads in the vicinity by authorities
soon after the blast as officers combed the
blast site for clues.
Eights days before the blast, accessories
used in making suicide jackets were
recovered from an unattended bag inside the
St. Phillip Neri’s Church premises, just
yards from yesterday’s blast site.
Civilians slow to
move out of Wanni
There was no immediate reaction to the
government leaflets dropped over Kilinochchi
on August 29 asking civilians to flee the
Wanni into Vavuniya without risking being
caught in the fighting, military officials
in Colombo said.
“It has only been day since the leaflets
were dropped, may be in the next few days we
might see an increase in the number of
civilians coming into government controlled
areas,” military spokesperson Brig Udaya
Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader
The leaflets said that the government forces
had reached the final phases of the
operations to gain control of the Wanni and
that the government was taking all steps to
safeguard the safety of civilians.
“(Velupillai) Pirapaharan, who is facing big
defeats, has taken all the steps to protect
him. He would not hesitate to pay any price
to protect himself,” it said.
Last week, Defence Secretary Gottabaya
Rajapakse told the press that the government
wanted the civilians to flee the Wanni and
come to Vavuniya.
However, civilians who have fled the
fighting and converged on Kilinochchi have
so far shown no signs of moving south.
“They appear to be going deeper into the
Wanni, away from the A 9,” the Catholic
Bishop of Jaffna Rev Thomas Saudranayagam
told The Sunday Leader last week.
Brig Nanayakkara said that civilians would
only be able to reach government controlled
areas if the Tigers allow them to leave.
“What we expect will happen only if the
Tigers allow these people to come.”
Rajapakse told the press earlier in the week
that the Tigers may not be able to keep tens
of thousands of civilians without their will
in the Wanni.
There are over 130,000 IDP’s, including
75,000 who fled the fighting since June in
the Kilinochchi currently.
Says no one is above the
law in Sri Lanka
SC Judge stresses importance of appointing
A Supreme Court judge last week said the
17th Amendment to the Constitution has
become a dead letter due to the failure to
appoint the members of the Constitutional
Council and that elections are now held
without the salutary oversight of the
Independent Elections Commission.
In a far reaching address on the
'Sovereignty of the people and the rule of
law,' Supreme Court Justice and President's
Counsel Saleem Marsoof on Friday, August 22,
also said it is essential to bring about
changes in polity and attitudes to create
the climate for the appointment of the
Constitutional Council so that it can begin
to function once again.
"This is extremely important for the
preservation of the rule of law," Justice
Marsoof had also stated.
Justice Marsoof expressed these views in
making the inaugural K.C. Kamalasabayson
(P.C.) memorial oration at the HNB Towers
Auditorium on August 22 . Among those
present at the memorial oration were Chief
Justice Sarath N. Silva, Attorney General
C.R. De Silva, Justice Dr. C.G. Weeramantry,
judges of the superior courts and other
members of the judiciary, BASL President, W.
Dayaratne and Solicitor General W.P.G. Dep.
The comments of Justice Marsoof were
particularly significant in view of a
fundamental rights petition currently before
the Supreme Court calling for the
appointment by President Mahinda Rajapakse
of the Constitutional Council.
This case is coming up before the Supreme
Court again on September 17.
Stating that one of the most important
achievements of former Attorney General
Kamalasabayson was the enactment of the 17th
Amendment to the constitution, Justice
Marsoof added it has been described as a
high water mark in the legislative history
of Sri Lanka.
"Sadly, the 17th Amendment to the
constitution has become a dead letter due to
the failure to appoint the members of the
constitutional council, which has, for
instance, compelled a fast aging
commissioner of elections to continue in
office ad infinitum and beyond even the
compulsory age of retirement.
"In the absence of a properly Constituted
Constitutional Council, elections are now
held without the salutary oversight of the
independent Elections Commission sought to
be established by the said Amendment, and
major appointments to the public service and
the judiciary are made without complying
with the mandatory provisions of the
constitution," he said.
"It is therefore essential to bring about
changes in polity and attitude to create the
climate for the appointment of the
Constitutional Council so that it can begin
to function once again. This is extremely
important for the preservation of the rule
of law," Justice Marsoof added.
Justice Marsoof in his oration also cited
the Supreme Court determination on the 18th
Amendment to the Constitution and added that
this determination clearly establishes that
in Sri Lanka no one is above the law.
He also made reference to the recent Supreme
Court Judgement on the Lanka Marine Services
privatisation deal in the context of good
"It is the failure on the part of an
increasingly greater number of public
officers to adhere to principles of good
governance that resulted in unfortunate
decisions such as the recent judgement of
the Supreme Court in Vasudeva Nannayakara,
Attorney at Law, Vs. K.N. Choksy (P.C.),
former Minister of Finance and 30 others in
which all agreements entered into between
the Board of Investment and Lanka Marine
Services Limited for the sale of its shares
as part of the process of privatisation were
declared null and void."
(The Morning Leader, the sister paper of
The Sunday Leader, will commencing on
Wednesday, September 3, serialise the full
oration of Justice Marsoof.)
IDPs go deeper into Tiger
Thousands of displaced civilians in the
Wanni appear to be heading deeper into Tiger
territory despite government calls for them
to seek the safety of government controlled
areas in the south in Vavuniya.
"They appear to be going deeper into the
Wanni, away from the A 9," the Catholic
Bishop of Jaffna, Rev. Thomas Saundranayagam
told The Sunday Leader.
For the time being most of the over 130,000
IDPs in Kilinochchi are staying in areas
south and south west of Kilinochchi,
according to UN reports and maps. However,
government officials and relief agencies
have already identified nine open air sites
north-east of Kilinochchi to relocate the
IDPs, according to latest UN maps.
Last week Defence Secretary Gotabaya
Rajapakse said that the government expected
the civilians to flee to government held
areas in the south.
"We want the civilians to come to Vavuniya,
we have established all facilities in
Vavuniya," he told the media.
Government will soon notify the IDPs of a
safe passage and was also planning to
airdrop leaflets, he said.
Rajapakse also said that the Tigers might
not be able to hold tens of thousands of
civilians in the Wanni against their will
"It will break up and come to government
controlled areas, that is what we are
expecting," he added
Last week representatives from the ICRC and
the UN High Commission for Refugees met
Wanni Commander, Major General Jagath
Jayasuriya in Vavuniya to discuss
preparations to deal with the exodus from
Government officials in the Wanni said that
so far sufficient supplies had reached the
IDPs but the situation remained tense.
"There is no problem so far. But, there will
be a severe issue if the entry-exit point is
closed for some reason. There are nearly two
hundred thousand IDPs in addition to the
civilians. All of them will be affected.
But, at the moment everything looks good,"
the Government Agent in Kilinochchi
Nagalingam Vedanayagam said.
TNA team to tour India
A group of TNA parliamentarians are to tour
India next month to hold discussions with
several Indian leaders.
The tour scheduled for next month follows an
invitation extended by the Indian government
to the TNA.
It has been reported that the Indian
government had extended the invitation
following a request made by TNA leaders for
an opportunity to discuss the situation in
the north and east as well as the present
political climate in the country during
Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s
visit to Sri Lanka for the SAARC summit.
The TNA parliamentary delegation is to be
led by party leader, R. Sampanthan.
It is learnt that the TNA delegation is to
hold discussions with several leading
figures of the Indian government including
Prime Minister Singh, External Affairs
Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National
Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan.
Govt. asks Wanni civilians to flee
By Arthur Wamanan
The government last week began air-dropping
leaflets in the Wanni asking civilians to
flee to government held areas warning that
government forces had reached the final
phase of gaining control of the Tiger held
The leaflets were first dropped soon after
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse said
that the government expected the civilians
to come to government areas.
"We have already begun dropping the
leaflets," Military Spokesperson Brig. Udaya
Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader.
The leaflets were addressed "To the people
in Wanni," and said, "Our military forces
are in the process of fighting the final war
to liberate the Tamil people who are stuck
in the Wanni and who are suffering due to
the atrocities of the LTTE. The government
is taking all the steps in order to make
sure that the civilians are not affected due
to this war.
Pirapaharan, who is facing big defeats, has
taken all the steps to protect him. He would
not hesitate to pay any price to protect
himself. Pirapaharan is becoming weak."
Excise Dept. earns
Rs.91 mn. by way of fines
By Shezna Shums
The Department of Excise has earned over Rs.
91 million by way of fines imposed on
illicit breweries, sellers of illegal
substances and fines on places not abiding
by the regulations of the department during
the first half of this year.
Department of Excise statistics for the
first six months of this year show that
around 28, 485 cases have been directed to
the Magistrates Court for relevant action.
To be exact, the department during this
period has earned a total of Rs. 91, 711,
750. This figure is apart from other cases
that the department is unable to refer to
Some of the cases that were referred to
courts related to manufacturing and unlawful
sale of illicit spirits, manufacture of
unlawful arrack, selling of ganja, toddy and
Other cases include selling cigarettes to
underage persons as well as selling of beer
and other alcoholic drinks to underage
However it was noted that there are a number
of cases involving five star hotels,
restaurants and roadside stalls where cases
cannot be filed in courts.
These cases involve technical issues where
the Department of Excise has no authority to
take legal action
Such cases may include the sale of drinks
that are cheap but which are sold at
exorbitantly high prices, or operating with
a license but doing business unethically.
There are a total of 2, 453 such cases
detected by the Department of Excise.
Excise Departmentofficials explained that
when illicit breweries are operated in
conserved areas such as in small islands or
along the sea shore they not only make
illicit liquor but are also damaging the
environment and its fauna and flora.
Coral reef, fish, reptiles, crocodiles along
with water plants and mangroves get damaged
when breweries are operated in these areas
as the furnaces and toxins used are
detrimental to the environment.
Price of domestic gas to go up from tomorrow
By Nirmala Kannangara
Domestic gas prices are to go up further
from September 1, The Sunday Leader learns.
The two-gas companies - Laugfs and Shell
have made applications to the Consumer
Affairs Authority (CAA) early this month
seeking a price revision in domestic gas
prices effective from September 1. They
however declined to reveal what their
anticipated prices would be.
Director Finance, Shell Gas Company Rimoe
Saldin told The Sunday Leader that Shell gas
has made an application to the CAA for a
price revision of a domestic gas cylinder
from September but said that till the CAA
made the final determination he was not in a
position to say whether the request would be
granted or dismissed.
"According to the pricing formula we sent
the data to the CAA early this month as the
gas companies could request a price
revision once in two months. Accordingly we
made an application for a price revision
from next month based on world fuel and
freight charges in June and July," Saldin
According to Saldin although he was positive
of a price revision he was not sure whether
it would be a price hike or a reduction.
Meanwhile sources from Laugfs Holdings told
The Sunday Leader that they too have made an
application to the CAA according to the
pricing formula and said that they were
anticipating a price hike depending on the
world fuel prices in June and July.
" Laugfs too made an application to the CAA
early this month for a price revision and
according to the pricing formula we would
get approval for a price increase. As the
world fuel prices went up considerably in
June and July the CAA will definitly allow
us a price increase. However, as the world
fuel prices are going down now when fuel
prices for August and September are
considered for the next price revision in
November the price of domestic gas cylinders
will surely come down," the sources stated.
CAA Chairman Rumy Marzook was not available
Fishing resumes after a two day break
Fishing in Muttur and the coastal areas
reassumed on Friday after two days following
the Tiger air attack on the Trincomalee
harbour last Tuesday.
The fishermen were banned from entering the
sea on Wednesday and Thursday in order to
ensure that security was in place following
the air attack, a member of the Fishermen
Military Spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya
Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader that
there were no restrictions imposed on
fishermen and that they could go into the
sea to fish.
The Muttur fishermen had earlier faced
problems with regard to their fishing time,
as the navy had only allowed them to fish
from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
They had requested the navy to advance the
time by at least one hour to enable them to
fix the nets. The navy has now advanced it
by one hour allowing the fishermen to fix
The restrictions earlier came into place
following an attack on a navy vessel at the
Ashraff jetty on May 10.
A'Sangaree urges LTTE to lay down arms
Tamil Liberation United Front (TULF) Leader,
V. Anandasangaree last week urged Tiger
head, Velupillai Pirapaharan to lay down
arms and declare a unilateral ceasefire.
In a letter to the LTTE chief,
Anandasangaree stated that this was the last
chance available to save the lives of those
stuck in the Tiger-controlled areas in the
He added that the displaced persons would be
definitely used as a civilian shields.
"It is the innocent people who always become
a human shield. Wherever possible you should
have allowed the displaced people to get
into safe areas under the control of the
government," he had said in his letter.
Anandasangaree also stated that all those
who had claimed to be his supporters had
gone abroad and were filling up their
pockets using his name.
He also stated that his supporters abroad
had given false hopes to the Diaspora,
stating that the Tigers would retaliate
after letting the military into its
"They, some of whom publish tabloids give
false hopes to the Diaspora that you are
waiting to round them up after allowing them
to get into your area and on that score they
have collected large sums of money."
Around 160,000 displaced persons are now in
Teachers salary issue to be referred to
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Education Ministry has decided to refer
the teacher trade union grievances to
President Mahinda Rajapakse in order to
commence the stalled A/Level paper
evaluation, the Ceylon Teacher Services
Union (CTSU) said.
With the government teachers' decision to
refrain from applying for A/L paper
evaluation due to government's failure to
rectify the salary anomalies in the teacher/
principal services, the Examinations
Department faces an uphill task regarding
2008 paper marking according to CTSU
"Although the Examinations Department
claimed that they have received the required
number of applications for paper evaluations
it was a total flop as not even 5% of the
teachers turned up for paper marking,"
General Secretary CTSU, Mahinda Jayasinghe
told The Sunday Leader.
According to Jayasinghe, trade union
representatives of the CTSU, Education
Professionals' Union and All Ceylon United
Teachers' Union met Secretary Education
Ministry Nimal Bandara, President's
Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and members of
the Salaries and Cadre Commission in order
to settle the long-standing problems faced
by the teacher/ principal services in the
"When the representatives of the three trade
unions disclosed that the teachers have
decided to boycott the paper marking,
President's Secretary and the Education
Ministry Secretary accepted that the issue
should be addressed at the earliest and
decided to refer the matter to President
Mahinda Rajapakse before September 4,"
However, Jayasinghe further said that the
trade unions will meet the government
delegation once again on or before September
7 and that he was confident that they could
come to a consensus in order to resolve the
TMVP wants Mangalam Master in North Central
Discussions are continuing with the
government with regard to appointing
Mangalam Master to the North Central
Provincial Council, TMVP Spokesperson Azath
Moulana told The Sunday Leader last week.
Aiyathurai Kathiramanambi alias Mangalam
Master who had contested under the UPFA
ticket at the North Central Provincial
Council polls on August 23 received only
Moulana stated that the TMVP was holding
discussions with the government to get
Mangalam Master into the provincial council.
"Discussions are continuing. A decision on
this issue is expected to be made by the
government in the near future. We are
hopeful that the government would take a
decision, favourable to the TMVP," he said.
Students following Mervyn's example says FMM
The Free Media Movement (FMM) has condemned
the assault on three journalists by students
of the Colombo University Medical Faculty on
Journalist Yamuna Harshani and photographer
Janaka Galappathi of the Lankadeepa
newspaper were interviewing students at the
university about the boycott of A/L paper
marking by teachers when they were
assaulted. The media personnel had then
summoned TV journalist Dushantha Manoj to
cover the incident. When Manoj arrived the
students had attacked him too.
In a press release Spokesperson, Free Media
Movement, Sunanda Deshapriya stated "there
was no provocation or exchange of any words
before the journalists were assaulted by
some of the students."
The three journalists subsequently lodged
complaints at the Cinnamon Gardens Police
Deshapriya noted that the journalists were
"simply doing their duty in reporting an
important social issue."
He also alleged that at the time of the
attack there were two policemen present who
made no attempt to intervene and restore
order, although the cameras snatched by the
unruly students had been later recovered by
the police. The FMM further demanded that
the police should publicise the action they
took on those who seized the cameras.
Deshapriya attributed the "growing culture
of unbridled and open violence against
journalists," to "the actions of Minister
Mervyn Silva and the inaction of the
government and police to discipline him."
He went on to say that such acts of violence
when committed by people of high rank gave
rise to "a culture of impunity," and that
the police must ensure that the culprits
behind the recent attack are punished, in
order to "restore confidence in the rule of
law and dispel the misguided notions of
students that violence has no consequences."
Police Media Spokesperson SSP Ranjith
Gunasekara, said that the police had taken
appropriate action, and that they had
recovered the cameras as well as saved the
media personnel from being harmed. He went
on to say that an investigation into the
incident was underway and that two police
teams were appointed to look into the
Questions over SJKMC vehicle repairs
By Nirmala Kannangara
Questions have been raised as to why the Sri
Jayawardenapura Kotte Municipal Council (SJKMC)
gets council vehicles repaired at private
garages when the council has its own garage
with a team of well-trained mechanics, The
Sunday Leader learns.
The vehicle repair bill of the SJKMC has
exceeded Rs. 2 million per month since the
present administration came into power. In
July the repair bill had gone up
considerably according to Opposition Leader,
SJKMC, Suraj Jayasuriya.
"This has become a serious issue over the
past few years despite the fact that the
council has its own team of 15 mechanics.
The municipal engineer with the blessings of
the ruling party allows repairs to SJKMC
vehicles be done in private garages. At a
time when the MC is facing a serious
financial crisis these unscrupulous acts of
the ruling members are adding more burdens
to the rate payers," Jayasuriya told The
According to Jayasuriya although this was
raised at last week's council meeting the
ruling party failed to give a proper answer
and has said that they could not rely on the
MC mechanics, as they were unqualified.
"When questions were raised as to why the
council has failed to make the maximum use
of their own mechanics the ruling party said
that the council lacks well qualified
mechanics. If that was the issue, why have
they failed to recruit qualified mechanics
to the council, instead of spending council
money according to the whims and fancies of
the ruling party members? When the engineer
was summoned to give an explanation, the
UPFA members did not allow him to speak,"
According to Jayasuriya the official vehicle
of the municipal commissioner too had been
sent to a private garage for engine repairs
which has cost the council Rs. 83, 000.
"The council mechanics could have attended
to the repairs at a much lessor cost. There
are instances when the council had to send
vehicles to other garages when our own
mechanics failed to do a satisfactory job.
But here at the SJKMC they neither consult
the mechanics nor call for quotations prior
to the repairs," charged Jayasuriya.
Jayasuriya further said that the opposition
has suspicions about a dozer that has been
sent for repairs more than a year ago. "In
the first instance the dozer was sent to a
private company for repairs which cost the
council Rs.1.6 million. However the
bulldozer could not work for more than 200
hours after the repairs and had to be sent
once again to the same company for repairs.
The vehicle was sent in early 2007 for
repairs but since then we do not know what
has happened to the vehicle. It is not known
whether the ruling members have sold it or
are using it for private work," alleged
Meanwhile Municipal Engineer Sarath
Wijesinghe told The Sunday Leader that the
MC has had to send the vehicles to private
garages or sales agents as there are no
qualified mechanics at the SJKMC.
All attempts to contact Mayor Swarnalatha de
Businessman shot dead in Rajagiriya
A businessman had been killed by
unidentified persons last Friday and his
body was found with gunshot injuries in
The victim has been identified as C.L.
Jayathunga, a 49-year-old businessman.
Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekara
told The Sunday Leader that the body was
found in his vehicle down Cooray Road in
SSP Gunasekara said that the body was found
around noon on Friday and that no progress
had been made with regard to the killing.
"The police are conducting investigations
into the killing. We have not received any
information pertaining to the incident. The
motive and perpetrators are not known.
Investigations are in progress," SSP